I was 8 years old in the 2nd grade, when my teacher, Ann Fallis lead our classmates in single file to our New Mexico village school’s music room. It was in October, during the lunch hour. It was a month after Marilyn Monroe was found dead. It was a week or so before the Cuban Missile Crisis, when we would learn to crawl under our desks if there was an atomic bomb. It was classmate Beth Wilson getting me sent to the principal’s office for daring me to say a cuss word out loud.
The entire elementary school was seated before a rabbit-eared black and white television.
It was time for baseball class. It was the World Series. Yankees vs. the Giants. Game 5. (The Yankee’s would go on to win in seven.)
We watched the whole game (Yankee’s winning 5-3), delaying the busses that hauled us home. On the field were Hall of Famers Yogi Berra, Whitey Ford, Mickey Mantle. Orlando Cepeda, Juan Marichal, Willie Mays, and Willie McCovey. Let’s not forget, of course, Roger Maris, Don Larson, Brooks Robinson, Chuck Hiller (hit the first grand slam is series history), and Tony Kubek.
My dad, Duane Rosenberger, of blessed memory, loved baseball and coached our Little League team. He was in a full leg cast from a broken leg, kicked in by a thoroughbred yearling he was saddle breaking. My older brother, John (pictured below), threw a terrorizing fastball. Of the many things dad said I remember most, ‘Live your life like the Yankee’s play baseball!’ set a solid, sure compass heading for me.
I’m now on my 62nd lap around the sun. And I still love baseball. And this year, my Kansas City Royals won it all, in the most resilient, relentless manner in the history of baseball — read Rany Jazarely’s tribute here.
But nothing captured my attention like being in the crowd at the Royals Rally at Union Station, Kansas CIty, Missouri. The attendance was astonishing — somewhere between 500 and 850 thousand — an amazing number when the Kansas City Metro MSA is a mere 3.2 million in size. One out of three people (for marketing purposes) showed up. Daughter Tammy and her husband, Kevin (with granddaughter #2, baby Bridget) drove overnight from Denver to stand for 4 hours waiting on Grand Avenue. Traffic was so stalled that people parked on Interstate 70 (downtown Kansas City) and walked a mile to the parade route.
What happened — what really happened, was Kansas City’s silent, hardest working, suburban populations full of families and baseball lovers returned for a moment. All of them. Hundreds of thousands of them, with their kids — to give them something good and wonderful and inspiring to tell their grandchildren about someday.
This is the real United States. We are a people that will turn out in numbers to express appreciation for well prepared, single-minded, never give up, I-got-your-back teamwork. For coming from behind 8 of 11 post-season games. It was the evidence of 3/4’s of a million souls affirming they will support decent, leave-it-all-on-the-field sportsmanship. We will show up and bring our kids for something tragically absent in our public institutions and most notably our national political leadership: transcendent integrity. We are, in fact, starving for uncompromising moral leadership — the kind of leadership our Royals captured our hearts with.
There were only 3 arrests for disorderly conduct. Only 1 intoxication arrest. While there were racial differences everywhere, there was no racism anywhere.
It was the real, genuine, America that loves everything baseball-played-right embodies.
And now hundreds of thousands of kids — no doubt a lot of second graders, will perhaps learn to love the game.
And perhaps live their lives the way the Royals play baseball.
(An earlier version of this post incorrectly suggested the game we watched was game 7, which was played in Candlestick Park, and could not have started at noon, New Mexico time.)