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April was the month. The month when hope sprang eternal, the month when memories of foot-high snow melted away, the month when the birds in the trees sang sweet melodies. But, most of all, April was baseball. Hickory bats hitting horsehide balls. Men in flannel suits running from pillow to pillow.

If it was Sunday and the Phillies were home, my father and I headed straight to the temple at 21st and Lehigh. We were a baseball family. Except for my mother. My mother managed to make it through her entire life without ever going to a baseball game. You could have fit what my mother knew about baseball into an empty bottle of paregoric. She didn’t know batting averages, she didn’t know home run totals. Hell, she didn’t even know the names of the players.

“Who are they playing today?” she asked, as she finished making the last of the three double-decker peanut butter and jelly sandwiches we would take to the game, just in case the hot dog vendor never found us.

“They’re playing the Dodgers,” I said.

“Who plays for the Dodgers?” she asked.

“Pee Wee Reese.”

“Pee Wee?” she said. “Why do they call him Pee Wee?”

“Why do they call him Pee Wee?” I said, with open disdain for the obvious. “Because he has red hair. That’s why they call him Pee Wee.”

“Doesn’t make sense to me,” she said. “Well, who’s pitching for the Dodgers?”

“Sandy Koufax,” I said. “You’d like Sandy Koufax, Mom. He’s Jewish.”

“A Jewish boy?” she said. “And this is what he does for a living? He throws a dirty baseball? His mother must be dying. I would be ashamed to tell the neighbors if my son was a baseball player for a living.”

“Mom,” I said, “you never have to worry about that.” She just smiled.

“And his name is Sandy?” she said. “That’s a girl’s name. That’s your sister’s name. Who in their right mind names a boy Sandy? His mother must be meshuga.”

“Do they all have such crazy names?” she asked.

“Well, there’s Duke Snider…”

“Duke? What, is he married to the queen? Who names a kid Duke?

“Well, that’s not his real name. His real name is Edwin.”

“Now that’s a good name,” she said. “I have a cousin named Edwin. They call him Eddie. He owns a dry cleaners. He’s making himself a pretty penny, believe me. He even has a color TV. The Phillies have normal names, don’t they?”

“Well,” I said, “Robin Roberts is pitching today.”

“Robin? Really? Another girl’s name. What’s the matter with these people? He must get beaten up all the time.”

“Only by the Giants,” I said.

“So who else is playing?” she asked.

“Well, there’s Granny Hamner.”

“Granny? Another girl trying to do a man’s job. I knew they let that colored boy in. But a woman? A woman has no place in baseball.”

“He’s not a woman, Mom.”

“You’re telling me Granny is a man.”

“Yes, he is.”

“Aren’t there any normal people who play baseball?”

“Well, there’s Whitey Ashburn.”

“Whitey?” she said, “Aren’t they all white?”

“Well, yes, on the Phillies, they’re all white.”

“This is crazy,” she said.

“Wait,” I said, “I haven’t told you yet about Puddin’ Head Jones.”

“Puddin’ Head? There’s a guy named Puddin’ Head? Like tapioca?”

She looked at me long and hard.

“Oh, come on,” she said. “Now you’re just making stuff up.

 

Maury Z. Levy, former editorial director of Philadelphia Magazine, is the retired chairman of Levy Jacobs Marketing in Marlton. Email Maury at maury@levyjacobs.com.

April 2017
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