It’s amazing the things we hold on to, isn’t it? I couldn’t have been more than 8 or 9 years old when my mom bought the book for me, and it’s survived countless moves around the country over the years. The pages are worn and creased, and the paperback binding has the long, spidery ridges that books develop when they’ve been read over and again. On Sunday night after I watched Justin Turner jack a home run deep into center field to give the Dodgers a walk off victory against the Cubs and a 2-0 series lead, I went back and pulled it off the shelf in my office. It was time to read “Out of the Blue” again.
“Out of the Blue” is Orel Hershiser’s account of the magical ‘88 season. That season represented the last World Series in franchise history, but after 29 years there’s magic in the air again. Every fan remembers where they got in, that crucial moment where they became a fan, where they decided that this, this team, would be their team. This was my moment, where I got in.
It’s part baseball book, and part life lesson. Known as the Bulldog to his teammates, Hershiser’s lessons are simple; work hard and never give up. I don’t think my mom had any idea how much of an impact that $5.99 paperback would have on my life when she bought it for me one morning at Walgreens. A voracious reader, by that point I was reading a couple of books a week, and instead of going to summer camps like my brother, I sat around the house all summer, my nose buried in a book. One of many, it stuck out, and it ignited a spark. I wanted to know everything I could about the team, and I started following them through the box scores in the back of the Des Moines Register every morning.
Those box scores, and the occasional Sports Illustrated article I’d read at the library were the only sources of information back then. We didn’t have cable, and other than a smattering of Cubs games, only postseason games were on TV. Now I can watch the games on my phone, and my email inbox is full of Dodgers content to read every morning. Exciting times we live in.
Airfare is a lot cheaper than it used to be too, which is why last weekend I bought a cheap ticket at the last minute and flew to Los Angeles for game one of the National League Championship Series. In the last four years I haven’t missed a single postseason game at Dodger Stadium, and while I knew I wouldn’t be able to hold on forever, I wasn’t ready to give up just yet.
It feels a little different now, not living so close to the stadium. I haven’t been to a game all year, catching little moments sporadically from the highlight shows. There’s some new faces, and some of the old ones aren’t around anymore. I still miss Vin Scully, the Dodgers longtime announcer, but at least organist Nancy Bea is still tickling the ivories every night.
And the game itself? Magical, there’s no other word. It’s a strange feeling to connect to something with so many other people, but there’s absolutely nothing you can do about it. We cheered, and we hoped for the best. Last fall, the Dodgers couldn’t get past the Cubs in the postseason, but on Saturday night it was Chicago that couldn’t get past Clayton Kershaw, the Dodgers ace.
My fling was over too quick, I was back in Des Moines before I knew it, my jersey tucked safely in my carry on. I’ll be wearing it Wednesday while I watch the game, hoping to see the Dodgers sweep the Cubs out of the playoffs. After 29 years, it’s time to head back to the World Series.
Contact David Dolmage