Dear Michael and Caroline,
We passed through the turnstiles and took the winding ramp upwards. Higher and higher we went, the ground receding below us, until we reached the top level and stepped out into the stands. I never tired of that first glimpse of the field, and I never will.
It’s wondrous. When you’re still a kid, especially, any major-league ballfield seems impossibly green and vast and gorgeous, and at first you suspect you’re dreaming. And this was Yankee Stadium, with its classical frieze rimming the sky, the mother of all stadia. Yankee Stadium during the World Series to boot, the Yankees dominant for so long then, a dynasty.
We went to take our seats, there in the upper deck in left field, about as far away from home plate as you could possibly be without leaving the premises, maybe 500 feet away. It felt stratospheric, like being suspended over the action in a hot-air balloon.
We’d always sat closer in, maybe along the first-base line, or on the third-base side, close enough to hear the crack of bat on ball as it actually happened, close enough to hear a fastball smacking into the catcher’s mitt. Up there in the dizzying upper deck, all you could hear was the roar of the crowd, and the players looked so small. You’d hear bat on ball a fraction of a second after it actually happened.
But none of that, being so high up and so far away from home plate, made any difference to me.
I was at the World Series with my grandfather. What else counted? He loved me enough (and baseball, too) to have taken me there. All other considerations – how short I was, my lousy grades at school, my problems with my parents – fell by the wayside.
The day turned out to be as thrilling as I expected. The 1964 Yankees had Mantle and Maris and Yogi Berra, the Cardinals Bob Gibson and Lou Brock and Tim McCarver. The Yankees took a 3-0 lead, but then Ken Boyer – the brother of Yankees third-baseman Clete Boyer – hit a grand slam, giving the Cards a 4-3 win.
As it happened, he hit the homer to left field. I saw it coming toward us, sailing out from home plate, and held up my glove to catch it. Closer and closer the ball came. But it landed in the first deck, directly down below us. The stadium went wild. At that moment I turned to my grandfather.
“I wish this would never end,” I said.
He looked back at me with a smile I would call serious, outlined in a shade of rue.
“Everything comes to an end,” he said.”
I had no idea what he meant.
Even so, I doubted it was true. How could that be?
For a long time afterwards, I refused to believe him, refused, with all the brute will of an innocent, that anything you loved had to come to an end.