Growing up in New York City, I started playing sand-lot baseball in Central Park at age 9.
I collected hundreds of baseball cards — that my mom threw away (ouch!) while I was in the Navy, serving in the Pacific. (So much for becoming a millionaire.)
I also intensely followed Big League activity. I knew the history of the game and the biography of virtually every player.
Above all, I was a die-hard New York Giant fan!
And, joined in singing the Giant fight song:
We’re calling all fans, all you Giant ball fans.
Come, watch the home team,going places,round those bases.Cheer, for your favorite,out at Coogan’s Bluff.You’ll see those Polo Grounders,do their stuff !
Never mind if we lost to the hated Yankees in two World Series — and then drifted into the second division for years.
The great Mel Ott was a saint.
And, cussing out the Brooklyn Dodgers was a harmless way to rid myself of negative feelings.
When I came home from World War II, the responsibilities that come with becoming an adult forced me to tamp down my interest in baseball. But I still rooted, checked the results every day, and occasionally went to the Polo Grounds to watch the Giants.
Until that cataclysmic day — August 19, 1957 — when my baseball world came crashing down.
I heard the news on the radio. My beloved New York Giants would no longer exist after the season ended!
I was stunned, then angry — very angry.
But quickly realized: Big League Baseball was a business, not a sport. They could move a team across the entire nation and leave its fans stranded.
If I had any doubts, they were eliminated when it was announced that the Dodgers would make the same trans-continental trip.
The Brooklyn faithful were even more pissed off than their Giant rivals. A popular riddle at the time: “If you had a gun with only two bullets and were in a room with Stalin, Hitler and Dodger president Walter O’Malley, who would you shoot?” The answer: “O’Malley twice.”
My response was to stop all interest in professional baseball.
I have not gone to a game in over 60 years — and don’t know the name of a single player in the Big Leagues today.
Now, I love to watch the Little League World Series — a wonderful alternative to Major League Baseball.
Even if I ended my boycott of professional baseball, I’d still prefer watching the kids. There’s excitement, old-fashioned uninhibited fun, and they sometimes make great plays. Their personal stories are amusing or heart warming. And, I can enjoy watching them take a big step toward becoming adults.
Charles Wiley is a veteran journalist who served in World War II and covered 11 wars as a reporter.
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