Belay the nooze, enough’s enough! I’m going to write about something that has always made me happy, and hopefully give you some pleasure, too.
“Unknowable” and I were chatting about celebrity, hero worship, and idolatry–they’re all related, aren’t they?–and I brought up the subject of… Willie Mays. To me, the greatest athlete that I ever saw.
Among other things, Willie was famous for this one play during the 1954 World Series. I was five years old. Anyhow, they were playing at the old Polo Grounds, where center field was about the size of a Jersey township, and Vic Wertz smashed a screaming fly ball to the deepest part of center field. A real moon shot. At this point, let the video speak for itself.
Willie lit up my childhood. He was my hero. But y’know what? I never felt the urge to delve into his personal life. I have made a conscious choice to remember him solely for the things I saw him do on the ballfield; and those are things that still give me deep aesthetic pleasure 67 years later. I think it’s the same kind of pleasure art lovers get, or music lovers, from their favorite masterpieces. Willie Mays in center field was the baseball equivalent of Beethoven’s 9th Symphony.
Yeah! Sitting on the floor in our sitting room, playing with my grandpa’s blocks that he handed down to me, while my mother did the ironing while watching the Giants’ game on TV. That’s a memory that gives me joy!
Baseball isn’t what it was, not by a long shot; I no longer care for it. But I do care for my memories: and for a good few of those I say, “Thanks, Willie!”