Expressway: Poppa, the World Series, and an undying love
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My grandfather Benjamin Sheft and I walked side by side as the IRT line rattled overhead. The afternoon sun cast shadows through the railway tracks onto 161st Street. Vendors lined the street selling baseball programs and pennants and photos. The aroma of beer and peanuts wafted onto the sidewalks.
The historic building loomed over us. We passed through the Gate 2 turnstile. My Poppa kept his hand on the cusp of my shoulder to make sure I'd stay alongside him.
We reached the upper deck in left field -- nosebleed city -- and I scanned the panorama under the Bronx sky. I'd come to Yankee Stadium on Sunday, Oct. 11, 1964, to see the New York Yankees play the St. Louis Cardinals in the fourth game of the 1964 World Series.
The game started, and I felt so giddy that I turned to my Poppa. "I wish this would never end," I said.
"Everything comes to an end," he said, smiling but obviously serious.
I had no idea what he meant. How could that be true? Everything will last forever. Of this I was quite confident.
My own father had long since lost interest in baseball, too busy with work to pay attention to a sport that I ranked with breathing and eating. He once took me to a game at Yankee Stadium and somewhere around the fourth inning, exhausted from his job, with cracked peanut shells littered in his lap and some 50,000 vocal fans all around, he actually dozed off, snoring away with Harmon Killebrew warming up in the on-deck circle.
My grandfather filled in for my father on the baseball front. I could always count on his attention and never needed to court his affection. In this sense, he turned out to be the father I needed my father to be.
"Everything comes to an end," my Poppa said 48 years ago. And for a long time, I refused to believe him with all the brute will of an innocent who knows no better.
But after my Poppa died of cancer at age 70 in 1981, I finally believed him. The World Series game I saw with him came to an end (the Cardinals won the game and the Series). The Yankee streak of World Series appearances came to an end, leading to a drought until 1976, by far the longest in team history.
The original Yankee Stadium came to an end, too, the hallowed cathedral demolished before our eyes. The Bronx as we knew it -- the Bronx where I was born and lived my first 28 months -- came to an end by the mid-1960s. So, too, did my boyhood.
Then again, maybe my wish that everything will last forever has some truth to it, too. The Yankees are still the Yankees. Baseball is still baseball. And my Poppa will always be my Poppa.
After all, he loved me enough to take me to see baseball games when baseball meant the world to me. I still wear his Swiss watch and, come winter, his plaid woolen overcoat. I think of him often, all the more when baseball season rolls around. Nothing you love ever really dies unless you let it.
Bob Brody, an executive and essayist in Forest Hills, blogs at letterstomykids.org.