As I said in a previous post, I’d never seen an icicle until the other day. Seventy-two years on this earth including two years of college in the frigid northern climes of Oregon, yet I’d never seen an actual icicle.
That situation has now been rectified.
I jokingly told Jamie that the icicles hanging outside our kitchen door are “big as a Louisville Slugger.” Then I got to wondering if that was true. So I went upstairs, grabbed my Louisville Slugger baseball bat, and took it outside to compare.
This is not just any Louisville Slugger. This particular Louisville Slugger is more valuable than gold. It has an interesting back story. Which means, of course, that I feel absolutely compelled to tell it.
The Brooklyn Dodgers moved to Los Angeles in 1958 despite the fact that the city had no baseball stadium adequate for baseball at the major league level. Wrigley Field, the only real ballpark, was in a bad part of town and, even worse, it only seated about 25,000. So the new Los Angeles Dodgers opted to play in an oddly-reconfigured Los Angeles Coliseum, a converted football stadium, until they completed construction of the sparkling new Dodger Stadium.
The Dodgers drew immense crowds, so it was difficult to get good seats. In 1960 my dad gave me the assignment of sending a letter to the Dodgers’ ticket department to order our seats. Oh, how times have changed. Unlike today, when you go online and pick the specific seats you want, it was the luck of the draw back in 1960. But because tickets were so difficult to get, we were very happy to receive seats down the right field line near the Dodgers bullpen.
Another odd thing about the Coliseum, originally built for the 1928 Summer Olympics, was that it had bench seating, not individual seats. So there were the deYongs, sitting just behind the Dodgers’ bullpen, when a very attractive young woman walked up to us and very politely said, “Excuse me. I am Sandy Koufax’ girlfriend and I was wondering if I could squeeze in here with your family so I can be near the bullpen.”
Sandy Koufax is now known as the greatest pitcher of his generation. Maybe the greatest ever. But back in those days he was a marginal pitcher who was barely clinging to his place on the team. His pitching was so erratic that he rarely got into a game. He could throw about a million miles an hour, but no one ever knew where the ball was going to end up. He’d been in the big leagues for six years and had a losing record.
A couple innings later Sandy’s girlfriend walked down to the edge of the railing, called Sandy over and whispered into his ear. He walked away but came back moments later with a baseball bat in his hand, a Louisville Slugger. He handed it to her and she returned to her seat and handed it to me.
“I want to thank you for making room for me,” she said. “So I asked Sandy to get this for you.”
Of course, as baseball fans know, Sandy Koufax finally figured out how to be a major league pitcher the next season. He put together six absolutely incredible seasons in a row, a stretch unmatched in baseball history, retired at age thirty, and became the youngest player ever elected to the baseball Hall of Fame. He’s a legend, a living god who demands nothing of the world except privacy. He’s baseball’s answer to J.D. Salinger.
Here we are sixty years later and I still treasure that baseball bat simply because he once touched it.
I don’t care how big the damn icicles are, they’ll never measure up to this Louisville Slugger.