After the World Series, my sports-minded friends now call me Southside Frankie. Barbara and I were born, raised and married on Chicago's Southside, married in the same church as her parents and my grandparents. We left Chicago after we got married in 1956. Yet, we still have such fond memories of growing up in the old neighborhood. For Barbara, it was swimming at McKinley Park and playing baseball and volleyball and ice skating when the lagoon froze over. For me, it was swimming at Gage Park, ice skating at Marquette Park and playing every imaginable sport at Morrill playground.
When I was 11, my buddies and I would take the streetcar to Comiskey Park to watch the White Sox. We'd get there early to talk to the Sox players and the visiting teams and get autographs. Since I played shortstop on our neighborhood pickup softball team, my favorite Sox player was shortstop Luke Appling. Another was Cleveland shortstop Lou Boudreau; his teammate Bob Feller was a real friendly guy. Then there was Pete Gray, a one-armed outfielder for the St. Louis Browns. The world was still at war, and many major league players had been called into the service; Ted Williams was a fighter pilot. And Williams, who may have been the best hitter of all time, was called back for the Korean War. Wars have a way of screwing up people's lives, or taking them.
In thinking back, I couldn't help but wonder how many 11-year-olds take the streetcar to a ballgame today, but those were simpler times. And you could have a day at the ballpark for a buck fifty, including carfare, ticket and lots of eats.
I am not much of a baseball fan anymore and had not been to a game in well over 50 years, but when the White Sox made it to the World Series, I was glued to the TV-and cheered like an 11-year-old. Barbara made hot dogs, and we had a Coke and chips and screamed our elbows off. George and Barbara Bush were there in Houston, cheering the home team. Maybe next year. But this year belonged to those wonderful folks from the neighborhoods on the Southside.
When Southside Frankie isn't living in the past, he can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. A collection of his ramblings can be found at www.eet.com in the column archives.