How the Boston Red Sox Changed My Political Views.

I’ve been a Red Sox fan since June of 1967. That was when my fifth grade teacher took our class to Fenway Park for a night game. I don’t remember who the Sox played that night, but I remember that the game went into extra innings, and that Tony Conigliaro hit a home run in the bottom of the tenth to win it.

I also remember that the picture of Tony C. in the program was about the cutest thing I’d ever seen in my life and my first real crush was born.

As was my life as a Red Sox fan.

If you follow baseball at all, you’ll know that the Boston team used to be famous for it’s inability to win. Year after year, we Sox fans would cheer ourselves hoarse in the spring and cry ourselves hoarse in the fall.

That all changed in October of 2004, when the Sox finally overturned the curse that had plagued them for 86 years. They won the World Series.

All of New England celebrated that victory. We were beyond thrilled, beyond excited, beyond proud. You would have thought that every one of us had pitched in the playoffs!

What made things even sweeter for us was that in order to make it into the World Series, our beloved boys has beaten the despised New York Yankees.

All year long, all through the 2004 season, and for several years afterward, everyone in New England talked about how much we hated the Yankees.

I remember how everyone talked about the two teams. Our guys were “The Idiots”; the Yankees were the “Evil Empire.” We adored the relaxed, fun feeling of our team. So they drank in the clubhouse, so what? We were charmed by the antics of Johnny Damon, chuckling at the image of his naked pull-ups.

And we all knew, deep in our very souls, that A-Rod was weak, whining and pitiful. We loathed Derek Jeter, who we considered to be cold, emotionaless. An automaton with no soul. Don’t even get me started on what we thought of Joe Torre, a manager as sour as our own Terry Francona was sweet.

Curt Schilling? Our brave hero!

Mariano Rivera? A fool.

And on and on it went. It was kind of fun, you know? Our shared adoration for one team and shared hatred for the other gave us a sense of belonging. It gave us a feeling of safety and security. It gave us a sense that we were a clan, protected by our loyalty to ourselves.

It was only during one of the off seasons that it occurred to me that we were being a little closed minded. I listened to an interview with Derek Jeter on XM Radio. I was surprised to realize that the man was articulate, intelligent, warm and funny.

And then I was surprised at my own surprise.

I am embarrassed at how long it took me to realize that just because a guy wore a Red Sox jersey, I couldn’t assume that he was a prince. The whole “team” thing was really only about baseball games, not character.

When all was said and done, Curt Schilling turned out to be someone I wouldn’t want to sit next to on a bus, while Derek Jeter is a guy I’ve truly come to admire.

So what does all this have to do with politics, you ask?

It’s the whole “Vote Blue No Matter Who” thing, that’s what. It’s the way that we immediately write off anyone who watches a different cable news channel than we do.

I know it can be fun to laugh at those memes about how stupid the “sheep” are because they can’t “think for themselves.” But this stuff is only funny when “our” side is saying it about “their” side. When the barb is turned around and aimed at “us”, we bristle and comfort ourselves by saying how hateful the other side is.

Here’s the thing: I have really strong political views. I’m a far left, progressive, Medicare-for-all, tuition-free-public-college, hippy snowflake. It would be really easy for me to pick a team.

But I’m no longer willing to assume that every other liberal thinker is a saint and every conservative a sinner. “We” aren’t smarter than “they” are. “We” aren’t kinder, or more gentle, or more deserving.

And we are NOT a team.

I don’t think of the political parties as teams. I don’t think of their followers as teams. I now realize that everyone who wears my favorite uniform isn’t a good guy and everyone who wears the other jersey isn’t criminal. I am no longer willing to vote for a candidate just because there is a D next to their name.

I have finally realized that I won’t be pitching in the playoffs. In fact, I know now that this isn’t actually a game and that I’m not bound by clan loyalty to help one team come out on top.

Because we live (at least theoretically) in a democracy, I am free to cast my vote for whichever candidate I prefer.

