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News for Norther Colorado and the world

Monday, September 1, 2014

Mike Moran, Of Green Grass, Dirt And New Leather

There are scents discovered in six decades of life so deeply absorbed into my consciousness that they can be coaxed back to reality in a blink……………the memory from high school dances and proms of the esoteric White Shoulders perfume worn by Bobby Soxed girls, or the heady aroma of the Omaha Stockyards (the nation’s biggest!) borne on the gentle winds of spring to our front porch, or the enduring aura of printer’s ink at my father’s modest plant near downtown, now a clothing drop off for a charity……….. but none to match the redolence of new grass and mud at a baseball diamond, and the promise of a new season and the joy on its wings. On a recent break on the sea shore in Kennebunkport, Maine, I took along Pat Jordan’s majestic 1975 novel, A False Spring, his odyssey of travel through minor-league towns like McCook, Waycross, Davenport, Eau Claire, and Palatka, to rediscover on some cozy evenings with a fire and a good glass of wine………it worked, and I’m inspired again for the start of the baseball season, my annual rite of passage and rejuvenation…………. the sport, whether you buy into its time-honored tag of the National Pastime or not, endures and sustains boys and men, even now young girls and women…………my mother, watching me devour book after book in Claire Bee’s Chip Hilton series in 1948 and 1949 and pore over the Sporting News, packed me into her old Packard one summer’s day and found the place to sign up for kid’s baseball at Elmwood Park and launched me forever into the grandeur of baseball and its joys……………my dad had made sure I got to enjoy Omaha Cardinals Class A games at Rosenblatt Stadium even though he knew little about baseball or felt drawn to it or sports in general……….. but on that June morning in 1949 at the city park, I first smelled the grass and dirt, mingled with the fragrance of a new leather glove and the buzz of a tryout for a team sponsored by the local Pepsi bottler, and I was seduced and hooked forever……….. I chose to be a catcher in that first summer because it seemed to be the spot where you could be central to every moment of a game…………but I ended as an unremarkable pitcher, with all the peaks and valleys and demolished dreams of Jordan’s book that came with it, but it also brought me the small miracles, like learning to throw an overhand curve from lefty Gene Bearden of the Minneapolis Millers in 1957 in the musty bullpen behind the Rosenblatt rightfield bleachers……….. Bearden was on his way down, in his final season at 36, a long fall from his 1948 campaign when he went 20-7 and led the Cleveland Indians to their World Series title, but he had time for a kid………….. or seeing the superb Bob Gibson display his skills at Tech High and Creighton University before opening that same season, fresh with a $3000 bonus, with the Omaha AAA franchise……….a brief glimpse at the beginning of a Hall of Fame career with the St. Louis Cardinals………..a week from next Tuesday, we host our annual luncheon to welcome to town our own local nine, our boys of summer, the Colorado Springs Sky Sox, now in their 23rd season………….. we’ll meet the Rockies farmhands and staff as they prepare to open the season later that week in Tacoma, and savor the anticipation the home opener of the parent club three days later with the Padres at Coors Field in Denver………. time now to call Comcast again to order my Major League Extra Innings cable package and know that every night, all spring and summer, I can settle into my oversize recliner to watch any of several games around our country, and enjoy one final, magical season of listening to the incomparable Vin Scully, in his 61st season bring me his voice and a Dodgers game here and there…………when I was a kid in Omaha in the late 1940s and 1950s, my mom let me sleep in our basement in the summer so I could listen to our local announcer, I think it was a guy named Don Hill, describe the games on KOIL, from towns like Sioux City, Pueblo, St. Paul, Lincoln and later Minneapolis, Denver, Charleston and Indianapolis, on a transistor radio, under my blanket to mute the sound and spare my sleeping parents and siblings any discomfort…………I can recall every sound, smell and color of those beginnings of every season, as millions do of every age and history even now, indelible and real…………it’s almost here for all of us who cherish the game, the time to awaken from a long winter and see life begin again in many ways……….. we are incredibly fortunate to have the Sky Sox here, as they were in the 1940s and 1950s over at the old stadium in Memorial Park, and the Rockies, just up the road an hour or so away, to enjoy and follow, and to see kids, boys and girls, with their caps and gloves and the anticipation of an autograph or a foul ball……and the old men slouched in their seats, wearing caps with logos of some bygone team, from who knows how many seasons gone by, hearing those same, familiar sounds, seeing those comfortable images, and recalling for themselves the smells of green grass, dirt and clay, and the tang of new leather.

Mike Moran Senior Media Consultant The Colorado Springs Sports Corporation 1631 Mesa Ave., Suite E Colorado Springs, CO 80906 (719) 634-7333, ext. 1011 mike@thesportscorp.org <mailto:mike@thesportscorp.org>

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