It is my Field of Dreams, built sometime in my early teen years. In reality, it is a propped-up-frame strike zone, hammered together with my dad’s 13-ounce Bluegrass hammer.
In my dreams it is Fenway Park in Boston. It is where, on a daily basis, I strike out Joe DiMaggio and Phil Rizzuto, Tommy Henrich, and Yogi Berra. I also hit a couple of home runs and beat the hated New York Yankees … again and again and again.
I am only the major leaguer in history who not only pitches, but alongside Ted Williams in the outfield.
On my Field of Dreams, I never lose.
In the real world …
I can’t run, can’t throw, can hit a bit.
That comes from Saturday and Sunday afternoons on other fields of dreams … Alabama Water Pipe, General Electric, and a number of cornstalk-stubbled “diamonds” across the county.
The nearest I ever get to Fenway Park was a few years ago when, in the twilight of an October evening, I stand outside the field of my dreams and wish I had gotten there a few days earlier. The season is over and the Yankees are in the World Series again. And again it’s “wait’ll next year” for Red Sox fans.
I did make it to the minor leagues a couple of times … as a spectator. The first time was to Johnston Field, home of the Anniston Rams (old Class B Southeastern League). That was sometime in the late 1940s. Under the lights and on the green grass, I sat enraptured of Woody Rich and Ben Wade and Joe “Jolting Joe” Schmidt and Cotton Hill.
There is a thought that not even Fenway Park in far-away Boston could possibly match the grandeur of Johnston Field.
And while I never got past the starting lineup for Monsanto in the a long-ago industrial league, I was fortunate enough to meet some of my heroes along the way.
There was an evening with Mickey Mantle in Birmingham, a late-night session with Ted Williams (just the two of us) in a room behind the bar of a Holiday Inn in Newburgh, N.Y., a visit with Joe DiMaggio at the old General Lee Motel here in Anniston. The ticket to all that — and others — was my 19 years as a sports writer for this newspaper.
So why this?
Maybe it was the promise of spring finally showing up Friday afternoon. Or it could be the arrival of the latest issue of Sports Illustrated (all about baseball). Or perhaps the Atlanta Braves’ opener Monday night.
I am unmoved by any of that. Tom Glavine is gone, so are Dale Murphy and John Smoltz, Bobby Cox and Fred McGriff.
Chipper Jones, Atlanta’s last hero, is gone, too. Chipper, after 19 Hall of Fame years, called it quits at the end of the 2012 season.
The Braves are still there, of course, still a contender. But I doubt, offhand, if I can name as many as four of their players.
But I still think baseball is the loveliest of games, that the best pure athletes play the game at the highest level, that a Sunday afternoon on any field of dreams is … well … a beautiful dream. Even when you walk four straight batters (not a single strike) as I once did in my only real time “on the mound.”
But my field of dreams is now a recliner in front of a 46-inch Samsung in my barn. I will “be there” Monday night, might even make the first pitch.
But it is for sure I’ll have a book in my hand and will probably drift off to sleep …
Hey, everything changes.
George Smith can be reached at 256-239-5286 or email: firstname.lastname@example.org