One of my happiest childhood memories is watching Kirk Gibson’s astonishing, improbable game-winning home run in the bottom of the ninth inning in Game 1 of the 1988 World Series. I was born outside of Los Angeles; the Dodgers had always been my team. I remember the image of Gibson pumping his fist as he rounded the bases, limping on two bad legs, and the sounds of delirious pandemonium in Dodger Stadium.
But I also remember, even more vividly and happily, my dad and my two brothers and I jumping and hollering in our living room as we watched the impossible happen.
I played five seasons of little league baseball with my brothers. I was terrible; I got maybe three hits in five years. I alternated between outfield and catcher. I was a decent outfielder until my eyeglass prescription could no longer keep pace with my deteriorating eyesight. It was hot, I spent most of those years on the bench, and the uniforms were scratchy and ugly. I didn’t even understand some of the arcane rules, like the infield fly rule.
And I wouldn’t trade the experience for anything. I cheered my brothers on. My dad watched every game. (He umpired once and earned instant notoriety when a batter swung and missed—and he called it a ball.) I got my name in the local paper when I hit a double (one of my three hits). Every morning we hurried to get the paper off our doorstep to check box scores of last night’s big league games—just a few years before the internet destroyed local papers and the box score forever.