The Boys of Summer

It is July first nineteen sixty-eight
A Monday afternoon
I’m ten and I’m playing
Catch with a friend on the
Lawn of the apartments my
Father owns

The day air is still,
the air
heavy against the skin
An L.A. summer day
My oldest brother Eddie
is cleaning his white ’64 Thunderbird
The driver’s side door is open
The radio tuned to the Dodger’s game
Vin Scully is calling the game
Bob Gibson and the Cardinals
against Don Drysdale

Gibson has pitched 47 scoreless Innings
Drysdale has the record at 58
Something has to give

My brother has been out of the Navy
four years, and he’s sharing a room
with me and my other brother Claudio
I’m the youngest Eddie the oldest
Eddie still wakes
at 4 or is it 5 a.m. and begins
spit shinning his shoes.
He just got a job at
McDonald Douglas
Putting rivets in the engine’s of
turbines
some of his friends are in Vietnam

I watch him detailing the
Dashboard of the car
Drysdale strikes out Edwards looking
It‘s the bottom of the first
and Gibson is taking the mound

My dad and brother Claudio
are not into sports
but Eddie and I can’t get
enough
Eddie played baseball at
Centennial High
He played with Reggie Smith
who later would become the right fielder for the
Dodgers

Willie Davis comes to the plate
Eddie stops rubbing the dash
and I keep the ball in my
glove, turning it slowly feeling the
stitching and waxed leather hide
Davis grounds out
and we go back to what
we were doing
Scully’s words
go out of the chrome and
white car and
linger in the air
He’s telling a story now
and I listen and he takes me back
to before I was born
I hear names like DiMaggio
and Warren Spahn, Dizzy
and Duke Snider, and Pee Wee Reese
The names dance in the still
air all around me
Polo Grounds and Ebbets Field
I can see these places
see the crowds and
see the players hitting and
running

The Dodgers have runners
on the corner
I don’t want Gibson to
break Drysdale’s record

Not long after Eddie returned
from overseas we are
at the kitchen table
a yellow Formica top
and all chrome
he has the sports page
spread across the table
he has a toothpick in his
mouth
I am kneeling on a chair
With my elbows on the table
That was the day he taught
Me how to read a box score
Soon I was reading every word of
The sports page, I would read
The Herald and the Times
The Herald and the Times Sports writer’s
Bud Furillo, Jim Murray,
Became my writing teachers

My brother is seventy this weekend
and in bad health
could be the bottom of the ninth for
him but he is still
swinging away
No bigger Dodger fan
than my brother
His birthday last week was
Dodger themed, his cake
Dodger stadium of course

The Thunderbird gleams in the
Sun and it’s reflection off the chrome
blinds me temporarily and I
lose track of the ball
It rolls to the Date palm
Home plate when we play with a plastic bat and ball
Real games are played across Willowbrook street
Along the train tracks
Beside the wooden warehouse

Scully’s voice leaps from the
car
the ball gets by the catcher
Gabrielson is coming home from third
And Vin Scully says
and that’s it folks 47 innings
Drysdale’s streak is safe for
Now

there’s no cheering from
us, maybe, just relief
I have a little more pep
on my throw
Eddie is at the rear fender
with a cloth wiping quickly
putting that final shine
on
like he does with
his shoes in the morning

I don’t know how much time
I have with my brother
But I will always have that summer day.

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