Dear Michael and Caroline,
My grandfather Benjamin Sheft took me to Yankee Stadium to see Game Four of the 1964 World Series between the New York Yankees and the St. Louis Cardinals. Nothing could have made me happier.
The outing had two elements I loved with all my heart: my grandfather and baseball (largely in that order). Luckily, the two often went hand in hand.
My grandfather took me to games at the stadium maybe once a year, starting in 1960, when I was only eight years old.
He once bought me an encyclopedia of baseball records that I devoured, a massive volume with every statistic imaginable. He also got me a subscription to the New York Daily News so I could read about the Yankees in the sports pages.
Poppa and baseball went back pretty far. He saw Babe Ruth play, and Joe DiMaggio, and all the rest. He lived for more than 20 years in the Bronx, where I was born. He and I could talk baseball, and often would. Which team won or lost, which player was doing well or poorly.
My own father had long since lost interest in baseball, too busy with work and other preoccupations. In any given Fall, my father would have no clue – I know because I quizzed him – which teams were competing in the World Series.
So that gave me an extra reason to adore my grandfather. He filled in for my father on the baseball front. And in the best of scenarios, a 12-year-old boy who loves baseball will be able to share his love with someone older, a brother, an uncle, a father, a Poppa. He needs someone to show him how to fill out a scorecard, and tell him how good Gehrig was at first base or why Casey Stengel was such a character.
So it was multiply lucky for me that now he was taking me to the only World Series game I would ever see in person. We pulled into the parking lot and walked toward the stadium under the elevated train tracks, the sun shafting through onto all the fans thronging in. All along the sidewalks vendors sold pennants and caps and programs, scalpers calling out to make a sale, the aroma of hot dogs in the air.
With each step my anticipation of the game grew.
P.S. – See Part 2 tomorrow.