As part of my plan to keep Rocco relatively happy while surrounded by the Magnificent Cluckers (Uncle Chuck’s name for the women of the Middleton clan), we scheduled two baseball outings. The first was an afternoon game at historic Wrigley field. Poor naive Rocco thought that organizing a trip to a baseball stadium would be a good way to interact with the men in the family. Nope, not in this matriarchy. The men were outnumbered three to one…and that’s if you count Thom who only went to fill a last minute female cancellation. So we’ll just say that out of the 12 seats, 2.5 were men. The Cubs beat the Astros twelve to zip so there’s not a whole lot of story on that game.
The next evening we headed to U.S. Cellular Field to support the Yankees against the White Sox. Pegger the Kegger and Pops had originally planned to join us, but after dragging their bodies around on swollen knees all day, they opted to hop a train back to Wheaton and rest before the big reunion. My Uncle John swooped in to save the day and agreed to use one of the tickets. We dropped the rents off at the train station and picked up Uncle John.
Uncle John is magic. When we were young, I used to think of him as the Jolly Green Giant. He was, by far, the tallest person I’d ever known…which made him rather intimidating. When he’d lean over to talk to you, it seemed like days would pass before his head actually made it down to your level. It was as though he moved in slow motion with huge expansive and deliberate movements. Then his slow measured voice would boom out as his wide eyes probed my face. “What’s new, Elly Lou?” he’d ask as his eyebrows climbed towards his hairline slower than a caterpillar on a leaf.
It would take a few moments to squash my awe and mumble a response. Then the eyebrows would roll back down his forehead and his eyes would slowly crinkle, as though they were camper awnings that tiny men cranked closed behind the scenes. Slowly but surely, the widest, most genuine smile the world has ever known would fill his face and lift his glasses up and over his eyebrows. Absolute magic.
I love Mom and Dad, but I was thrilled for the last minute switcheroo. He navigated us through the rush hour traffic and got us to the field in time for batting practice. We parked the van and Uncle John waited patiently as Rocco changed into his Yankee regalia.
“You’re a brave man, Rocco,” was all he said as we traipsed through the parking lot full of tailgaters.
As the hoopla began, Uncle John pulled out his score card and filled out the lineup. Rocco could hardly hold still from excitement. Thom left in search of another drink. I listened with rapt attention as Alice Peacock sang the National Anthem.
Then the ground crew pulled out a giant tarp covered with an Ace Hardware ad.
I don’t go to many games so I was a bit confused. “Um, is this usual? Can’t they just put something on the scoreboard for Ace?”
Rocco pretended not to hear my question. Suddenly the announcer boomed,”Rain will arrive at the stadium in approximately ten minutes. Then it will rain for approximately thirty minutes, after which we will start the game.”
I couldn’t make up my mind. Was I awe struck and completely creeped out by the detail these people had divined about the weather? Did they have some super spidey sense we mere mortals did not? Did they already know from where Angelina was going to adopt her next baby? Were they implanting their plans for world domination into my unsuspecting mind as I innocently drank my beer?
On the other hand, what if they were wrong? How could there be a rain delay when there wasn’t a cloud in the sky? Ok, exaggeration, but it was definitely not raining. It wasn’t even spitting. I saw no reason to drag that baseball shit out any longer than it needed to be.
No complaints from Uncle John, though. Only the softly spoken comment, “The Cubs would play.”
Well it did rain after ten minutes. And the rain lasted about thirty minutes. So clearly the Sox people have super powers and I should be hyper vigilant and watch for any insatiable cravings for human flesh.
The first seven innings were boring as hell. Uncle John tried to explain his score card technique to me. It seems he’s not a fan of the traditional symbols and codes for tracking the game. He’s got his own system of markings that works just fine. I can totally dig that because it all just looks like gobbledygook to me.
Suddenly the White Sox got a run. Not good. Rocco loves his Yankees and their performance generally has a great influence on his mood. So I ran off to find him some dinner and ward off the potential crab fest.
Holy God did I find him the mother of all hot dogs. I’ve never seen anything like it, and I hope to never smell anything like it again. Before that day, I could have never envisioned a $10 hot dog. Today I know exactly what one looks like – disgusting.
First, they started with a foot long dog in a foot long bun. Then they laid two kosher dill pickles end to end beside the boiled tube of meat. Heaped atop of this base went mustard, onions, relish, tomatoes, and hot peppers. I’ve had salads with less produce. (Actually I expect to have a few more of those produce-free salads in Ohio this week.) Rocco had one word to describe the dog – glorious. I’m assured it was $10 well spent.
The Yankees actually started to play and tied the game up in the ninth inning. I must admit, even I was sucked into the energy of the crowd at that point. I turned to Uncle John who had completely abandoned his score card and was standing with the rest of the crowd.
“Who do you want to win?” I asked.
“I really don’t care, Elly Lou,” he answered calmly. He pursed his lips before continuing. “I intensely despise both teams. I think George Steinbrener is a despicable human being.”
All was spoken in his casual but deliberate and measured voice. I couldn’t help but giggle.
“I just like being with groups of young people. I like your passion and energy. I’m getting younger every moment I spend with you all.
The Yankees ended up losing, but even Rocco had to concede the game had still been fun…magical even.