A few days ago I was sitting and thinking about those days long ago when I used to take the transistor radio to bed with me and listen to the baseball games that were broadcast all summer long. Curling up with that little nine-volt box (sometimes with the ear piece) was pretty much my answer to others who curl up with a good book (that would come later in my life).
The broadcasters were such pros and did their jobs so well that you could actually see the ball fly off the bat; you could see the runner rounding third and heading for home; you could imagine -- by the announcer's tone of voice -- that the throw was going to be in time and the player was going to be tagged out at the plate; you could see the umpire - all dressed in black - with his over-stuffed chest protector thrown to the side so he could make the larger-than-life motion that told the crowd the runner was out; you could see the shortstop taking the throw from the second baseman, making the tag at second and throwing out the runner at first for a double-play.
It was magical.
When I had grown up and there was no longer a need to hide under the covers with my radio, I still listened to the voices of the pros while they spoke forth imagery that placed you at various ball fields around the league. One of my favorite broadcast teams was the Denny Matthews and Fred White who did the announcing for the Kansas City Royals for over two decades. Together, they could not be beat for taking to the airwaves and giving the listener a view of the game from just above and behind home plate.
I heard last night that Fred White had passed away. The news mingled with the recent memories I have just shared, and somehow I could smell the oiled leather of my old catcher's mitt and feel the red stitching of a grass-stained baseball against my fingers. And I was back behind the plate with all my protective gear on, calling pitches and watching for base-stealers and tagging out runners who tried to cross the plate a split second too late.
Funny how the mind works. Our thoughts take us back to our younger days; certain smells place us back in situations we haven't experienced in years; certain sounds surprise us when they sneak up on us and remind us of family or friends or occasions after years of lying dormant.
I know we can't live in the past, but from time to time, the memories feel like going home.