Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Mamaw and the World Series

My great-grandmother was born Marion Estelle Rolle on Aug. 1, 1913, in Denver, the 37th anniversary of Colorado becoming a state. Her father had been born in Germany before coming to America in search of something better, in search of opportunity.

I sometimes think about how dramatically the world has changed even in my relatively short life so far, from 1987 until 2013, how different most people's day-to-day lives are with technology's rapid progress. But even that pales in comparison to how different the world was into which my great-grandmother was born.

Russia still had a czar, Germany still had a kaiser. Horses still were a common source of transportation, only one Roosevelt had been President, and the Chicago Cubs were within five years of their last World Series title. My great-grandmother loved sports, and the Denver Bears played minor league baseball in town. Like most kids who grew up in America in the 1920s, she was probably well aware of the incomprehensible feats of Babe Ruth.

She would go on to get married and become Marion Carter, but I always knew her as Mamaw, the same thing my mom called her. She passed away when I was a kid, but she left an incredible legacy of love and joy, as well as some indelible memories. I still remember eating Teddy Grahams in the yard outside her brick house, on a set of small white garden chairs, which now sit in my grandparents' yard. I still think of her when I see those little white cast iron chairs or Teddy Grahams. I also remember the swing attached to a tree in her front yard, coloring books at her house and how she liked fireworks. (Native Coloradans seem to have a knack for planning good firework displays.)

She also crosses my mind sometimes when Missouri hits its October near-perfection and the Fall Classic rolls around again. Mamaw loved the World Series. My grandma talks about how Mamaw would watch every inning of it, enjoying America's pastime played at its highest level.

I was thinking the other day about all the World Series moments she might have seen; the epic 1975 Game 6 capped by Carlton Fisk's home run off the foul pole at Fenway Park, a hobbled Kirk Gibson's home run to win Game 1 of the 1988 World Series, the Royals frantic comeback in the 1985 Series. There were so many Yankees titles, so many Red Sox near-misses, so many big hits and strikeouts and defensive plays and ballparks and names, a heritage not just shared between my great-grandmother and I but among all Americans who have enjoyed baseball through the centuries.

Baseball is an old game. It was old a hundred years ago, with roots stretching back before the Civil War. Even after baseball long ago yielded status as America's favorite sport to football, even as it seems old-fashioned and slow, it still attracts millions, still has that pull. Baseball links generations, even three generations apart.

In the first World Series in Mamaw's lifetime, the 1913 edition, suit-wearing Connie Mack managed the Philadelphia A's to victory over John McGraw's New York Giants. Little did anyone know, she and the A's would both migrate to Missouri. She stayed longer.

Back in 1913, the Red Sox played at a place called Fenway Park, and St. Louis, 850 miles east of Denver, was the only major league city west of the Mississippi River.

Tonight, the Red Sox and Cardinals open the 2013 World Series at Fenway. I plan on watching, just like Mamaw watched all those World Series through the years.

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