What were we looking at Sunday that made us mist up? It was a bunch of ballplayers -- old ballplayers, some balding, some paunchy, some still lithe.
It was the last time they'd step on that field. "Field of Dreams," to be exact; that's what the music told us.
Is that all it took? Some music, some old, familiar faces in an old, familiar place? And thus we're reduced to sniffling heaps,
looking like so many mothers of the bride.
No, the memories, that's what got us. We remembered the feats once performed by those men on the field. Our memories of great plays past triggered the emotional response, right?
I don't think so.
What we saw on the field Sunday was a mirror. Everyone saw himself back at the ballpark -- not necessarily Memorial Stadium -- years ago.
Sitting in the stands, explaining to a 3-year-old that the man on the little hill is the pitcher, and the man with the stick is the batter. A 3-year-old who went on to learn more complicated lessons, more complicated even than the hit-and-run.
Bringing a glove to the game, because, you know, there's always a chance a foul ball might come your way. A glove that now gets left at home, because you've stopped believing in 1-in-50,000 chances.
Staying in your seat until the final out, because the game isn't over until that last out, and we still might come back. A seat that now you vacate in the eighth inning, because we're three runs down, you want to beat the traffic and you've got to get up for work in the morning.
That's what we saw Sunday. We saw ourselves -- younger, happier, with more faith. Maybe it has nothing to do with baseball. Maybe it has everything to do with baseball. Or, more likely, it has much to do with an ending.
I can't tell you the answer. But I can tell you what I saw reflected in that field.
I saw a rain-out at Connie Mack Stadium in the late '60s.
I don't remember if we -- my father, little brother and I -- even made it to our seats. I just recall the ride home.
Driving through a heavy rain, my father came to a flooded intersection, but decided to keep going. The brakes got wet. We were still about 10 miles from home. But we kept going, my father none too certain about our ability to stop. He drove on, one hand on the wheel, one on the emergency brake.
We hit no red lights, encountered no stopped traffic. We glided to a stop in the driveway. I knew, as only young children do, that I had been safe all along, because I was with my father. And, even though he soon realized he'd driven all that way with no brakes and a hand on the emergency brake release, I remained unshakable in that belief for a few years more.
On Sunday, my father ran out on that field with Brooks and Boog and Earl. Maybe you saw him out there -- a rotund man with short black hair, thick glasses. . . holding the hand of a little boy who sure misses him.