I never miss a moment during the seventh inning to sing our national pastime’s anthem, and if I randomly start whistling, chances are high it’ll be “Take Me Out to the Ballgame.”
Singing isn’t really my best talent.
Truth be told, there are a few cover songs I’ve belted out that would make members of the Rat Pack and Nat King Cole turn in their graves. And I’m pretty sure there’s video of me butchering Randy Travis’ “Forever and Ever, Amen” on a charter bus full of women basketball players during my days as a sports reporter in college.
Let’s face the music (pun intended): I carry my groceries better than I do a tune. If I ever get an album deal, it’ll be a compilation of shower crooners and car drivers.
But there’s one song I’ll never have a problem singing. You don’t need a key; you don’t need the best voice. I never miss a moment during the seventh inning to sing our national pastime’s anthem, and if I randomly start whistling, chances are high it’ll be “Take Me Out to the Ballgame.”
I’m pretty sure if you add up the number of times I’ve stretched in the seventh and sang along with the ballpark organ, the sum would be in the thousands. However, if I had to pick out one of my most favorite moments singing this hymn, it was Wednesday.
My Catholic faith and church attendance was on a weak respirator over the last few years. But recently life changed for the better, and — keeping to a private deal I made with the man upstairs — I’ve slowly but surely returned to keeping the faith and the Sabbath holy. So when I noticed Mass would be celebrated at a local nursing home, I jumped at the opportunity to write about it for the paper.
It was nice and subtle. A different but pleasant experience, since it wasn’t in church. I got my pictures, shot some video and did some interviews. And then priest introduced me to one of the residents.
Oscar is known as the resident baseball fan. He’s apparently one of the biggest St. Louis Cardinals fans you’ll ever meet. His health has dwindled and age is catching up with him, but when Father Mike and I and a few others gathered around him to sing “Take Me Out to the Ballgame,” Oscar was as healthy and chipper as the rest of us.
His eyes glowed liked the grand lights of a ballpark, and he smiled from ear to ear just as he would have when Stan “The Man” Musial did something spectacular.
Oscar did his best to keep up. At times, he fell behind the rest of us, but he made sure to gather up all his strength so he could beat us to “root, root for the Cardinals.”
We weren’t in the shadow of the Gateway Arch at Busch Stadium, we weren’t decked out in pinstripes in the Bronx and we certainly weren’t in the warm California sun at Chavez Ravine in Los Angeles.
It was in the lobby of a nursing home where, through the eyes of many residents, baseball was witnessed as a game, not a business. It was with strangers who became instant friends, just like at the ballpark. It was a great baseball memory and no glove, bat or ball was required.
I’ll have plenty of “Take Me Out to the Ballgame” memories as life goes on — some day, I hope to share the song and the seventh inning stretch when I have children — but this moment with Oscar will always be special.
To make someone’s day (which I hope we did) through any aspect of baseball is certainly rewarding.