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A Game of Forgiveness
By Peter Kovochich
They were slow to take down the old stadium. They took it in pieces, in small detonations, one section at a time, starting with the outfield bleachers then down the right field and first base side. But they were slow. The old stadium opened out to the highway, stripped bare of its seats like a gaping set of toothless gums. The new stadium towered behind it.
"Baseball is a game of forgiveness," my father would always say, "and forgiveness goes by its own time."
Too bad he wasn't here to see this, I thought, to see the old place blasted away.
I'd go down on my lunches to check on the demolition's progress. I could remember at least a handful of games for each section that teetered on the brink of the next day's work.
"A good batter misses seven out of ten times," my father would explain. "A good pitcher might give up seven or eight hits and have to tolerate a few errors along the way."
Every game, just my father and me. He loved the game more than I ever could. He loved the possibility that a game, a single game, could go on and never stop, never end, could go and go and keep us in our seats forever.
My father never left his seat; not from the moment we'd sit down for the early batting practice until the final out or score; never up, except to stretch, or applaud, or to reach out for a foul ball or home run. He was a patient man in his seat at the old stadium; more temperate, more forgiving than the man he was at home.
I think he believed our trips to the stadium to be times of healing. I think he wanted that time to show me the man he would have liked to be. He never drank inside the stadium, never once.
But the games would always come to an end.
I took my son to look at the final section before it was scheduled to fall, a stand of left field that slumped against the backdrop of the jeweled new stadium. I didn't want him to grow up with the game. But he was a kid; he was a boy. So I taught him to hit, to throw and catch. Now and again I took him to a game. We both marveled at how the new stadium grew on the back lots.
And as we sat and looked at the last piece of the old stadium, he asked me, "Why did they take so long to tear it down?"
I told him that I didn't know.
Then he asked me if there was a heaven for baseball stadiums and if maybe that was why it was being taken down so slowly.
"That might be," I said.
Then my son said, "To make it easier . . . for whoever's rebuilding it in heaven. Otherwise, all at once, it would be too hard."
And I could only sit and stare at the last section of that old stadium. I could only sit and hope that the moment, the afternoon twilight, my son at my side and the old stand in front of the new stadium, would not pass; that the moment would never end.
PETER KOVOCHICH is a recent graduate of the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee
and has spent most of his life dreaming that the Milwaukee ball club will
someday recapture the magic of the 82 pennant-winning season. He is
currently nearing the completion of his first novel, The Baseball at the
Heart of a Pumpkin, a work of baseball fantasy.
© 2002 Peter Kovochich
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