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A few more rambling thoughts on my love of baseball

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If you were among the tens of thousands who glanced at my column last week, you might recall that it was all about my passion for baseball, along with my absolute delight that the 2024 Major League baseball season was finally underway. I mentioned that my love affair with the Grand Old Game began in the 1950s when I watched World Series games on a decidedly low-tech Westinghouse television set alongside my Uncle Don. Those were the days when all major league games were played in the afternoon sunshine – the very time I should have been in class at St. Clare’s elementary school in West Toronto. But thanks to my scheming uncle, who lived with us while attending university, I would frequently be excused from tedious afternoon studies and released into his protective custody for some ‘very special’ home schooling. Don was a real trailblazer – always well ahead of the curve (note the clever baseball metaphor). And though it remains a mystery as to how my smooth-talking uncle used his powers of persuasion to negotiate my freedom…I’ll be forever grateful that he did. And before you could say, “Play ball!” we would be sitting comfortably in front of that tiny 17” black & white screen for nine innings of very ‘special’ education. In this particular discipline, we considered the merits of participating in athletics while exploring the intricacies (read: financial rewards) of Sport Wagering.

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My learned uncle explained how odds were set for any one game or series, applying such variables as pitching matchups, injuries to key players, home field advantage and so on. Once I had grasped the fundamentals, we put the theories into practice. In addition to betting on the game itself (nickels & dimes only) we devised clever little side-bets, speculating on which team would be the first to: score a run, make an error, steal a base, hit a home run, or turn a double play.

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Don was a diehard New York Yankees fan and since the Yankees and Brooklyn Dodgers met often in the Fall Classic throughout the 1950s, I wound up cheering for the underdog Dodgers. The Yanks were World Series champs in 1952, 1953 and 1956 but my Dodgers were victorious in 1955. “Dem Bums from Brooklyn” were my heroes: Duke Snider, Roy Campanella, Pee Wee Reese, Gil Hodges and Jackie Robinson, along with a rookie pitcher named Sandy Koufax who played his first three seasons at Ebbets Field in Brooklyn before the team moved west to Los Angeles in 1958. Meanwhile, Don idolized Yankee greats, Mickey Mantle, Whitey Ford, Billy Martin and Yogi Berra.

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In retrospect, I cannot imagine a more perfect introduction to the sport I still love today. Thanks, Don.

One last thing: I will be forever grateful to have had actual, in-person exposure to all of the sights, sounds and smells of a real ballpark, as my Dad and I would while away occasional weekend afternoons cheering for the hometown Maple Leafs (yes, the Maple Leafs, a minor league baseball team that played its first game in 1896 a full twenty-one years before Conn Smythe swiped the name for his upstart hockey team) at Fleet Street Flats on the shores of Lake Ontario. There was no better place to be on a warm sunny day. I can still taste the lightly cooked Shopsy’s hot dogs and watered-down Coke. And of course the peanuts and Cracker Jacks.

Terry serves up a little food-for-thought each week and welcomes all comments:

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