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The Commute

Fri, Oct 4th, 2002
Posted in Columnists

When I was a child, we had portraits in our home of the Pope, former president John F. Kennedy, Harmon Killebrew and Tony Oliva of the Minnesota Twins. So it should be no surprise that I hold baseball players in high esteem.

The portraits of Kennedy and the Pope belonged to my parents; Killebrew and Oliva adorned the walls of the room I shared with my little brother. They were 8 x 10 reproductions of oil paintings, or, at least that's what they looked like. They came free with something ...cereal? Oil changes? I can't remember. The Minnesota Twins shared a pedestal with "God" and "country" in my young mind.

Not one of the people who know me would call me a sports fan. But I do enjoy baseball. I'll confess to being a bit "fair weather": I really find my "inner fan" when the Twins are in the play-offs. As I write this, they're 1-1 with Oakland, having one amazing come-from-behind win, followed by a sound thumping. By the time this is published, they'll either be in or out.

I really hope it's in. I've found there's nothing like a run for the Series to take my mind off the heavier issues I sometimes brood about.

My dad took my brother and I to a Twins game at Met stadium when we were very young. I don't remember much beyond the blue seats and the excitement of being in the Twin Cities. (which I assumed God had named after the baseball team)

After determining that my brother and I could EACH have a hotdog, my dad casually held up the requisite two fingers to signal the distant vendor that we were in need. I was so impressed with his big city knowledge. In a ritual to rival anything I'd seen at church, two silver-foiled treasures were passed hand to hand toward my brother and me. I remember the pleasant steam as I unwrapped this "city" dog: a delicious Schweigert Tender-bite, swathed in mustard.

I hated mustard. But I assumed it must be common fare in the city, so, wishing to match my father's savvy, I ate it with aplomb. I've loved mustard ever since.

I have clear memories of the 1987 World Series, the Twins' first ever, when they defeated St. Louis. I watched the seventh game at the home of a friend who lived in St. Peter. I can't speak for the rest of Minnesota, but I know that at the moment the Twins won that night, church bells rang throughout St. Peter.

The 1991 Series, Twins v. Atlanta, found my husband and I living in Michigan, but Twins fans nonetheless. We happened to be at a business convention in Milwaukee on the final weekend of the Series, and watched Game Seven in the bar of the Grand Hotel with a group of close friends, three of them former Fillmore County Boys (Dave Barnes, Kyle Hovey, Dick Johnson).

It was a Sunday night and we had the bar to ourselves except for one boisterous Braves fan. We tolerated him as long as was reasonable, then Dick expressed our displeasure at his presence with a well-aimed projectile to the back of his head. No injuries, but message was graciously received, and he excused himself. We celebrated the win into the wee hours of the morning. Ah, youth.

It's impossible for me to think about baseball without thinking of my dad, and, in fact, the sixth game of the 1987 Series was the last time I saw him. I watched the game with him until I had to leave for work. At one point, I remember him saying, "Geez, just ONCE before I die, I wish I'd see these guys win a world series!"

The Twins won, and my dad died suddenly one week later. People sometime give me a strange look when I tell that, and wonder if it's okay to smile about it. But you have to realize that with his sense of humor, and his attention to the little ironies of life, Dad would have loved that story. And it gives me comfort knowing that at least one of his wishes, even one of the trivial ones, did come true in his lifetime.

In one of my all-time favorite baseball movies, Bull Durham, Susan Sarandon, as Annie Savoy, quotes Walt Whitman, passionately if not accurately:

"I see great things in baseball. It's our game, the American game. It will repair our losses and be a blessing to us."

Go Twins. If not this year, then next year.

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