Baseball. Growing up in the 1960's before soccer came along and ruined things was usually the first sport you learned to play and the first real team you played on. Though there were several teams in Greensboro/Guilford County it wasn't like today where you sign up, pay and play. The spot on the team didn't cost anything but you also had to participate in tryouts and EARN a spot on the team. The emphasis in this article isn't about how the culture has changed but rather another trip for me down memory lane. You see, I am a Braves fan. I know how, when and where I became one and those memories are very special. Thanks to the opening day ceremonies in Atlanta this season the memories were unleashed in a torrent of emotions that I believe are good to experience every now and then.
My Grandaddy was a huge Braves fan. Notice I didn't say Atlanta Braves as he followed them when they were in Milwaukee as well as when they were in Boston many moons ago. My first memories of "listening" to baseball was of my Grandaddy rocking in his chair in the den with the Braves game on AM radio. During the dark ages of 3 TV channels (unless you got UHF then you had 4) baseball usually had ONE game on a week and that was Saturday afternoon. Curt Gowdy would call the play by play and Tony Kubek, an old Yankees shortstop provided the color commentary. The Braves were never on that broadcast but every now and then a local station would show them on Sundays. But every time the Braves played you could find my Grandaddy right there in the den, in his chair listening to his radio with the pointed dial sitting on his little wooden table.
These memories were vividly brought back to me when the Braves opening ceremony celebrated their 50th year in Atlanta. I was 6 years old that season and I am almost positive that is the year I started noticing baseball. Vintage film footage of all the old Braves greats were shown and a few even introduced. Names famous and otherwise, some I haven't even thought about in ever, were presented in the walk down Memory Lane each bringing with them a personal memory of mine from each time period. Hank Aaron, Phil Neikro, Dale Murphy, Chipper Jones and Bobby Cox all were honored but just as special were names like Darrell Evans, Rick Camp, Biff Pocoroba, Dusty Baker and Bob Horner just to name a few. Most folks remember the Miracle Mets of 1969 but don't remember that as being the first year of the National and American leagues being divided into two divisions. Who did the Mets beat in the first ever playoff; the Braves.
As I got older and TV coverage was expanded I continued to listen to the radio broadcasts. Today's youngsters hear the name Ernie Jones and think of NBA basketball on TNT. That's Ernie Jr. Ernie Sr. was a long time Braves radio announcer that continued to make cameo appearances on the current, every game TV broadcasts right up until his passing. Whenever Ernie Sr. would tell a story from the "old" days I immediately went back in time to that radio and rocking chair. It never got old.
My Grandaddy passed away in June of 1982 at the age of 82. That season after a lost decade of the 70's the Braves made the playoffs. He did get to witness some games in person in Atlanta before his passing but I always wished he could have sat with me and watched the playoffs. Of course, he had a much better seat than I did but you still thought about him just the same. And oh my goodness would he have loved the 1990's; for a long suffering Braves fan it was heaven on earth. My Grandaddy would have absolutely been a Bobby Cox fan.
So what is this article about? For me, maybe perspective on life. The memories generated by the Braves ceremony were vivid and emotion filled. I thought of how much simpler not just childhood was but also life back then. We didn't have the distractions of today's world and actually relied on talking and communicating with each other face to face as electronic devices have taken over our world. I haven't heard a parent tell their teenager to "get off the phone and quit tying up the line" in years. Baseball is fading as America's past time and today's youth are not as passionate about the game. I am very fortunate to have a child at my house that insists on watching our Braves almost every night and am very thankful to be able to share some of my childhood experiences with him. It bridges the gap of 50 years thus continuing traditions that are becoming more lost with each passing generation.
33 years later, my Grandaddy still has a presence in my home. The little half table that once held his radio now adorns my breakfast area and holds a Peace Lilly from my Grandmother's funeral. His Braves seat cushion that he used when he got to go to Atlanta late in his life is hanging on the wall in my garage right beside the metal "dipper" that everyone used to drink water out of on hot, summer days usually after working in the garden. I even have an old green glass prescription bottle from a drug store that no longer exists. Worthless items in monetary value but heirlooms you could not pay me for. A generation gone but not forgotten; here's hoping our children will cherish our memories as much as we were taught to cherish theirs.