As we are approaching the midpoint of the baseball season and summer has now fully snared its grip onto the nation, I am reminded once again of my mother. She loved to take me to tennis, golf matches and baseball games. My mother was determined to make her son athletic, or at least someone who played some sport with relish. My mother tried everything to get me excited about sports. All true men were athletic and vital and I was going to follow in their footsteps. I must admit, my mother did realize early on that I was a loner and that I enjoyed being by myself, and even then other than having a small group of friends, I would never play a large team sport.
This is all very peculiar to me because although my mother would play golf or tennis with friends or go fishing with my father, her great contribution to the game of sport was that she always looked perfectly sporty, in her carefully chosen wardrobe. Even when going hiking, she would have the perfect classic leather walking shoe, perfect skirt, socks and blouse for her treacherous 1/4 mile, which usually lead to taking a break to go shopping. She always looked better than she played and was always trying new things, particularly with clothes to match the sport, and like my father was far, far more adventurous than I am.
Despite my mother’s intentions, by High School, I had lost most of any feeling for playing supervised sports. Coaches and I did not get along. I was too competitive. And I didn’t want to compete with anyone I might beat. Ironically, I can be very competitive with myself and I allow myself privately to win on occasion. Photography is perfect. I am all alone except for the help and comfort of those I choose to have around me. I have never seen another photographer work, nor did I want to. I have never assisted for any other photographer, nor did I want to. I obviously wanted to be alone, competing with myself, and success in the world of photography. But never directly competing against another individual.
The one sport I do enjoy is the All- American pastime of baseball, and for this I most probably should thank my mother. It all goes back to October 1956 when I was nine and my mother took me to my first baseball game, which happened to be the first game of the 1956 World Series between the Yankees and the Brooklyn Dodgers. The game was played at Ebbets field in Brooklyn, and we were sitting in the front row directly behind the Dodgers dugout. I do not know where this came from, but even at this game I found myself rooting for the Yankees and have remained a steadfast fan ever since.
Needless to say, taking me to this game, which was full of all kinds of excitement, never got me excited to play the game, but rather remain a spectator. I love the manicured field, the hotdogs, the pace of the game, and I especially loved having the Dodger players Gil Hodges, Duke Snider, and Sal Maglie wave to me as they entered the dugout, even though I was secretly enamored with Whitey Ford, the pitcher for the Yankees.
Well, by the fourth or fifth inning we had all settled in and I was feeling very comfortable and excited, and I started talking to the elderly man on my left. I don’t know what prompted this or whether he first spoke to me, but I remember that he was very gentle and would laugh at me as I screamed my excitement onto the field.
He was surrounded by other men who were talking to him about many things other than baseball, mostly politics and business. At one point he turned to this nine year old and asked me if I was a Republican or a Democrat. As I had no idea what either was or meant, but was fearful of showing my ignorance, I emphatically blurted out Republican. With this he laughed, put his arm around me, and said kindly that we would have to change that.
Well the game went on that beautiful late fall day in Brooklyn. The Dodgers won the first game, but the Yankees won the series.
The next day on the front page of the New York Times was a picture of the Dodgers dugout with the players returning after winning the game. And there, sitting directly behind them was my mother and I, with a caption describing that sitting next to me was Averill Harriman, the Democratic Governor of New York. I realized that I had made a fool of myself and I was embarrassed, although I was happy and felt special to see myself in the New York Times.
To this day I remain very much an outsider, a spectator, but I understand the love of being with friends, enjoying the heat of a summer’s evening, the pace and the mood of the game. But most of all, I still love the hotdogs.