Still crying over baseball

“There’s no crying in baseball,” Tom Hanks said as the character Jimmy Dugan in the movie “A League of Their Own.”
But he was wrong.
Or maybe he just forgot what it was like to be a kid.
The first World Series I remember was 1957. The Milwaukee Braves beat the New York Yankees in seven games. I was 7 years old lying on the floor in front of the TV praying my heart out for the Braves.
A year later, the Yankees beat the Braves and I cried myself to sleep. What had I done wrong? How had my prayers lost their power?
I had gotten over it by the 1959 Series. That year, I latched onto the Chicago White Sox. Then they lost to the Dodgers and I cried again.
By 1964 I had matured enough to pick a team and stay with them. The team was the St. Louis Cardinals and they rewarded me that year with a World Series championship.
They did it again three years later, but broke my heart in ‘68 with a loss to the Tigers. By then, however, I was a freshman in college. My favorite team losing no longer brought tears.
And so it went.
Until now.
In 2020, I find myself crying again over baseball. But for a different kind of losses.
Human ones.
My boyhood heroes are dying.
My favorite Redbirds, Lou Brock and Bob Gibson, are gone.
Whitey Ford, one of the Yankees who made me cry in 1958 but had my respect, is gone.
Al Kaline, one of the Tigers who made me cry in ‘68 but a gentleman I always admired, is gone.
Tom Seaver, part of the unforgettable Miracle Mets of 1969, is gone.
So too are: Glenn Beckert, the Cub; Frank Bolling, another Tiger; Horace Clarke, a lovable Yankee; Jay Johnstone, he with the sweet swing who spent time with the Phillies; Don Larsen, a perfect game in the ’56 World Series; Tony Taylor, the heart and soul of the Phillies in the ‘60s; and Jimmy Wynn, the “Toy Cannon.”
All of them passed away in 2020.
And most recently, Joe Morgan, the little guy with the big bat and even bigger heart with the “Big Red Machine.”
Bob Gibson may have hurt the most. I watched a 6-minute video of his career online and cried the whole time.
I am all too aware that the tears I am shedding are only partly for these guys themselves. Mostly, they are tears for that little Eddie Ackerman lying on the floor in front of the TV.
I really miss that kid.

Ed Ackerman