Thanks to Derek Jeter for helping me to evolve.

Image attribution: Red Sox vs. Padres, Fenway Park July 4th” by djanimal is licensed under CC BY 2.0 

Do You Believe in Ghosts?

Ah,'re breaking my heart......!

Ah, Cubbies…’re breaking my heart……!

Do you believe in ghosts? Do you believe that a really strong spirit can come back to visit Earth after it has passed on to the next plane?

Maybe if a person has been particularly single minded in this earthly life, and if something extra special happens on earth after that person has moved on, maybe that person can come back to experience that special event.  You think?

I believe it.  I do!

And I believe that if that person is so strong and so focused, I truly believe that he or she can bring a few other people back from the other side, too.  Just for a short time. Maybe just for a very, very special celebration.

Who knows?

I can’t know for sure, of course, given that I am stuck here in this earthly plane for now.  I can’t see those spirits who come back to join us in our mortal lives.

But I do have a pretty strong hunch that right this very minute down in the clubhouse at old Wrigley Field, the shortstop of the 1945 Cubs has come back to taste the bubbly with the boys.  I’m almost sure that as those young men hug each other and pound each other on the back, Uncle Lennie Merullo is standing right there in the middle of them, laughing out loud and soaking up the spotlight.

If I know my Uncle Lennie, his spirit is moving around the room, hoping to get itself into every news reporter’s shot.  He’ll be trying to hold up his left hand, showing off that big shiny World Series Ring.  He’ll be giving his big, familiar grin, and his dark eyes will be sparkling with humor and pride. “I was the last living Cub to have played in a World Series!”, he’ll be crowing. “When I died last May, there was no one left alive how had played in a Series for the Cubs!”

And just as surely as I know that Uncle Lennie is there, right smack in the middle of that crazy celebrating gang of young Cubbies, I know that his brothers, all 8 of them, are standing in the doorway, peeking into the room in awe.  I know that his three sisters are giggling, shaking their heads and watching the action.

I know they’re there. I can feel them as I look at the TV screen.

Do you believe in ghosts?

I sure do.

Uncle Lennie, damn, I wish you could have hung on for this night! But I know you’re helping from the other side. Keep cheering!  Keep on pulling strings! 

And can you please tell my Dad how much I miss him?  Love you!

Teaching as baseball…. a metaphor

MLB 2013: Yankees vs Dodgers JUL 30

The cool thing about Derek Jeter is that he went out while he was still on top. He was still “Derek Jeter”. You know?  He wasn’t a has-been. He wasn’t that sad old guy that made everyone feel bad when he came up to bat.

The same is true of Michael Jordan. He was still “Michael”.  Sigh.  Best looking basketball player since Gerald Henderson.  He was Michael. He was a basketball GOD.

Maybe teaching should be the same.  Maybe those of us who were stars back in the day should learn how to gracefully step aside while we are still “My Favorite Teacher!”   Maybe we should accept the fact that time goes by, teaching trends shift, expectations change.

Today I had a very emotional day.  The PTSO came to show me the books that were purchased in my name for the school library. I read the words: “In appreciation for the many years of service”.  I teared up, big time. I imagined years of children pulling the books off the shelf and seeing my name.

I pictured them asking each other, “Who’s this?”

I suddenly understood: if the old guard doesn’t step aside, the new stars cannot emerge.

I was really good at my job.  Oh, I was no Derek Jeter, but I was a pretty good utility infielder.  I had my time. And now that time is over.

I want to be Derek Jeter. I want to go out gracefully, maybe with a home run to celebrate the end of my career.

I don’t want to be Brett Favre.  I don’t want the young people to feel sad when they see me desperately trying to hang on to my glory days.

Today I met the young man who will be joining our team in my place.  He is alert, energetic, excited.  He is smart and happy and ready to go.

He is the new star.

I need to wish him well, hand over my favorite bat, and bow out gracefully.

For once in my non-athletic life, I need to share something with the admirable Derek Jeter.

