Some bush leaguers lay claim to a good baseball story

Ya know, the old-timer with the uneven shave, hostile cap and worse breath,
     who swears that

While draining a sixth Rheingolds behind first-base dugout in game five of the
     ’56 Fall Classic

He saw Yogi leap into Don Larsen’s no windup arms as Mitchell disputed the
     called third strike

Completing the only perfect Series game in favor of the Yanks over “dem
     Brookl’n Bums”

Or some really old, old-timer who claims to be a bona fide certified Windy
     City eyewitness

To the Babe’s “called-shot” four-bagger sailing over Wrigley Field’s pre-ivy
     centerfield bricks

And then there is the barstool braggart who goes on and on about meeting
     such and such

Whose father played with so and so and who knew Dizzy, Leo, Joltin’ Joe
     and everybody else

And the only reason he’s not the proud owner of the original ‘say-hey’
     autographed baseball

Of Willie Mays’ ’54 World Series spectacular centerfield over the shoulder
     430 foot catch

Complimented by preventing Doby from scoring with a perfectly lined throw
     back to the infield

Is because his minor-league bastard brother swapped it for a used Ford
     pickup truck

* * * * * * * * * *

As more-or-less normal kids growing up on blue-collar streets of L.A. suburbs

We eagerly awaited springtime’s comforting radio voices of Scully and Doggett

Calling play after ever-incredible play in their insightfully unique and
     familiar style

(Signaling relief from the hated classroom and once again, satisfaction with
     life in general)

And as we jumped on hand-me-down bikes with now valuable Drysdale and
     Koufax cards

Innocently clipped to rusted spokes and flapping carelessly in the smoggy
     afternoon breeze

We would determine with enthusiastic impressionable minds to try a little
     more earnestly

Throw our newspaper deliveries a little faster and more accurately on the porch

(Or where an obliging family dog relieved itself if not the home of an
     habitual tipper)

And we would promise to eat our vegetables, play harder and run a little farther

Stuffing ourselves with peanut butter and jelly and butter and jelly sandwiches

‘Cause grape jelly came in cheap collectible jars of favorite hometown players

Never harboring the slightest doubt in our youthful ignorance of statistical

That we would all one day be celebrated champions of The Show; worse-
     case scenario

Drafted by the hated Giants or the truly unthinkable, a foreign Eastern tribe
     of pinstripes

* * * * * * * * * *

Upon reaching a certain age and somehow becoming a mere city-delivery truck
     driver instead

After choking and wheezing through snarled L.A. traffic all day long and often
     half the night

I would sometimes manage to catch at least part of a game at Chavez Ravine
     just to unwind

Usually on a weeknight, so I could perch alone way up high somewhere behind
     home plate

Where I would swear profusely as Rose turned Lasorda and a hometown
     crowd Dodger blue

Bunting when least expected or sliding recklessly headfirst around the
     menacing Steve Yeager

And try to savor a good cigar and Dodger-dog anyhow, in relative peace for
     less than $5

Including parking, with no one to bother me for several vacant seats in
     every direction

Once arriving early, I wandered down a tunnel-way rumored to end where
     players arrive

And from the other direction in the distance on the sidewalk of the concrete

On the other side across from where I was moseying along, strode Jerry
     Doggett himself

I straightened and pretended to be about important business, figuring he would
     pass on by

As he had a pressing job to do and anyway, I didn’t want to be misconstrued a
     signature hound

Seeing me approaching, he very deliberately crossed over to my side of the
     tunnel-way and

For certain he was going to run me off for lack of credentials and general
     suspect appearance

But extending a friendly hand, going far out of his way to be neighborly to a
     common stranger

He smiled and said:  “Welcome to Dodger Stadium—Hope you enjoy the game
     this evening.”

* * * * * * * * * *

Some bush leaguers lay claim to a good baseball story

But they are mere amateurs; hamstrung by narrow vision, hogtied with wishful
     thinking * **

DEDICATED TO:  The late Los Angeles Times Pulitzer Prize winning sports columnist Jim Murray, the Babe Ruth of American sports writers, who wrote about American sports the way John Steinbeck wrote about the poor and oppressed and Samuel Clemens wrote about the American reality.

*FootNote:  Based on a true story, pretty much the way it happened, as life unfolded, more or less.

**FootNote:  Some among the self-righteous have developed the rather bad habit of dwelling on certain perceived social shortcomings of Babe Ruth, for it seems that the Babe liked to drink and party and have a good time.  But there’s a very big reason why the fans and especially America’s children, loved and admired this champion above most others, which has little to do with how well he pitched or how many baseballs he managed to hit over the fence. Mr. Ruth, unlike some extremely-well remunerated ball-players of the 21st Century, rarely tired of giving autographs (and many other gifts) to America’s impoverished youth or despaired of going way out of his way to visit a sick child in the hospital.
Jerry Doggett was very good at his craft and undoubtedly unfairly to him, was left somewhat in the shadow of perhaps the greatest play-by-play artist America may ever produce.  And it may forever be disputed and may or may not be true that the great Babe Ruth called his shot that day at Wrigley Field in Chicago (as Ruth himself denied).  But there is no doubt Jerry Doggett called his shot and hit a lifetime home run, a lifetime home run that is, in the game that matters.


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Copyright © August 20th, 2003 by Richard Aberdeen.

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