Thursday, October 1, 2015

A Monday to Remember

On this very day—a Monday—forty-two years ago, I know where I was and what I did. For a good part of the day, I attended school—the sixth grade at St. John’s in Kingsbridge. And during the afternoon hours, I sat in a Language Arts class taught by an agreeable nun named Sister Joanne. Most of the school’s nuns had by 1973 kicked the habit altogether. They were no longer festooned in scary black from head to toe like their more authoritarian predecessors. They no longer put the fear of God in their students because of their costumes. I was very fortunate that there was—by and large—a new breed of nuns on the scene by then, with most of the paleo-throwbacks to a darker age retired or no longer among the living—or some combination of the two. As I recall, Sister Joanne was an extremely nice woman and very good teacher, too. A friend of mine thought she was a dead ringer for JFK.

Anyway, on October 1, 1973, Sister Joanne wheeled in a ubiquitous school TV set, which rested on a very tall stand. She promptly plugged it into a VHF outlet, which was the exception to the rule, and not the UHF hole alongside it. Typically, television viewing in the confines of St. John’s school meant “educational” TV on a UHF station. In other words, we were compelled to watch some amateurish production with poor picture quality that was of little interest to any of us.

On this day, Sister Joanne recognized that many of us were very interested in the Mets’ games that afternoon—a doubleheader and the final two of the season. I believe she was a fan as well. I doubt very much that any of the scary nuns from the past would have been as thoughtful. Some things, after all, trumped learning the ABCs. Besides, two hours a day for 180 days a year was more than enough Language Arts to last a lifetime—one afternoon could certainly be spared.

Heavy rain in Chicago the previous day—and a game cancellation—necessitated the doubleheader. And it was still raining twenty-four hours later. But the game against the Cubs had to be played because the Mets’ "magic number" was one. They had to win one of the games to clinch their division. And so we watched the early innings—which was delayed a half hour because of the inclement weather—on an old black-and-white TV, which was okay by me, because we had an old black-and-white TV at home.

The Mets took an early lead with their ace, Tom Seaver, on the mound. And things appeared quite bright even in the murky gloom that was Chicago. But Tom Terrific tired that afternoon and the game got a little too close for comfort by the time the school day ended—dismissal with the game a far cry from over. I recall racing the few blocks home and, happily, witnessed the clinching of the Eastern Division of the National League in the comforts of home, sweet, home and not in a Language Arts class in St. John’s school on Godwin Terrace. It’s where I wanted to be. School had this uncanny knack of interfering with baseball. But Sister Joanne deserves her due for going above and beyond the call of duty. And thanks, too, for reading aloud to us The Big Wave by Pearl S. Buck.

Postscript: the Mets won the clinching game 6-4 with Tug McGraw pitching the final three innings to record a save. Relief pitchers did that sort of thing back then. The second game of the doubleheader was mercifully called off because of the weather and the fact that it didn’t mean anything in the standings and, too, that the Mets were flying high on champagne. The New York Mets’ division-winning record was 82-79. Sister Joanne, by the way, subsequently left her religious order—as did most of the non-habited nuns from my day—and became a wife and mother, the genuine article. You see, several years before Sister Joanne became a sister, the nuns at St. John’s were all mothers.

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