"It was imprudent of us, in the first place, to become authors. We could have become something regular, but we managed not to.
We were lucky, but we were also determined." Roy Blount Jr

"I don’t change the facts to enhance the drama. I think of it the other way round, the drama has got to fit the facts,
and it’s your job as a writer to find the shape in real life."
Hilary Mantel

Friday, August 17, 2007

Hammerin' Hank

at the Baseball Hall of Fame, Cooperstown, NY

Despite coming of age at opposite ends of the U.S. and experiencing quite different (though equally excellent) upbringings, my husband and I have things in common. Including enormous admiration for Hank Aaron.

The Chap spent his boyhood in Milwaukee, the location of his dad's employment, where Hank Aaron played for the Braves--a World Series winning version of the team. Not long after the Series win, the team headed South to Atlanta to become my local team. My husband--along with the entire city of Milwaukee--felt terribly betrayed.

Admittedly, I didn't know much about the finer points of baseball in my girlhood. I loved playing it in the schoolyard. In my extreme youth, Braves' games were the basic soundtrack of my life during the season, as Red Socks' games are now: blaring from car radios, store radios, on the tv screen in bars and restaurants, on my own television. Childhood memories of high summer: it was always sweltering, miserably humid, and I could always hear the Braves' game--up close, in the distance, somewhere in between.

I vaguely recall watching on the night Hank Aaron broke Babe Ruth's home run record. It had to be the most exciting sports moment of my life--only equalled by watching the Braves win another World Series many years later. (We'd returned from London that evening, and despite being jet-lagged I stayed up late and later to see the victory. The next day, I was almost persuaded I'd hallucinated the final game...and the outcome.)

When we were in grad school together, the Chap taught me almost everything I know about baseball--either while watching the Braves on telly, or when attending games at Atlanta-Fulton County Stadium. (Where Hank got his Big Hit #715, and so many others. The actual spot that the historic ball exited the park was duly designated.)

I'm sure my man regrets all the instruction, because now when we watch baseball, I do all the commentary--exactly one beat ahead of the guys in the broadcast booth, so they sound like my echo. If I do say so myself, I'm really, really good.

Yes, Hank is my personal baseball hero. For more reasons than I can enumerate.

I'm not going to express or dwell on my feelings about Barry Bonds and the new record. I don't let myself think about it, or at least only so far as wishing it had been somebody else. And not in Hank's lifetime.

Whenever I speculate about whether there'll someday be a Bonds' shrine at Cooperstown, I can only imagine it being titled "The Steroid Era."

When I wonder whether his locker will ever hold a place of honour in the Hall of Fame like Hank's, I'm pretty sure of the answer.

And that, I suppose, is my one great comfort.

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