October has always been a dangerous month for me. Its a month where responsibility wanes. Where attention to detail becomes non-existent and my sole focus involves 60'6 and using a round bat to hit a round ball....SQUARELY.
October means baseball playoffs.
THE DODGERS MOB RICK MONDAY IN 1981 AFTER HIS GAME WINNING HOME RUN AGAINST THE MONTREAL EXPOS....SENDING THE DODGERS TO THE WORLD SERIES
The love affair began as a small tike. My mom dressing me up in Giants gear, which was soon replaced at my grand-mother's directive by Los Angeles Dodgers gear. I still remember being 5-or-6 years old and listening to baseball games on my grand-mother's little radio while she planted or tended vegetables in her garden. I would day-dream about the game. I would stand with my wiffle bat in her backyard, listening to the game, seeing myself as Steve Garvey, visualizing base hits. The love affair hasn't stopped.
When my mother realized there was no saving me from Dodger fandom, the brain-washing was full and complete, she decided to feed this great passion of mine. Dodger gear was all I needed to put a smile on my face. As I grew up, baseball WAS IT. I vividly remember sitting in my room and contorting a big boom box on my window sill so I could listen to Vin Scully, Jerry Doggett and Ross Porter call Dodger games on KDWN 1320 out of Las Vegas. If I just turned the antenna at such an angle to go around the curvature of our apartment, the game would come in clear at about 7:40pm. The moment the signal cleared and I heard, "Lets go, batter up, we are taking the afternoon off." Well, I knew I was in for three hours of heaven.
Having a child with such a singular passion could not have been easy for my mother. While one wants to support their child in their passions, my love for baseball bordered on a behavioral disorder. Fits were thrown if I missed a game, pouting resulted, and then the ensuing punishment if my protestations grew too loud. But, if I was well-behaved, if I did well in school and did my chores, the results of my good behavior were nothing short of glorious.
While I grew up, it seemed the Dodgers were in the playoffs every year. 1977, 1978, 1980 (one game playoff), 1981, 1983, 1985, 1988. These memories are as vivid as anything in my mind. The problem for me as a Dodger and baseball enthusiast was that many of the Dodger playoff games were during the day. Well, school was disrupting my Dodger playoff schedule. So, how did this get rectified. To the chagrin of my former teachers I am going to share something that might make long-time educators wince. If I was doing well in school, behaving, doing my chores and being a good kid, my mother would write notes so I could come home early from school and watch the Dodgers in the playoffs. Best Mother EVERRRRRRRRRRR !
It was the ultimate in bargaining chips for a mother who realized her son had found his passion, but also had to make sure he understood that enjoying the game wasn't a right, it was a privilege. I was allowed to come home during October baseball in 1980, 1983, 1985 and of course 1988. I was not allowed to come home and see the Dodgers during their World Championship run in 1981. I missed Rick Monday's two-out 9th inning blast at Olympic Stadium versus Steve Rogers sending LA to the Fall Classic. Why ? I was especially mouthy to teachers and my mother. Playoff baseball was not free in our house.
To this day, October is special. With expanded playoffs and compelling match-ups I immerse myself in the game that I love. So, as we embark on what should be an exciting and joyous post-season, I always re-live the care-free days of playoff baseball viewing. Life was simple back then. Eat, sleep, behave, do my chores, open doors for old ladies and hours of playoff baseball.......Heaven !
PS. Mom, I know you don't like me telling this story of how you wrote notes getting me out of school, but your coolness factor among my friends jumps exponentially #JustSaying