The stadium was not empty that summer night in 1961. My grandfather took a 5-year old to see a baseball game in a ball park that he knew like the back of his hand. He told me stories of his love for baseball and the incredible players that he had watched play in this old run-down confine. The Negro League had disbanded but several teams continued to barnstorm across the country. One of those teams was the fabled Indianapolis Clowns. That night they called Terre Haute home, and a nostalgic grandfather wanted his grandson to see “the greatest pitcher of all time,” Satchel Paige. No one knew for sure how old Paige was — he claimed to not even know himself. By any measuring stick he was near 60. He pitched one inning and the three men who faced him didn’t even come close to touching the ball.
The movie showed the Brooklyn Dodgers and their AAA farm team the Montreal Royals as they trained in Daytona Beach in 1946. About 25 years later, I would be a senior in high school watching the Major League expansion Montreal Expos taking on the Los Angeles Dodgers in the old stadium on the same property. I recognized places and players, people and parks. I grinned as Red Barber provided the vocal thread that tied the story together from his perch in the catbird seat. I cheered as a dancing Jackie Robinson stole everything but the pitcher’s socks. I winced as I realized that Jackie’s reality must have been far worse than a PG movie would allow.
In the midst of the movie, I realized an important lesson in my quest for a life that is boiled down to the bare necessities. A simple life is one that is not marred by prejudices against people — race, creed or religion.