My Dad hates the Yankees and is a Chicago Cubs fan. As soon as the Mets arrived in New York we would go to Cubs-Mets games a couple of times a year. But, he always took my brother, a Cubs fan as well, and me to the same amount of Yankees games. My Dad thought that was only fair. It was a great way for father and sons to bond. I started taking my sons and daughter (I have two daughters now, but only one then.) to games starting in the early 80’s.
My brother Mark on this day in 1984, he had six Yankees’ tickets. Why he would want to see the Yankees, I don’t recall. He called me and asked that Ben and I join him and his friends. Ben was so excited. Almost every minute leading up to that day Ben would tell me how many days were left before he would return to Yankee Stadium.
Coincidently, Matt, a friend that my brother had asked to go along with us, was working for a company that happened to have rented a suite in the stadium that same day. Matt was a Yankees fan as well. He had to keep bouncing back and forth between the seats we had and the suite seats. On one such trip back Matt told the six of us that he just met Whitey Ford, the ace pitcher for the Yanks of the 1960’s. Whitey was apparently hired that season to schmooze with the people in the suites. He also gave out autographed balls of the current Yankees team. He asked Ben if he’d like to see the ball. Ben said “Yes!” and Ben held the sacred ball, reading all the names to me and occasionally asking if I could make out a signature or two. Ben then thanked Matt and handed the ball back. Matt smiled and said, “I got it for you Ben, enjoy it.” Matt at the time was single without children.
While we drove home Ben asked where he should keep the ball for safekeeping. I told him I’d buy him a plastic container made for such a purpose. Ben thought that was great, but it was not what he meant. He stated that since he had a two and a half old brother in his room and since he was only six, he didn’t trust the ball to be in the room. “Could you keep it on a top shelve in the WTIT Studio in our rec room?” I said “Sure,” and got the protective cover for the ball the next day.
When Ben finished middle school I asked if he wanted the ball for his room. He smiled and said that it was too important to him to take any chances with the ball even now at age 13. I said that I would take good care of it. In the blink of an eye, Ben graduated high school. I was now divorced from his mom and married to my second wife. Ben lived with us. After the high school ceremony, when we got back home I fetched the ball from the WTIT Studio. I handed it to him. He had just turned 18. Ben simply stated, “Not yet, Dad. Please keep it safe for me.” So back to the top shelve in the studio the ball went.
Ben got into a great college in Providence. It is called Bryant. My second wife and I divorced during Ben’s college years, but he moved with me to my new home. When it was getting close to graduation, Ben asked me a question. He asked if I thought it would be all right if he took a “bullshit” job for the summer before joining the real world. “It will give us one last summer together” he said with enthusiasm. I was thrilled.
It was not to be, however. Within a week of returning home for that summer, Ben was offered a position with a financial company that recruited students on his college campus. Ben came to tell me and said, “No choice Dad. This is what I went to college to do.” Of course I understood. Ben had to move to Massachusetts. On the following Saturday he pulled a U-Haul up to our home.
When he finished loading the truck, Ben came to say good-bye. I reached to the top shelf in my studio. I handed Ben his ball. Ben smiled and said, “I guess I am ready for it now. Thanks for taking such good care of the ball and thanks for always being there for me.” Ben safely tucked the ball into a box on the truck. He came back and kissed me goodbye.
Ben still works for that same company, some eight years later. He has been promoted what seems to be a thousand times. He is now an assistant Vice President and should become a Vice President in the not too distant future. Today that little boy I took to Yankee Stadium that day in 1984, turns thirty years old. Ben is the most moral man I have ever known. Ben got married just short of a year ago. We talk all the time. He phoned Monday to chat about the Yankees lack of pitching this year. We laughed and kidded around, as always.
I could never imagine that the time could fly by like this. My folks always told me it would. I am very proud that this great human being is my son. I love you, Ben. Have yourself a great birthday.