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Nunc Dimittis

Spinet Piano

On watching baseball.


I have seen my grandfather’s letter, written from free Europe, at the end of the war to his newborn son, Donald. In it, my grandfather explains his tender feelings about the news of Donald’s birth. He explains to his first son the unfortunate split in the house: Donald’s mother, Jane, born in Brooklyn, is a Dodgers fan, whereas he is a Giants man.

My uncle Donald went with his mother’s Dodgers, and all their weighty sepia-toned history. I think he chose wrong. Mel Ott and the Say-Hey Kid just seem more like what baseball should be, arrogant and fun rather than serious. But kids love front-runners. By 1962 the Mets took the place of both teams in Queens, uniting jilted fans of each, including those at the household in Halcyon Park. My grandmother and her two sons—my uncles—passed on this sweetly painful allegiance to me.

Endless maudlin prose has been composed to describe the experience of baseball at a ballpark. Some of it by me. But in truth, I only went to a handful of games at the tenderest ages. I never played organized baseball. My formative experience of the game was almost entirely through television, framed in a thick wood grain, and planted in the back of our living room.

And yet, I still think these memories of the game are just as powerful. The evening sunlight fading across the old, somewhat harsh carpet. Lying on the floor with my legs up in the seat of a swivel chair, pushing it back and forth, annoying everyone. The voices of Ralph Kiner and a much younger Tim McCarver. My grandmother, curlers in her hair, drinking her last glass of wine for the night. The little plastic tubes, running from two oxygen tanks, behind our spinet piano, leading at their end into the nostrils of her beloved husband, suffering from emphysema. They might be talking about the neighborhood news, or what was in the paper that day. I remember constantly running up the stairs to deliver the news of hits and home runs to my mother. And then before the next half inning began, I would slide down those stairs, my backside slamming on each step until, at full speed, I crashed on the landing. On Friday nights, the smell of pepperoni pizza from Calabrese on Franklin Street.

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Michael Brendan Dougherty is a senior editor at National Review Online.