The current wave has been prompted by the confluence of several events including celebrating a birthday on the cusp of what are generally called "big ones" and by going through and rediscovering personal effects in preparation for moving to a new home. A note to you younger readers out there: “big ones" are a moving target. As for the personal effects, years of accumulation in a reasonably large house is inevitable and effortless while prudent shedding of them is absolutely necessary when downsizing.
In the course of going through boxes and files, I have stumbled on memorabilia related to baseball such as the picture of me, a fellow high school chum and sports reporter and then-Orioles manager Hank Bauer. (See Another Loss below.) The passing of public figures of one's youth, whether athletes, politicians or celebrities, inevitably brings on fits of reflection. As a youngster, baseball players always seem so much older than we are, even in our teens when it fact they may only be six or seven years older. As we grow older, that gap, so wide when seated at great distances in the stands, narrows considerably and dramatically when seated in an easy chair reading an obituary in the newspaper. When players from our youth die a little bit of ourselves dies, too. In some instances, we are invariably moved to observe, “Why, he was only six years older than I am.”
In another recent post, Life After Baseball , I reflected on an earlier era when the money in baseball was not nearly as freely spent by owners and most ballplayers retired with little if any savings and went on to rather humble existences after their playing days were over.
Yesterday, when rummaging through a box of papers, I came across the following card. About the size of a credit card, it is made of thick paper that was obviously lightly varnished at one time as the cracks would indicate. Issued in 1956 by the Baltimore Orioles, or two years after their arrival in the city of my birth, the card bears my father’s name, the typewritten entry, Louis Goodman, still faintly visible. The back of the card more clearly reveals the dozens of holes punched into it by thumbtacks, used to fasten it to some bulletin board at our home.
The text “certifies” that my father, who was a surgeon and oncologist, had registered with the Orioles and been assigned the number 229. When in attendance at a ballgame, if my father’s answering service needed to reach him for an emergency, the PA announcer at Memorial Stadium would announce, “Will doctor 229 please call his answering service?” How, you might reasonably ask, would anyone seated among the cheering throngs (though admittedly, in 1956 the Orioles gave their fans precious little to cheer about) hear his number paged? Doctors develop a sixth sense for those subliminal summons, especially in the era before pagers and cell phones. Once, for instance, when my father and I were at a game, his number was called. I knew his number from examining the card, but naturally I did not hear it called. He did, however, and went to a pay phone and called his answering service, which informed him a patient was on his way into the ER with a possible acute appendicitis. Dad returned to his seat, looked at me and said, “No hurry. The residents will need to work him up first. We have plenty of time.”