Marolt: My memory getting the Royal treatment
Lately I’m accused of not being a Royals fan. It started about the time I mysteriously donned a circa 1984 Royals jacket. They won their extra-inning, one-game playoff against the Tigers to begin their winning streak of eight on their way to the World Series and I am re-born. My loyalty seems as questionable as it is conspicuous. Nobody sports Royals swag.
Why do I have a Royals jacket at all? All I know is that the big win in 14 innings reminded me that I had it, or at least I assumed so.
I have a box of old baseball stuff in the garage. It was a couple of boxes, but I have younger brothers who started pilfering about the time I started packing them 30 years ago after my playing days were done and they still had a few to go. They thought the old junk was cool and I was tired of it; now nobody knows where the best of it went or what it was traded for. A broken 36-inch Dave Parker bat that he used the season before he switched to a 32 and won a batting title, a sweat-stained Doc Ellis hat from the same year he tossed a no-hitter while out of his mind on acid; who knows what else? What’s it worth now? Nothing to most.
Then there’s the more personal stuff; you know — jerseys you wore, spikes you wore out, next-to-new gloves you could never get used to and tattered ones you could never get rid of. There certainly was a last-minute Halloween costume or two in there.
But, getting back to the Royals jacket, there’s a story there, too. Back in college, I knew a girl whose brother was a Royal. One night we drove up to Anaheim to watch them play the Angels and to say “hello.” After the game we went down to the dugout to do just that. George Brett was standing right there and we said “hi” to him, too. One thing led to another and he, Jamie Quirk, not George Brett, handed me a warm-up jacket; he said it was a little small on him anyway. I wore it home from the stadium for the first and last time for the next three decades.
I had to dig through a bunch of old stuff to find it. Man, it took hours; not because things were such a mess, but because every time I picked something up I had to think a little bit about when and where I got it and some of the stuff that happened while I used it. It sounds like work, but it wasn’t. I even tried a few things on just to see if it still fit. Wouldn’t you know, most of it was too big!
Knick-knacks like that have a way of talking. You lift a piece up and a familiar smell that has been trapped in a pocket of air that hasn’t moved for an awfully long time is loosed and it hits your nostrils and all you can think is, wow, I might have gone the rest of my life without remembering that smell, and you’re just kind of grateful that you did again.
Every item has at least few stories, not all good, but those bad ones don’t come back all that clearly no matter how long you toss it back and forth between your hands, even though part of you wants to remember; to see if the perspective of age has changed anything, which you know it has, but you can’t prove it until you remember what it was that caused you so much grief back then in the first place. Ah, whatever; you lived through it to get where you are today — sitting hunched over on a milk crate in the dark corner of the garage pouring through stuff the thrift shop wouldn’t want. Hah! A cracked protective cup; I remember clearly when it shattered, just why the heck I kept it is a mystery, though. There’s the old joke about the pessimistic catcher — his cup is half full.
OK, OK, I got carried away here and now I have to tell the truth because I’ve run out of room for a good lie. I’ve been a Royals fan only since about the middle of September and I’ll be back to rooting for my Yankees next February. So, there still has to be a reason for wearing that silly-looking jacket all over town lately. I guess I’m really just a loyal fan of 1984.
Roger Marolt knows the past is far more generous in giving back the good stuff. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org
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