Surprise! There was a new baby on the way. It was October, 1957 and the Yankees were playing in the World Series against the Milwaukee Braves. I was a Yankee fan-not necessarily because I knew much about baseball, but because Mother and Daddy loved the Yankees. Of course, who didn’t love the Yankees in the fifties? We listened to tales about the historic Casey Stengel and his band of boys including Mickey Mantle, Tony Kubek, Whitey Ford, and Yogi Berra. We watched the games on TV and we tracked their success throughout the summer. I remember spending Saturday or Sunday afternoons lying next to my father on the floor in the living room watching those famous boys. The crack of the bat against the ball, the cheer of the crowd and the seventh inning stretch was only part of the thrill of the game. Cuddling next to my father was the more important moment on those lazy afternoons. He would sometimes fall asleep on the floor with his hands laced together under his head as I cradled next to him in the crook of his arm, and even the excitement of a home run or a grand slam would not wake him.
Along with watching the Yankees in the summer of ‘57, we also watched Mother’s stomach grow bigger and rounder with the promise of a new addition to our family arriving in the fall. She had quit smoking months before so we knew it must be a very momentous occasion. For my part, I was looking forward to a baby sister; I would not even entertain the possibility of a baby brother.
As the World Series got underway, our excitement grew with the action on television and the impending arrival of the new baby. It was Thursday, October 3, 1957and it was the second game of the World Series. Mother had gone to the hospital early that morning and my sister and I went off to school. Our grandmother, Mamaw had already arrived from Kentucky to take care of us for the next two weeks. In the fifties, a woman stayed in the hospital for as long as a week after the birth of a baby and so Daddy needed his mother at home to take care of Sissy and me until Mother and the new baby came home and then she would take care of all of us, including Mother.
Mamaw would help with the baby, cook our meals, get us off to school, organize Mother’s kitchen cabinets and clean the house. Mamaw loved to organize Mother, which she admittedly needed, but I don’t think the overture went over too well in our house. As a child, the dynamics of the daughter-in-law and mother-in-law relationship was totally above my level of comprehension, so I missed any tension that may have been present. I loved having my grandmother visit and relished every moment with her!
At school that day, I waited and waited for news of the baby. The baseball game was underway and was playing on the radio during afternoon recess. The usual sounds of the baseball announcer and the “oohs” and “ahs” of the crowd traveled across the playground mixed in with the cacophony of children’s voices at play. Recess was usually only fifteen minutes so it wasn’t long before the bell rang for us to come inside. As I lined up to return to the classroom, I saw Daddy heading toward me across the playground. He had already picked up Sissy from her class, and hand in hand they headed straight for me, smiling broadly.
We headed straight to our car where Mamaw waited. As I entered the car, she started talking excitedly about the new baby. It was a boy! They named him after my grandfather who had died not too long before then, and she was very happy with the news. Me, on the other hand, I was hopping mad. I wanted a baby sister. I didn’t want a baby brother. I clammed up and for the rest of the ride home I refused to speak to anyone, particularly my Mamaw. I am not quite sure why I was so angry about the outcome, but I knew that this result would affect me the rest of my life, and it has.
I have this wonderful younger brother. I watched him through all kinds of boyish shenanigans as he grew up-cuts, bruises, stomach pumpings, fights and sticks and stones. I watched him learned to walk and talk and to throw a baseball and football. I watched him stand up for his sisters when he needed to defend them. I watched him guide his own children in their lives. And I watched him lovingly and without hesitation care for Mother and Daddy when they were ill and unable to care for themselves. He reminds me of Daddy because I know how much he loves his family. It’s a Strange tradition and he has carried it on well.
He told me once that he decided a long time ago that he would always pick me to be in that foxhole with him. Apparently, I defended him once against a truck driver who accused him of throwing rocks or something at his truck. I don’t remember the exact incident he references, but I imagine that he was guilty and getting himself into trouble, as usual. But, I was babysitting and I wasn’t going to let anyone do anything to harm him. I did what I needed to do-protect my charge-my baby brother.
The Yankees lost Game 2 of the series that day 4-2 in front of 62, 202 fans. The Milwaukee Braves went on to win the Series-handing the immortal Yankees an excruciating defeat in the world of baseball. In looking at the stats today, the names of Eddie Matthews, Hank Aaron, Warren Spahn and Red Scheindhost top the field of those ’57 Milwaukee Braves, so I guess Casey and his crew had their work cut out for them from the very beginning. As for babies and baseball-I wanted a baby sister and I wanted the Yankees to win the ’57 World Series. But today, October 3, 2012, I am so glad that I didn’t get what I wanted.
Happy Birthday BQ!