When I was a kid growing up in Minneapolis during the time of streetcars and “I Love Lucy,” a bunch of us would ride our bikes twenty blocks to Nicollet Park where we’d watch the Minneapolis Millers baseball team – a minor league team in the old American Association. This was when teams had names like the Toledo Mud Hens and the Cleveland Spiders.
We seldom had the money to buy a ticket, but through tricky means we could still watch the game. The outfield fence was made from planks of wood ten feet high. These planks were decorated with knots here and there, and we pried out these knots and put our eyes to the holes. They called us the Knot Hole Gang.
The holes appeared randomly along the fence – low, head-high, and higher still. Naturally, the head-high holes were the most coveted and something to fight for. Usually a pecking order emerged, with the younger kids lying or sitting on the sidewalk, watching from the lower holes, while the bigger, tougher kids took eye level. I remember some guys sitting on the shoulders of their buddies, watching from a higher hole. They’d trade off every inning.
Home runs were the highlight of any game. The wooden fence was ten feet high with another ten feet of wire mesh. Occasionally, a towering home run cleared this fence and the ball hit the street behind us. Imagine fifty yelling kids chasing that ball, battling for it!
It was a time of lazy, care-free innocence, when life was good – no worries, no enemies, no fears. As a kid I was thrilled at the uniforms, the lovely green grass and the thousands of fans in the stands. It was a grand spectacle and exciting.
Now, fifty years later and with a different brain, I can see how baseball – the nine players on the field – reflected the cohesion of social unity and independent purpose. The pitcher was the heart, beating regularly, setting a rhythm. The fielders were the appendages, each one with a different responsibility, but entirely integrated within the whole.
I wonder sometimes: Wouldn’t it be nice if life was like a game of baseball?