June 2009: Dodgers vs. Oakland A's
This article was published in the 2011 The National Pastime.
“He can’t hit the curve! He can’t hit the curve!” the guy
a few rows behind us shouts, as if the Dodger pitcher
can hear this news about the batter, Nomar Garciaparra,
all the way from these top deck seats, and then he’ll send
an out-making curve ball to the plate. The truth is that
nobody, ever, down on the field, can hear what we know
so high up that birds can graze our heads. We want to help.
We want to say the magic words, solution to the puzzle
slowly solving itself between the Dodgers and the A’s,
way down there, where the grass is as green as Oz when Judy Garland
steps from black and white into Technicolor. “Get the bat off your shoulder,
Kershaw!” the same guy yells when the Dodger pitcher stands at the plate,
ultimately striking out. He did move the bat; he swung hard, but not because
this guy told him to. Why do we try? Why am I screaming, “Charge!”
after the familiar fanfare. Why am I chanting, “Let’s go, Dodgers, let’s go!”
over and over? Eating a lukewarm Dodger dog, the doughy bun falling apart?
Because I need to be a fan, worshipping divinity of solid rules,
of constant practice, within which utter unpredictability and error hold sway.
The Game: The Quest. Not for The Grail, but for a batting average somewhere
beyond 300. Out of 1,000. A thousand would be perfect,
but baseball isn’t perfect. It’s just beautiful. Harry and I bring our aging bodies
to the stadium, the cheapest seats, closest to an evening sky, those birds
skimming everybody’s bright blue Dodger cap. There are holy rituals:
A toddler with his dad and uncle, the baby wearing an expensive all-wool
Dodger jacket he’ll outgrow in weeks, but he’s an acolyte for now. The young
and gentle couple sitting in the row ahead of us, sharing Chinese stir-fry, nuzzling each other’s
necks — consecrated, loving union. And now, Tommy Lasorda, long-time Dodger manager and
saint, waddles to the field, accepting adulation. The wonder of all this
as potent as it was the one time I went to Notre Dame Cathedral,
Paris, Ascension of the Virgin Mary being celebrated. Candles blazing. Incense
made me swoon. Now, after the 7th inning stretch, Harry says, “Let’s leave,”
and I am grateful to escape intensity, the yelling and the push of 50,000 people.
We drive home, the game still on the radio; then, at home we watch the end —
my shoes are off. My head is steadying itself. Home: our safe retreat, as dear to us
as any home-run hitter’s trot around the bases to the final one.
What’s our batting average? Less than nothing in the stats. No baseball player
in the Major League would even know our names. Tommy Lasorda doesn’t care
if we’re in Dodger Stadium or not — thousands of other people are.
I care, though. I like becoming the old lady who can tell somebody else
to “Charge,” can urge our Dodgers to bring forth their youth and talent
for imperfect excellence. Error-filled beauty. Stunning strikeouts —
losses, in the truest scheme of things, as glorious as winning.
These men wrestle with The Game, their god, and we all come away,
no matter what the outcome, happily reborn and sanctified.
HOLLY PRADO has published ten books that encompass the genres of poetry, fiction, and autobiography. Her poetry and prose have appeared numerous publications, among them "The Paris Review", "The Kenyon Review", and "The American Poetry Review". She’s been active as a writer and teacher since the early 1970s in the Southern California literary community, a community she values greatly for its exuberance and variety of voices. Honors include First Prize, 1999 Fin de Millennium LA Poetry Award and the Certificate of Recognition from the City of Los Angeles in 2006 for her achievements in writing and teaching, along with her influential participation in the literary community. Since 1978, she and her husband Harry Northup have cheered loyally for the Dodgers from the top deck at Dodger Stadium.