Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Signing in the Rain

March in The Valley of the Sun (metropolitan Phoenix) is Spring Training time.

"People ask me what I do in winter when there's no baseball. I'll tell you what I do. I stare out the window and wait for spring."-~Rogers Hornsby

On a recent visit to the ball yard, clouds were gathering. Many of the early arrivals were clearly distressed about the possibility of rain.

Fortunately, there was one up-beat, positive face in the Park. Here was Ron Santo--former Cub third baseman, who should be in the Hall of Fame. Now part of the WGN (Chicago) radio broadcast team, Santo was at his post when a few of the crowd spotted him and shouted greetings to him.

"I see great things in baseball. It's our game - the American game. It will take our people out-of-doors, fill them with oxygen, give them a larger physical stoicism."-~Walt Whitman

Then the rains came. Accompanied by strong wind gusts, it was a heavy rain from which sane people would seek cover.

However, the attention of some of the fans quickly turned from the efforts of the ground crew to the person in the booth. Santo, to his credit, responded to the greetings. However, his response only encouraged the group below his window to start bringing baseballs, jerseys, and programs for him to autograph.

"Don't tell me about the world. Not today. It's springtime and they're knocking baseballs around fields where the grass is damp and green in the morning and the kids are trying to hit the curve ball."-~Pete Hamill

The rain continued into the thirtieth minute and more people sought cover, yet the line of autograph seekers grew.

Once a person reached the front of the line, she (left) would step onto the arms of the seat below Santo's window, then stand on the back of the seat, and hand the item to Santo for his signature. The acrobatic seeker shown here then added a half twist so the person next in line (to whom she had handed her camera) could take her photo with Santo. Retracing the climb with a baseball and pen in one hand required some agility.

It was had been raining for sixty minutes, and people continued to line up with additions to the line occurring at the same rate as the granting of the requests.

"It breaks your heart. It is designed to break your heart. The game begins in spring, when everything else begins again, and it blossoms in the summer, filling the afternoons and evenings, and then as soon as the chill rains come, it stops and leaves you to face the fall alone."-~A. Bartlett Giamatti, "The Green Fields of the Mind," Yale Alumni Magazine, November 1977

Ninety minutes into the rain and the Santo signings, a club representative tried to intercede and end the line. One adult got into a struggle with the staff member and charged ahead to get his baseball signed. The staff member did not pursue the "adult."

"Baseball was made for kids, and grown-ups only screw it up."-~Bob Lemon