Like Red Sox fans all over, I was extremely happy that we won’t be starting the season with another losing streak. Well, at least we won’t be 0 for whatever. And having the first win against the Yankees was icing. I will have all summer to write about the team so I will just leave it at that and turn to more general baseball spring subjects.
Yesterday, Neil Genzlinger wrote a wonderful piece in the New York Times warning owners of souvenir baseballs to take care of them well.
Baseball’s opening week seems a good time to issue this public-service advisory: If you own an autographed baseball with significant financial or sentimental value, be prepared for it to be destroyed unless you take drastic action immediately.
That cautionary announcement is inspired by television and the movies, which love a good baseball yarn, especially if it involves an autographed ball that comes to a gruesome end. For decades, the big and small screens have been sprouting stories about beloved balls that have been ruined, usually by a child who has not been properly schooled in the importance of sports memorabilia. And in these tales we can find vital lessons for this time of year.
Two of his advisories are my favorites. First is from “Leave it to Beaver”, a show I watched as a child and later in re-runs. I don’t remember this episode but it is typical. Genzlinger advises you live in a roadless neighborhood.
That is the lesson of an episode of “Leave It to Beaver” first broadcast in April 1960, during the show’s third season. Ward, the Beaver’s father, discovers a prized baseball from his childhood in a trunk and puts it on display in his den, a foolish thing to do given Beaver’s already well-established knack for wreaking havoc.
How valuable was this baseball? It had been signed by Babe Ruth, Lou Gehrig, Lefty Grove, Kiki Cuyler, Augie Galan, Bill Dickey and Grover Cleveland Alexander, which means it could have paid for the Beaver’s college education.
Others can research whether those players were ever in the same locker room at the same time, as Ward attests. Our focus here is what happens to the ball. The Beaver’s nitwit friend Larry persuades him to play catch with it, Larry heaves it over the Beaver’s head and into the street, and a passing truck squashes it. So if you own a ball with those autographs on it — or, really, with any one of those autographs on it — find a roadless place to live. No road, no trucks.
The second favorite piece of advice is to get rid of the family dog. Easy enough for me since I have cats who just roll things around the floor. Baseballs are much to big for them to bite.
It’s the family pet that does the damage in an episode of the sitcom “George Lopez” first broadcast in October 2002. The son in the fictional Lopez family, Max, is being pressured by his father to improve his baseball skills, which are abysmal, and he practices with one of George’s most treasured possessions, a ball signed by Steve Garvey, Joe Morgan, Jim Palmer and Rod Carew. The family mutt nabs it and reduces it to a gooey lump.
The episode, by the way, features four of the daffiest athlete cameos in television history. Garvey, Morgan, Palmer and Carew appear or, more accurately, their heads do, as George’s bobblehead-doll collection lectures him after he yells at Max.
I thought my picture of the day from opening day would be Jackie Bradley, Jr.’s catch of the day for the Red Sox, but then I saw this of my first favorite player beginning when he was a Brooklyn Dodger, Sandy Koufax, who still bleeds Dodger Blue.
Baseball is all about making memories. Time to make some new ones.
Photograph Jae C. Hong/Associated Press
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