Driving west on the Belt Parkway I saw the exit number 6S. My blood began to pump faster through my veins. Heading down Cropsey Avenue, the heart was racing almost as fast as my Santa Fe. As I motored down the street, traffic was moving along with me, all of us in eager anticipation. The Macaroni Man (my nephew Chris) pointed out the lights in the distance, or should I say light post that surrounded the field of dreams, that little patch of green joy, that cathedral to my memories of an earlier time. As I looked up and saw the ballpark, I could remember my first glance of the old ballpark that once stood in the heart of and was the heart of, Brooklyn.
The closer I got the more festive the air became, people were crossing streets with their families, old men wearing blue baseball caps that had a big white capital B on the front, little boys and girls being held by their hands, sunglasses propped on the edges of their tiny noses. Lovers hurried hand in hand in shorts and T-shirts, long strides carrying them to their objective.
We swung along Surf avenue and had to U-turn to get to the parking lot, and inching my way forward, one of many cars vying for position to line up and be assigned a spot to park, the parking attendant held up his hand to tell me: “Sorry Guy, no more room!” Ok, we still had 45 minutes before the game started, when I jumped to the other side of the road and into a parking lot. Turns out it was a better place, since it would put right back on Cropsey going home!
One could hear the beat of Latin and rock music, welcoming you into the world of gaiety and joy as we strolled along the outside of Keyspan Park, smelling all the delicious aromas of the different vendors, with their very now menus, inviting us to come on inside and enjoy. Entering the stadium, we climbed the steps to our level in the seating arrangement and found what we thought were our seats, and were pleasantly surprised at how great the view was. The sun was warm but comfortable, the view of the field facing up the third base line was spectacular, the outfield decorated by the excitement that spelled the Coney Island amusement park, surrounded by the parachute jump, Astroland and the Cyclone ride, all framed by a blue sky and the deep blue ocean. What a great day to be alive!
But what was making this all so special? While the music played, people in the stands relaxed and funneled their excitement to the players, listening to the beat, jugglers, marching through the stands, juggling their stuff and wowing the little fans and grandpas alike, A bag of peanuts in my hand, as I loudly joined in to a rousing rendition of: “Take me out to the ball game”. The PA system blaring out instructions to dance steps as if at a wedding, the groundskeepers and fans, following along, smiles and happiness everywhere. But what made it so special? I saw the rides and I recalled a time years ago, when I visited my Aunt Chi-Chi, on the very street that lead to this very park, and recalled a old black and white photo of my sister Fran, sitting on the wooden horse of the Merry-Go-Round of Coney Island, her little round face sweetly contented upon the ride of her life.
The ball game was exciting, the fans were definitely into it, lustily cheering their team as the players hit, ran and fielded carrying them to an eventual victory, while news was flashing back to the fans, “The New York Mets have just tied the Los Angeles Dodgers, 4 to 4!” the crowd roaring like they just heard the news that World War II had ended.
But what made it so special?
The Macaroni Man on the way home asked me why the fans were so different than they are at Shea Stadium, why they were so enthused and excited? It was then that it hit me. Because the fans had ownership, this was Brooklyn, their Dodgers, my Dodgers had moved away, they were living again with their Dodgers, now called the Cyclones, maybe a little lower class of baseball, but they were happy to have and own a Brooklyn team, their very own team, again.
When Brooklyn embraces something, it is like marriage, something as a holy alliance, true love, unfailing and unconditional.
Thank you Fred Wilpon, thanks for taking that ugly taste out of my mouth that was left there by Walter O”Malley, Robert Wagner and Robert Moses, the three biggest cads of the 20th Century.
"Take me out to the ball game,
Take me out with the crowd.
Buy me some peanuts and cracker jack,
I don't care if I never get back,
Let me root, root, root for the home team,
If they don't win it's a shame.
For it's one, two, three strikes, you're out,
At the old ball game."
Author: Jack Norworth
Composer: Albert Von Tilzer
Published on: 1908, 1927
Published by: York Music Company