On April 28, 1989, let it be known that I actually walked above the ground. There are several witnesses, one being my mom but you will have to reach her upstairs, quote unquote, since she has since gone to the dugout in the sky.
Hopefully, there is videotape at the hospital from the morning our first son Austin James Sokol was born. It was a bit of an uncomfortable feeling when I looked down and noticed, “Holy moly…. I’m above the floor!” Vertigo did not sink in exactly, but I was wondering if I would ever walk on earth again, or always be at least somewhat lifted up.
April 28, 1989.
Reality did take over, in due course, and yes I have walked solidly on the ground since, but for a period of time my stride was indeed quite joyous, and some folks clearly said “Look at that man, he’s walking above the sidewalk!”
Even so, we then waited. A long and at times very challenging wait. In fact, we waited over ten thousand days. Over two hundred and forty thousand hours. That’s how long it took for the Los Angeles Dodgers to return to the World Series from the date Austin was born. We kept wanting to go, father and son, to watch, to experience, to see, to embrace. Patience is a virtue, they say. I bet those who say that with some frequency also pull out their hair on occasion.
Along the way a gentleman with quite a shock of red hair and a beard so large it may actually house at least one pelican (possibly two), hit a walk-off three run home run on exactly the 29th anniversary of the infamous and historical Kirk Gibson walk off-home run in the 1988 world series between the Dodgers and the Oakland Athletics. Thankfully, I was at that game when Justin Turner (aka “the red dream”) hit that home run. The crowd’s jubilation is by far the most pronounced in all the years (ok, fine, at least 50) that I have attended Dodger games.
And then finally…. I mean FINALLY….. on October 24, 2017 yours truly arrived 3-1/2 hours early to Chavez Ravine, a half hour before the gates even opened. It was so early that I was the first person to order a beer that day in the entire Loge section.
Time absolutely flew by, but you have to understand: It’s the world series! I saw the breeze hugging the flags at the top of the Stadium. I saw the garlands draped there, like pearls taken out for this unique, long anticipated, long awaited ritual. There was considerable media on the field. Things not at all out of the ordinary — a player flipping a ball to a youngster in the crowd — became larger than life. Everything was magnified. Everything was that much more intense, focused, exact, even pristine. Keith Williams Jr., the wondrous gospel singer, whose rendition of the Star Spangled Banner is second to none… He hit it out of the park. Jets flew in formation above the stadium. The absolute sea of blue towels we waved with the words “This Team!”
And my son, working hard at his job, arrived on time. I put my hand on his shoulder a few times, primarily to make sure it really was him, that this really was happening, and that for the first time in his life (and mine), we were together at a world series game with the Los Angeles Dodgers.
If what happens in the past has evolved to that moment you are now experiencing, how can it be denied that but for Walter O’Malley moving the Dodgers from Brooklyn, to all the machinations to build a stadium at Chavez Ravine, to my parents having gotten married and conceived me, to the good fortune to still be here, to my chance encounter with Renee who would become my better half, to our having conceived Austin, to our living in Southern California, to being obsessed with baseball as opposed to any other sport… all that, all of that, and a lot more… so much more in time, dust, wind, sun, rain, earthquake, birds flying by, the invention of the internet, I mean, all that, and here we were, here we are, for the first time ever at something we longed for, certainly that I yearned for…. a world series game with our beloved Dodgers. Father and son. The greatest battery of all time.
Really, how can I capsulize this? How best to embrace it? How to present it well to anyone? How do I tell this without driving you away?
Surprisingly, I did not tear up a whole lot. I did, however, quietly… when no one was looking or paying attention… I did thank the great Dodger in the sky, and anyone else I could think of.
Just remember: Clayton Kershaw was on the mound. Kid K himself. The place was packed to the brim with people and emotion and hope and excitement, and all things baseball. Everyone around us instantly became family. I brought really good food for us to enjoy, but I don’t remember eating a thing. Oh, and in case I forget…. the guys won. Almost a footnote all things considered, but the Dodgers won that game.
I took the photo that is posted here. Yes, that’s Austin. We did not leave the stadium for an hour after the game. We just kept soaking it in. In some respects we did not want to leave. We did not want it to end. You never do, but unfortunately it does.
Father and son. World series, Dodger stadium, the first game of the 2017 series, October 24, 2017, where a player flipping a ball nonchalantly into the crowd was a huge deal, is a huge deal, where you may have to cross your fingers a certain way to make sure the guys win…. where it just goes way too fast and you want to preserve it forever, and you do, somehow you do, and you write about it, and you tell friends and family about it, and you know you were in blue heaven, you know it, whether anyone else believes it or not, or even cares. And those you tell usually are polite enough to pretend to actually pay attention.
And then, of all things…. as baseball is my word…. several people pointed at us as we walked to our cars in the parking lot. Several pointed at us, and excitedly shouted:
“Hey, those two guys are walking above the ground! They’re feet are not on the ground! Look at that! They’re walking on air! They’re friggin walking on air!”
I did not have the presence of mind to tell them it happened to me once before. Maybe if I told them they’d understand it better.
Jul 24, 2018
BASEBALL WEDDING VOWS
Jul 20, 2018
TOMMY CAN YOU FEED ME?