The Mariners visited the Red Sox this weekend, and, as happens twice a year, my team couldn’t lose.
The Mariners visited the Red Sox on Father’s Day this year, an all-too-appropriate coincidence. My city’s team against my father’s, my choices doing battle with my heritage. Either way, I couldn’t lose. Either way, I couldn’t win.
The last time the Mariners were in Boston, I was there, with my mom and sister. They had seen James Taylor at the ballpark a week earlier, but stayed in the region until I met them to go to the game. The outcome wasn’t close, but we were, because of our presence in the narrow seats in the one place we can all agree is a holy site.
My dad’s best friend told me years ago that my dad used to compare the Red Sox to locusts, in that every seven years, they had a good one. Lately, the team’s good stretches have been more frequent than that, but such a statement could easily be applied to the Mariners today. They remain one of two franchises to have never made the World Series. They currently stand as the team that’s gone the longest without making the playoffs. Still, I haven’t given up. I won’t give up.
During my dad’s lifetime, the Red Sox made three World Series Game Sevens. Three chances to break an epic drought, each squandered in heartbreaking fashion. They didn’t make it to the World Series again until 16 years after he died. But when they did, they didn’t waste time. They swept it, winning in four. That night, I partied in the middle of 7th Avenue in Manhattan, where traffic came to a standstill for the sake of our celebration. That night, the impossible happened twice.
Say what you will about Macklemore. No, really. Say whatever you want, and I probably won’t disagree with you. He’s basically the human equivalent of a Rorschach test, and I’ve never heard a take that I thought was wildly off-base.
My personal opinion: The man has about four really good songs, at least two of which were so wildly overplayed that all the criticism and jokes became fair game. But “My Oh My,” the least-known of the four, is by far my favorite. It’s a song about baseball that isn’t actually about baseball, and I’ve been saying this for years.
"My Oh My" is about baseball as much as Field of Dreams was. And let's be honest: Field of Dreams is just a journey to the last scene.
— Scott Rosen (@DrObvious) September 5, 2011
For starters, the word “baseball” doesn’t appear in the song.
In the very first line, Macklemore invokes his father, telling a tale of how they’d bond over the radio when he was child. How Dave Niehaus was practically a deity to his young self, how despite the futility of the Mariners until the mid-’90s, Niehaus’s passion and optimism defined the team. The song samples Dave’s most famous call, an event so iconic that a sports bar in my neighborhood was named after it. And I’ve heard people talking about that call, how in the excitement, Dave’s voice nearly cracked, and he mispronounced Joey Cora’s first name as “Joy.”
“Here comes Joy,” Dave exclaimed, in the middle of a moment that many claim saved baseball in this city.
But in “My Oh My,” that’s only the interlude. The Mariners success, the wins and losses, were only the background for the story Macklemore tells: A handed-down baseball glove, a plea for one more inning on the radio. Like a deity, Niehaus was omnipresent throughout the years. Like a deity, Niehaus was never there.
The word “baseball” never appears in the song, but one phrase keeps coming up: “My city, my city, childhood, my life.” To Macklemore, Dave defined these things. When you really listen, though, it’s another man, one much closer, whose spirit echoes through the song.
My mom doesn’t like science fiction, and her opinion of fantasy doesn’t seem to be much higher. (She once told me that my dad had to talk her into seeing E.T. by convincing her that it’s not a story about an alien, it’s a story about a boy and his friend who happens to be from outer space. She was glad he did.) Somehow, her favorite movie of all time is Field of Dreams.
When I first heard her say this, I was more than a little bemused. See, my mom’s not much of a baseball fan, really. My mom went to a World Series game in St. Louis as a kid, but can’t remember which one; my mom shouts “Good!” at every fly ball, regardless of which team hit it or how far it went; and my mom once asked me why the scoreboard said a team had no hits when she’d watched a lot of guys make contact already. Don’t get me wrong: My mom loves going to baseball games, but it’s more about the ambiance and peanuts and sunshine. She cares more about the seventh-inning stretch than a shutdown eighth-inning reliever.
Despite all that, Field of Dreams resonates for her, and it took me a while to realize why, despite its themes seeming so far out of her wheelhouse. Field of Dreams, like “My Oh My,” isn’t about baseball. It’s about a second chance. It’s about one more day. It’s about home, not in the sense of the plate where the batter stands, but in the nuclear family sense.
Field of Dreams came out on April 21, 1989, four months to the day after my father died.
Of course it’s her favorite movie. Why wouldn’t it be?