During my morning constitutional in nearby Van Cortlandt Park yesterday, I encountered an object in my path that—forty or so years ago—would have consumed me with delight. It was an orphan baseball that had found its way from a nearby field to the footpath. In my youth, this sort of find was akin to a gold strike. But in the here and now, I was absent any glee. I merely paused, recalled what once was, and moved on. Sure, I momentarily considered picking the ball up and taking it home with me. But that would have necessitated placing it in my pocket—a not inconsiderable task that, if successful, would have certainly attracted attention.
Were it 1977 with Jimmy Carter in the White House, I would have unquestionably added another baseball to my inventory. While we in the neighborhood sometimes played baseball on the crab grassy fields of Van Cortlandt Park—and a few other fields of green—concrete and asphalt surfaces were our primary playgrounds. And as hard as the “hard balls”—our moniker for baseballs, which distinguished them from the various other balls we played with—were, they took a beating on concrete and asphalt. I remember playing with baseballs that had lost their original cowhide covers. The cover substitutes consisted of several layers of electrical tape. Granted, electrical-taped baseballs were in their death spirals, but it was a frugal time. And like just about everything else back then, a baseball wasn’t taken for granted. It was a throwaway item only after it had accumulated sufficient mileage and died a proper death.
Speaking of baseball and electrical tape, I plugged in my old Schaefer Beer “Welcome” light-up sign for the first time yesterday. I've had it for a while now. Copious amounts of electrical tape on its cord had kept me from doing it before. But I finally threw caution to the wind and, I can report, no sparks flew. Four decades ago, Schaefer was the most popular beer in New York and the surrounding areas. It was my father’s preferred brew and he drank truckloads of the stuff before it went by the wayside in the 1980s. Schaefer Beer was at one time the official beer of the New York Yankees and then of my beloved New York Mets. But all good things come to an end. I passed up a perfectly good baseball. And Pabst Brewing Company now owns the Schaefer label and produces a pale imitation—crappy and cheap—of a former giant, which I will pass on, too.
(Photos from the personal collection of Nicholas Nigro)