Academic journal article Aethlon: The Journal of Sport Literature

Most Precious Blood

Academic journal article Aethlon: The Journal of Sport Literature

Most Precious Blood

Article excerpt

I went to my first ballgame when I was seven. My father and his best buddy Danny Nelson took me. It was a Mets game, of course, because my father had brought me up a Mets fan--he'd played in their farm system--and, anyhow, to be a kid in Brooklyn in the 1980s was to love the Mets. You knew there was a team that you might have loved more if they had stuck around--the Dodgers--and the Yankees were on a pretty rotten streak and there was no one, except for Mattingly and Winfield, on the team worth cheering. As a kid, we didn't know or care about "elegance in pinstripes" and the great Yankee teams of nearly every other decade. We knew what we saw, that the Yanks were busy being a bad team. The Mets, on the other hand, were scrappers, champs. There was Dykstra, Backman, Mookie--a lot of guys you could really go for. And the first game I ever saw was in the middle of their championship run, on a Monday afternoon in July of 1986.

It was Rusty Staub Day and Shea was packed. Atlanta was the visiting team, and a guy named Doyle Alexander was pitching for the Braves. Ron Darling was going for the Mets. He'd cut the Braves down in order in the top of the first. I sat there, with my program and yearbook, getting ready to keep the box score, as my father and Danny drank beer and ate peanuts. I was excited as all hell because Lenny Dykstra was leading off for the Mets and Lenny D was my man. In little league I wore the number four just like him and made people call me "Nails," which was his nickname. I had a picture of him up on my bedroom wall, and I'd even tried chewing tobacco one day to get that tough look that he always had. It didn't work out so well and ! puked like a maniac and from then on I chewed gum and pretended it was tobacco. Anyhow, Lenny D was leading off and I was nervous and excited and I felt the kind of wonder that the best kind of ballgame can make you feel. "You excited, Thomas?" my father asked, his beard brushed with peanut shell shavings.

I nodded.

"Look at him. He can't even sit still," Danny Nelson said. "You keeping the box score, Tommy? That's good. You know how to do that? I could never figure it out."

I nodded, then turned away from my father and Danny and looked out at the field. Alexander was still warming up and Lenny D was taking some swings in the on-deck circle. I perched on the edge of my seat and watched him. Saint Thomas Aquinas was my namesake and I wore a Saint Thomas medal around my neck, so sometimes when I was nervous I took hold of my medal and prayed like hell because Saint Thomas was my man like Lenny D was my man and I knew I could ask him for anything, even if it was only to see Lenny homer, and he wouldn't laugh about it or say it was rotten. So I closed my eyes, reached down into my shirt, took hold of my Saint Thomas medal, and said a couple of Our Fathers. I finished it off by saying, "Saint Thomas, if you're watching right now, let Lenny D knock one out."

"What're you praying about?" my father asked.

I said nothing. My father was kind of a bum. I didn't live with him. He'd split from my mother when I was four and hightailed it to Jersey with a waitress from the Nebraska Diner. He and the waitress--her name was Robin--settled down in Matewan and he was commuting every day to his Wall Street job. My mother and I lived in Gravesend in the basement of a three-family house next door to Most Precious Blood on Bay 50th, and I went to school right there at Most Precious Blood and played stickball everyday in the schoolyard. My father came to visit about once a month. Sometimes he'd say he was going to come and then he wouldn't show. When I was younger, I used to pray about that. I'd pray that he'd show. I'd even pray that he and my mother would get back together because she was lonely and I wanted to know what it was like to have a father. In the end, I figured out that he was what he was, and he belonged in Jersey with that waitress. …

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