How does the refrain go? “Take me out to the ball game… I don’t care if I never get back.”
I can assure you, I most certainly cared about getting back out of the frigid April opening day of Brewers baseball in Milwaukee in 1988. Today there’s a retractable roof stadium to protect against Milwaukee’s early spring chills. Not then.
Then, my father and I froze through nine long innings. I couldn’t feel my toes. What glued our unfeeling feet to the stadium’s cold concrete floor when we had the free choice of leaving?
Today, one of my least favorite sports is baseball. As the great philosopher Homer Simpson eloquently stated, “I didn’t realize how boring baseball was without beer.”
To this day, neither my father nor I can remember who the Brewers played, the exact date of the game, who was pitching, what the score was. All we know is that we froze.
It didn’t help that the stadium was an unforgiving place to endure cold temperatures. The blunted, dark green seats were rigid.
I don’t know if it was this game in particular, but I recall that the old stadium never smelled quite right. One would think the smell of sumptuous hot dogs and warm popcorn would fill the air. Actually, it was downright putrid, like a mix of stale beer and body odor.
Unlike baseball, one of my favorite sports to watch, the one that should really be called America’s pastime, is football, especially the Green Bay Packers.
I remember when I was a 10-year-old kid, watching the Packers on TV play in freezing, snowy conditions in January at Lambeau Field, how grown men had big Gs painted on their skin.
As a kid, while watching the football game in the warmth of our den, I admired these brave men and boasted to my father, “One day I’m going to go without my shirt during the Packers game.”
“Are you nuts?” asked my father.
If that was so nuts, why were we freezing through the Brewers game?
At least in our den, physical warmth facilitated speech. On Brewers opening day I don’t remember a single dialogue between my father and me. It was too cold to talk. I’m sure our mouths were buried in our jackets.
The circumstances surrounding the day are also perplexing and perhaps a bit dubious. Opening day when I was in fifth grade fell on a school day.
Although I was always conscientious of my near perfect attendance record, even to the extent that I wouldn’t skip school for synagogue during the holiest days, I had no qualms about missing school that day.
It was my only day of playing hooky ever, from grade school through college and even now into my own working years.
And my father, who always exemplified hard work and to whom I attribute my work ethic, who himself rarely missed a day of work, neither did he seem to have any misgivings. Why did we both feel so guiltless?
I suspect the answer to both questions — why we froze and why we were so willing to miss school and work — is that we spent the day together. So why not spend it indoors?
I don’t know for certain; yet, once again I suspect it had something to do with togetherness. It was our adventure. It was our game day. Weather could never dampen the warmth we have for each other, and to this day we still share a chuckle about freezing through that game.
I don’t imagine my story is much different than that of any adoring son.
Today, on rare occasions we’ll still go to a Brewers game. Come to think of it, I can’t remember who the Brewers played last season when my father and I went together.
And ultimately, it doesn’t matter who they played. What’s obvious is that it matters that we are together.
I hope my son will share the same affinity with me. Even better, I hope my father, my son, and I, three generations, will venture to the game together.
Yes, “Take me out to the ball game,” as long as I can share it with Dad.
Joshua Becker is a Spanish teacher for Shorewood Public Schools and a freelance writer. Joshuabecker.info