About twenty-five years ago, I was working in a restaurant and I served an older French Canadian couple from Montreal. I don’t remember how it came up but it turns out they had been neighbours of Jackie and Rachel Robinson in Montreal in 1946. Besides “Joe Macdonald Songs” baseball history is about my best Jeopardy category and I was fascinated by this encounter. I knew the name of the stadium (Deslormiers Downs) and I knew all about the Montreal Royals and how after they had won the minor league World Series and Jackie Robinson had been a star in it, it was written in an American newspaper that it was the first time that a white mob chased a black man down the street with love rather than hatred.
Rachel Robinson was at Dodger Stadium tonight. She’s ninety-five years old and looks beautiful. The things she has seen. Her husband died young, forty-five years ago, underneath the burden, the sheer weight that he bore. It’s hard to believe sometimes that baseball didn’t allow black players to play in my parents’ lifetime. But then again, baseball desegregated before the American army or American schools or American lunch counters. So maybe it’s not all that shocking. I wonder what Mrs. Robinson thinks of the president.
It drives me bonkers when American sports teams win their championships and then declare themselves World Champions. Football and basketball and baseball. It’s the height of arrogance and though I have no doubt they may be the best in the world at what they do, if no one else does it, then it’s a little much. The World Series though is a bit different though. Or I used to think it was. It was my belief that the name came from a sponsorship in 1903 by a long defunct newspaper named the New York World. I believed this for thirty years. Turns out it’s not really true and it’s a tale that’s gained credence over the years despite evidence to the contrary. Though sometimes I like to think that had another paper sponsored the Series, Dominican ballplayers might hoist the trophy and declare they are Times Champions or Daily News Champions.
I miss Vin Scully. I can remember each word of his 1988 Kirk Gibson home run call. But more than that, it was the quiet that preceded it. Like a jazz player or a Neil Young guitar solo, it was the empty spaces that made his words all the more meaningful. His like will never be seen again.
I remember where I was, who I was with, and what I was doing when the Jays won in ’92 and ’93. And I wasn’t even a fan. But these things can draw us together and though baseball is my favourite, it really doesn’t matter what the sport is. Or the event. It could be Live Aid, the last Hip concert, the Moon Landing. I don’t think we remember the details of the event (I know I don’t) as much as we remember who we were with and how it made us feel. We remember feelings. That’s what we keep with us.