Tuesday, October 21, 2008

The World's Serious

The World Series between the Philadelphia Phillies and the Tampa Bay Rays (nee Devil Rays)  starts tomorrow night. This will mark the 48th World Series I have watched. It would have been 49 except for the strike year in 1994. The first game I saw was the third game of the 1960 World Series. In those days, all Series games were played during the daytime and the third and fourth game were always on Saturday and Sunday. Bobby Richardson hit a grand slam in that game and drove in six runs in an easy Yankee win.


The World Series lost a good deal of its appeal when it switched to an all night time format. My memory is that that started sometime around 1970, at least for week nights. Finally, everything was played at night. When played in the daytime, the World Series was a great unifier of the country. Kids in schools snuck radios into the classroom, businesses set up an old black and white TV set for people to view as they walked by, or eat lunch in front of. Nighttime series games changed all of that. Part of that may be because baseball is not the national sport anymore, but part of it is certainly because baseball is more fun when shared with a group, and a lot more fun when you feel like you are watching a game when you should be working. Keats McKinney, a childhood friend snuck a radio into his class for the 7th game of the 1964 series. His seat was at a window in a temporary building located exactly opposite my window seat in another building. Through a series of hand signals I was  able to follow the Cardinal defeat of the Yankees that year.


All of this reminds me of the day I played hokey from a law job to watch a baseball game. The Astros had not made the World Series in 1980 (although they came within six outs). It would be another quarter century until they made it (and even then, not for very long). In October of 1980 I had been on the job at Fulbright & Jaworski for about 2-3 weeks when the National League Championship Series between the Phillies and Astros took place. Game three was a day game and somehow my new friend Lanny Temple got the firm tickets to the game. I say somehow, Lanny, a first year lawyer was the only one brazen enough to ask for them. He called me and asked me to come along. I turned him down flat. The last thing in the world I wanted to be known for was a slacker who would sneak off to a baseball game.Lanny was persistent. “When is the next time the Astros will be in the playoff  he asked. He had a good point. In 19 seasons this was the first time. So I checked my docket and got everything in order and agreed to go. I called my secretary in and explained the circumstances, asking her to cover for me and then off we went to the game.


A great game it was. The Astros won in the 10th behind the great pitching of Joe Niekro, 1 to 0. But I never really relaxed, worried about what might happen. About the fifth inning I went to the public phone booth, dropped in a dime and called my secretary. “You have not missed a thing. “ she said, no calls and only one visitor and that was not about a case. “Who was it ? “ I asked. She replied, “Oh, Leon Jaworski came by to welcome you to the firm, I told him that you went to a baseball game.” Now I had not met Jaworski yet and had been looking forward to it. I began to feel light headed and the round skylight roof of the Astrodome began to circle swiftly overhead. I could honestly feel my heart pounding as I choked out, “You told him I was at a baseball game ?”. After a brief pause I began to hear laughter, the laughter of half a dozen secretaries crowded around her desk listening in on the conversation. They  got me, they got me but good. So relieved was I that it never crossed my mind to get angry at what was, after all, quite a cruel joke to play on a naïve young lawyer !  I went back to my seat and told Temple what had happened. He appreciated the joke much more than I did. Lanny never worried about trivialities like a job when baseball was involved. That’s one reason why he will live longer than I will.


Twenty eight years have gone by since that day, but you know what, I remember that game as well as I do any case I ever took. I’m glad that I went and I’m glad that I have the memory of my first secretary literally putting the fear of God into me.


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