CHRIST IN WINTER: Reflections on Faith from a Place of Winter for the Years of Winter… ©
Today is the All Star game, and so, a baseball CIW…
Helen and I were in Cincinnati to see Ted Kluzewski’s # 18 retired. Our trip to Riverfront Stadium was a sort of pilgrimage. “Big Klu” had been a hero of my youth, when I, too, was a slow hard-hitting first baseman.
We were dressed in all our Reds regalia–caps, shirts, sox, all extolling professional baseball’s first team. I was in line to get tickets when Helen tugged at my arm.
“This man says he’ll give us tickets,” she said.
She waved her arm toward a rather scrufty looking young man standing a few feet away. He looked like the kind of guy who would be asking for something rather than giving something. He slouched sideways, like the sullen gunsel in The Maltese Falcon.
He wasn’t highly articulate, but the bottom line was that he had a pair of tickets, and he had just been looking around for the right people to give them to.
All this was highly suspicious. Standing behind him, Helen indicated, non-verbally, that she didn’t think we should take this offer, that it had the odor of scam about it. I agreed. I mean, what if…
…he was a dope dealer and he had mistaken us for someone else and the tickets were a signal and a shifty-eyed woman with too much cleavage would hand us a paper bag and suddenly whistles would blow and cops would appear. Maybe he was an undercover agent investigating scalping and as soon as we took the tickets whistles would blow and cops would appear. In either scenario, we would spend the night in jail with low-life types, Dodgers and Yankees fans.
At the very least, if these were free tickets, they would be high up in right field, where the seats were red because of all the noses that had bled on them, and this being Big Klu’s big night, we had decided to break the budget and get green seats, or maybe even yellow seats, for the first time in all our trips to Riverfront. [Riverfront Stadium is no more. The Reds now play in The Great American Ballpark, where all the seats are red.] But he stuck the tickets out, and I, rather ungraciously, took them, with only a mumbled word of thanks.
We took our pathetic tickets and trudged up, up, up, past the young people who were lounging comfortably on the lower concourses, drinking beer and looking at the river and saving their breath for cheering Big Klu . We presented our tickets to the last usher, who looked like he was about to pass out from altitude sickness. He looked carefully at them, looked again.
“I don’t recognize these numbers,” he said.
Great! We had been given counterfeit tickets. Now we would be thrown out and an ignominious photo of us would appear at the gates of all major league ballparks with the notice to watch out for these old people because they are frauds who use counterfeit tickets.
The usher pulled a wrinkled stadium map from his back pocket. He looked at it for a long time.
“These are way down there,” he said, pointing in the direction of third base. “In the blue seats.”
Blue seats? But the blue seats were the best. We would never be able to afford blue seats, and even if we could, the tickets to them were all sold out before the season even began. Surely nobody had given us free tickets to the blue seats.
It was easier going down than coming up, but it was still a long way. The healthy-looking blue seat usher got us into our seats without demur, just as Big Klu’s widow walked onto the field. The scrufty young man was seated a couple of rows in front of us, with a stunning young woman and three bright and beautiful and well-behaved children.
By asking our neighbors during the game, we learned that we were in the reserved section of a local corporation. On nights when there were not enough of their employees to fill up all the seats they had paid for, they gave them to others. Our young scammer, who moon-lighted as a vice-president of the corporation, had been waiting around to find just the right people to receive his extra tickets. When he saw two old people all dressed up like Reds groupies, he decided we were the ones.
As we sat there, so close we could see the seams of the baseball Mrs Klu used as the first pitch, one of the many announcements over the loud speaker was: “Children, senior citizens, and handicapped persons who become separated from their parties will be taken to Gate 13.”
Senior citizens? Well, yes. Old people lose their bearings and get lost sometimes, just like children. Gate 13 does not sound like a very lucky spot to be taken, but it’s nice to know there is a place where you can get back to your party. It’s in the blue seats, and the tickets are free.
John Robert McFarland
The “place of winter” mentioned in the title line is Iron Mountain, in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula, where people are Yoopers, a word in the new Merriam-Webster dictionary, and life is defined by winter even in the summer! [This phrase is explained in the post for March 20, 2014.]
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I have also started an author blog, about writing, in preparation for the publication, by Black Opal Books, of my novel, VETS, in late 2014 or early 2015. http://johnrobertmcfarland-author.blogspot.com/
I tweet as yooper1721.