Spacemen and baseball

Posted on April 24, 2019 by

Opening Day at Fenway has a certain ring to it and always has ever since I moved to Massachusetts 36 years ago and became a faithful fan of Red Sox Nation.

I’ve never been there on Opening Day. But my grandson Jack will be there today, heading into the iconic ball park with his cousins Coop and Cam and their dad, Jack’s Uncle Bobby. 

He was more thrilled when he heard the news yesterday. But there was concern, too, about dismissing the boys early from school for the big event.

“Do it,” I told my daughter and her sister-in-law. “It’s something they’ll never forget. And it’s the last day of school before April vacation. How much will they really miss?”

Our chat took me back 50 plus years ago to a cold spring day in 1962. I was a senior in high school. I’d been accepted to college.  All was right with my world, especially since the astronauts were coming to New York City for a ticker tape parade. 

These were the original Mercury Seven spacemen  – John Glenn, who’d just orbited the earth, Alan Shepard, Gus Grissom, Deke Slayton, Wally Schirra and the rest. 

It was a no-brainer to my friends and me. We were going into the city to watch our national heroes in person as tons of ticker tape rained down upon them — the iconic event New York City regularly hosted to honor heroes and celebrities. 

And so we cut school. But it wasn’t a sneaky cut. We told our folks, and they gave us the OK.

 “Go, have fun, enjoy yourselves, it’s a day to remember and celebrate,” they said.

  We took the ferry in to the city and joined thousands, maybe millions, in the cheering throngs lining the streets. I bought a pennant with the astronauts’ names and a newspaper with Glenn’s picture on the front page.

It was a day to remember as we cheered these heroes and saw them up close riding by in open air convertibles, waving to the crowds.

It was history in the making and we were awash in the thrill of the moment.

Mr. Samsel, the assistant principal, didn’t see it that way. The next day he called us in to his office and told us we had received zeroes for the day and would be serving detention for a week.

Dad was appalled. That night he wrote a letter in our defense, pointing out we had permission, the event was historic, and surely in years to come, we’d recall seeing the astronauts much more than any algebra problem or French lesson we missed that day in school.

I can’t recall the outcome. Samsel may have erased the zeroes from our records and dismissed us from detention hall. Or he may not. 

It doesn’t matter. My friends and I graduated, went to college, did well. And as Dad had pointed out, we still remember that special day when we saw the astronauts in person more than any lesson that we missed.  

It will be true for Jack and his cousins today, I’m sure. They’ll always remember their Opening Day at Fenway adventure — even if the Red Sox lose. 

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