In service of this periodic otaku irruption of mine, I am working my way through Ken Burns’ Baseball. It is a relatively compact way to catch up, but geez is it treacly and, what, precious or something. Begging for satire, of which I know there are many.
One thing I think I have learned is a regret.
A year or two before my cantankerous, independent-minded grandpa passed away, Viv and I spent a couple days visiting. He was hale but had stopped driving and we stayed with him in only house he lived in the entire time I have been around, a beautiful mid-century modern. He and my grandmother must have been the first owners.
He never wanted to talk about his childhood or his family but somehow, having Viv there, he was willing to talk. Among a raft of interesting stories, he told us that he had “played baseball” for “a couple of years” in California, during a peripatetic era of his late adolescence, presumably his very late teens.
Both of us understood this to mean that he was being paid for his time on the field, I think because he was telling us this in the context of how he earned his living after he had run away from home around fourteen.
His father and extended family had a steam-combine rental business in the wheat-growing fields of the Eastern Washington area known as the Palouse. He knew how to run and repair steam engines, and that was his ticket out.
In that house, there was always a box of toys and children’s books which I had assessed since childhood as belonging to my father and my aunt. Among the things in it was a strange old baseball glove, smallish and with weirdly loose fingers.
After he passed away, most of the stuff in that box just passed out of our lives. I think I kept a small book of Donald Duck stories, thick and newsprint with a flipmovie on one margin.
This week, looking at the endless molasses pans of long dead ballplayers from the immediate pre and postwar era, the splay-fingered, smallish glove is apparent in many images. A quick review of glove design as seen in photos from the 1940s, when my dad was in his teens, shows the transition to fixed-finger gloves is well underway.
My grandpa was 15 in 1920 and according to him by the time he was 18 he was safely back in Washington, attending college. So that glove, even though my dad may have used as a kid, may also have been my granddad’s glove. It’s long gone, of course. It would be nice to find I had the insight to grab it back when we were cleaning out the house, but there’s no way I did.