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Grandpa Explains Baseball's First Strike

A CONSTANT reader, in whom I am well pleased, is now at home in one or the other Carolina with a rebel wife to whom I am also devoted. He wrote this letter but it is signed by both, and it should warm us all on this late fall day:

Dear Gammie and Grandpa,

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How old was I then? I want you to recall an event of my life that I shall remember forever. The 1975 Red Sox! I have just finished watching a television show called ``The Great Game of Baseball.'' A considerable part of the show covered the series between the Cincinnati Reds and the Boston Red Sox. The names that I heard brought back a bunch of memories.

The outfield of Carl, Fred, and Jim. I think they worked Evans into the lineup too. They showed ``The Rooster,'' Rick Burleson, and the unique pitching of Luis Tiant and Bill Lee, ``The Boomer,'' George Scott, Denny Doyle, and a more recent name, Butch Hobson. I, myself, me -- in person, was at Fenway Park when Butch hit an inside-the-park home run!

This TV show did let us see Bernie Carbo hit a three-run homer in the sixth game of the series to tie the score. Then in the top of the 12th Ole Pudge Fisk hit one of the most famous home runs in baseball history!

On the wall of my office here in Greensboro I have a few personal and special items that mean a lot to me. One is the baseball Fisk signed for me the day we went to hear him speak to the Kiwanis Club in Augusta, and the picture of me and Pudge at the table. I have on my Red Sox hat, and also that handsome three-piece light-blue corduroy suit my Mom bought for the occasion, `` people won't mistake you for Pudge!'' (At the time, Pudge Fisk didn't look all that much older than I did!)

After watching that television show and thinking about old times with our team, I found my heart swelled with emotion. I wanted to jump up and run out to see a game.

Tell me, please, why they are on strike? Why can't I go and see a game? Aren't there any kiddos today like seven-year-old Tom Gould worth a peg on the money down to second? Why do the baseball players themselves go to such great effort to lose their best friends? Why do they punish us good friends?

Why must baseball players, of all people, keep me, of all people, from watching a game - the best game of all?

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We love you very much.

Signed, Tom and Brejetta

P.S. I expect credit when printed.

I have delayed a reply until now:

Dear Grandson Tom,

Grandfathers are not about to forget things either. On the day you lunched with Carlton Fisk, you gave him a true Muscongus Bay clamhod. I nailed it together that morning, and we punched his name in the clean spruce wood with steel letter dies. Do you remember that we were not sure if he were Fisk or Fiske, so we took the letter E to stamp it on later if needed? I had it in my pants pocket and forgot to take it out and put it back on the shop shelf. It stayed in my pocket in the closet for six months.

Pudge seemed pleased to own the only clamhod in the American League. This past summer clams have been fetching around $50 for a half-bushel hod. On days with two tides the boys have been doing well.

Tom, I have no notion why the baseball players have been on strike. Digging clams is hard work. I suggest to you a poetic possibility that may have eluded some philosophers. I quote from memory: Quid non mortalia pectora cogis, auri sacra fames? At least that's something to think about.

In my own professional baseball career the subject arose only once and was quickly resolved. As you know from several recitations, I did play left field on my high school nine and remain famous as the only left-fielder ever to make a putout at the plate, which is quite another story, of course.

The year after I was graduated, I had an offer to play for the town team in neighboring Yarmouth. I believe I played for Yarmouth three games in all. Yarmouth had a nagging problem with their regular left-fielder, who would be caught from time to time in a trumped-up peccadillo, mostly stealing chickens, and while he was in the pokey for ten days I was to cover him. I was paid three dollars a game, which was meant to cover my transportation, and not entirely to make me rich and haughty.

Since my veteran high-school uniform had an F on it for my own town, the Yarmouth coach gave me a sweatshirt with a big Y on it that would hide my alien F but was stuffy on a hot day. This sweatshirt had a tag sewn in the neckband that said, ``Property of Athletic Department Yale University.''

The third time I played for Yarmouth was an away game at Minot, and it cost me $4.25 to ride there on the steam cars. I suggested to the coach that he should accordingly be more generous with me in the matter of a stipend.

His reply to me was a loud and extended burst of hysterical jocularity that I liken to the exuberant cackle of a diligent hen who finds that, by error, she has laid two eggs.

That was the end of the first strike in the history of baseball, and the end of my professional career in left field. Since then I have made a great many Muscongus Bay clamhods in my spare time.

Grandpa love you!

Signed, No. 9 (Ret.)

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