I swear I had a photo of him throwing a baseball in our backyard, but it’s not anywhere. Maybe I invented it, conflating the one here with the memory of that cub scout game. This one is dated June, 1929, decades before I was born. He and his brother were spending a day at Coney Island, clowning around with a camera. A few months later the financial house he worked for went under. In 1935, chances run out, he and my mother loaded everything they had into the back seat of a Ford Phaeton and headed west.
He opened a textile store on Santee Street in the garment district, doing well enough to raise a family. He kept the business going through the war, though it had begun to fail by the time I came along. He was working six days a week, smoking like a fiend. The pains along the inside of his left arm terrified him.
On Saturdays, my Cub Scout pack hosted a baseball game on the local high school field. The fathers rooted, coached, pitched to their sons. Almost everyone came, except my dad. Saturdays he worked alone in the store, adding numbers. He would live another year.
I remember almost nothing of those games, except one Saturday he showed up. I hadn’t expected him, and had gotten a ride with another family. Suddenly, in the middle of the afternoon, there he was. The dads conferred at the mound and gave my father the ball. He was to pitch the rest of the inning.
In my mind’s eye, I still see everything. It’s one out. I’m just behind the pitcher’s mound, covering second base. The batter hunches over home plate. My dad stares at the catcher for a second or two, cradling the ball in the hand behind his back, then winds up.
The world grows silent. He moves as if in slow motion–not only in my memory, in actuality. It is the most beautiful thing I have ever seen. Right hand swings back high above his head, rests imperceptibly, then arcs downward in one fluid sweep to release the ball. The pitch rainbows amiably toward the plate and comes in waist-level. The batter swings and misses. Another pitch. Another strike, then another. Two outs. The next batter connects, a line drive over second base. Miraculously, I catch it. Three outs.
I have no memory of what comes next, whether I got on base, what the score ended up. As I said, I remember almost nothing of those Saturday games. It doesn’t matter. The one memory I do have is perfect, enough to return me to the past that he lives in.
My dad is pitching for the cub scouts. My dad is pitching for the cub scouts.