September 4, 1944, a New York City Sunday, 91 degrees in the muggy dense air of Yankee Stadium. She was dazzled by the war bonds signs, the large scoreboard, and the green expanse of the playing field. Green, a deeper green than any she’d ever seen back in Nova Scotia. An electric green, with a hint of rippling dark power, a sensual, dizzying overload.
Her life had been Canada, putting a good face on poverty. Her father passed in 1934 when she was 12. It hardened the family, relegated them to lives given over to suffering and sacrifice. Her older sister chose the convent, all three brothers the priesthood. But she considered herself the lucky one, the reader, the smiler, the perpetual optimist, despite life’s daily crushing reminders of cold, of small deprivations, a life more Lent than Christmas.
Amidst her daily prayers for a sunnier life, she caught the eye of an American soldier, stationed in Halifax, of all places. A chance meeting at a bus stop. He looked sharp in his uniform. She flirted, all friendly naiveté and good humor. Just less than a year of courtship. With the war going on, decisions were made quickly. A modest wedding and then a honeymoon in New York, her first uncertain dance on the big stage of the U.S.
And here she was, with a new last name, the Yankees playing the Cleveland Indians. There’d been no baseball in her life; her only frame of reference was hockey. The cozy hockey rink, focused light and heat, warmed her, but this spectacle was unruly, loud. Her gentle spirit was threatened by the garishness of the stadium. The low murmur of the crowd was a bit unsettling, and occasionally curse words hung in the thick air.
The game itself was a complete mystery. There seemed no rhyme or reason, and no goals. The two teams switched sides frequently. Her initial thrill gave way to concern, her curiosity was stifled in the heat. The stadium ramparts loomed menacingly, echoing the enormous raucousness and oppressive fetid air.
Her musings gave way to a headache. She mentioned it to him a few times. He nodded while he explained the rules of the game, the nuances escaping her. The closeness seemed to intensify as the crowd leaned forward, almost pulsing. Clothes clung wetly to her body, a body she was just now discovering.
Thoughts drifted back to the hotel in Midtown, her first encounter with many things, including air conditioning. She asked a few questions, trying to avoid ones he would think foolish. She figured out innings. Nine. Outs. Three. 9×3=27. 27 she could count. 27. The end of heat. Release. Time for the Broadway lights, the dresses in the windows on Fifth Avenue, the hotel room.
After the Indians’ 27th out, the crowd rose and stretched in congratulations and good cheer, and started filling the aisles. But he remained, rooted in the seat, eyes on the emptying field. She pulled playfully on his arm, “Time to go!”
He smiled at her and said “Sweetie…It’s a doubleheader.”
June 4, 1945, a breezy Ohio Monday, my twin brother, Lou, named for the Indians’ shortstop, was born in St. Vincent Charity Medical Center, Cleveland, Ohio. I popped out nine minutes later, named after the second baseman.