…And I’d like to add: Any person who wishes to help stimulate his or her desire for culture while allowing the nurturing of their sympathetic and humorous bent towards life as it is dealt to us, might seriously consider the efforts of Mr. Benchley, especially if you’re over age twelve.
…A happening at P.S.233, still 1947
A particular teacher made the mistake of challenging my integrity, during a class she was conducting. The class was called “Choral Speaking”. The way she did it seemed to me at the time to be kind of stupid. It wasn’t because I didn’t like poetry, it was because she had the entire class reciting the poems out loud as a group. When she pointed out the importance of what she was teaching, I raised my hand and asked her what I thought was a simple question.
“Why is it important?”, I asked. Before she had a chance to answer, I asked her abruptly if she didn’t think baseball was far more important for me to know about than poetry. She became extremely red in the face and raised her voice as she told me to sit down immediately. I did what she told me to do without reservation; well, maybe just a little, I guess. “Why don’t you have our class sing, ‘Take Me Out to the Ballgame’, as I obeyed her wishes to sit down, simultaneously.
Note: “Take Me Out to the Ball Game ” is a 1908 Tin Pan Alley song by Jack Norworth and Albert Von Tilzer which has become the official anthem of North American baseball, although neither of its authors had attended a game prior to writing the song.
By the way…I had become a member of the PAL, “Police Athletic League”.
In 1947, most of Major League Baseball was being played during the daytime hours. During the summer months when school was out, I would find myself traveling alone to Ebbets Field to watch the then Brooklyn Dodgers play during the day. PAL members would line up in a street area designated by the cops, and we would get in free of charge. (Those left field grandstand seats were regularly priced at $1.20 each.)
It was at one of the 1947 Dodgers home games, my father had purchased us the best tickets he could lay his hands on. It was my night to remember and recall many times during my life—a history lesson in the making—while past history was being explained to me by my dad. Even with only his third or fourth-grade education, he was so much brighter than most of the school teachers I’ve come across in my lifetime of experience within the confines of formal education.
I do believe it was the first night game I saw in person. As a reminder: in the early days of 1947, I was not yet 14 years old. I was overcome with emotion. Every sports page of every newspaper in the country was talking about the man who stood before me—his name was Jackie Robinson. His day had come, and like my dad made sure in the simplest of terms, this was going to be a life-changing time for everybody in our country, not just one colored man. (As a reference, please keep in mind, the term “colored man” was the correct and accepted usage of the period.)
In retrospect, I guess I already had cultivated a romantic approach towards things. Today, people would have to refer to Jackie as “one handsome dude”. When the team traveled, the players always dressed with respect for the fans; they looked good, all clean-shaven, and in restaurants, most wore a jacket, shirt, and tie. Jackie was a total gentleman.