Eternal Rest


For most of my life, I assumed that my final resting place would be a graveyard.

Everyone I ever knew followed that typical American path; you die, you are embalmed, you have a wake where everyone kneels in front of you, praying and thinking “Jeez, she looks awful…..”

In my experience, the end of life was marked by church, uncomfortable black clothes, a wake, a funeral and a big lunch afterwards.

I assumed that one day I, too, would lie there like a sunken, waxy version of my worst self, surrounded by dozens of cloyingly aromatic flower arrangements.  I assumed that I would then be lowered into the ground in my gleaming wooden coffin and that a big headstone would be placed there to mark my location.

It didn’t seem so bad to me when I was younger! I have always loved to wander through old graveyards, reading the stones and trying to imagine the people below me and the lives that they had left behind. It seemed sort of romantic in a strange way, you know?

But now I am older.  I’m a bit closer to that final rest than I used to be.  And I am experiencing more wakes, more funerals, more loss.   I have friends who are battling life threatening illnesses.

So I’ve been rethinking my original plans.

First off, I am not so sure that I want to be pumped full of chemicals and placed in a sealed casket.  I mean, I eat organic, locally grown veggies.  I clean with vinegar and baking soda.   Why would I want to spend eternity with chemicals in my veins?  And why the super sealed casket, lead lined and “water safe”?   Once I die, I realize, I will not be coming back.  No need to stay dry.

And holy crow! Why would I want my family to spend that much money on something that will only be seen for four hours?  I’d rather have them use the same funds to take a nice trip to Italy and drink to my memory.

So…..I have been thinking about a “green burial”.  Put me in a simple pine box, let me decompose and become fertile ground for a nice lilac.

But I had an experience yesterday that made me rethink even that idea.

I was attending the funeral of my wonderful, funny, fun loving, lively Uncle Lennie.  We had been to the church, and were now approaching the graveyard where he would be laid to rest.  It is a beautiful, green place in a lovely little New England town.  Trees, flowers, beautiful thick grass, carefully maintained headstones.

But there was a sign at the gate that caught my eye.  It read, “No bicycles. No dog walking.  No playing.”

No playing?  No playing?

What does that even mean?

My Uncle was a professional baseball player.  If we played catch one day by his graveside, could we be arrested?

What if we brought a chess set, and decided to enjoy a calm fall day by playing chess and remembering our Uncle?  Would that be against the law?

Could we play a violin or a guitar in his honor?

No playing?

I don’t understand.

I do realize one thing, though, as I think about my own “eternal rest”.   I would hate like hell to be left in a place where dogs were not welcomed.  I would never, ever rest easy in a spot where children were forbidden to romp and frolic and laugh and play.

The only thing that would be sure to make me haunt this world would be to force me into a joyless, child free, dogless place.

I am thinking a lot about cremation and the “scattering of the ashes”.  I would love a chance to spend eternity in the Atlantic Ocean. Where I would most certainly play with the dolphins!

Broken Heart Syndrome

There are times in life when a person’s heart has to react to so many emotions at once that it seems as if it might just burst.  It seems as if the heart will simply become some kind of little supernova, exploding into a million tiny pieces and then fading out completely.

The past week has been that kind of heart threatening time for me.

There have been moments of real sadness, where my heart and my soul feel both leaden and solid, sinking down into the very depths of the earth.

I have found myself facing the shocking, but not unexpected, realization that my career as a teacher of young children is over.  Well before I wore myself out, before I ran out of sympathy, tenderness, connection, strength, love, I find myself on the brink of retirement.   “I’m not ready!” a part of me cries; “I want another chance to teach the Revolution!  I want more time to Read Aloud!  I want another class to love and shape and encourage and support! I’m not ready……”

And I find myself somehow embroiled in a stew of emotions with my siblings, the people with whom I shared the most important moments of my early life.  How to help? How to support? What is the “right thing” to do?  My heart is so heavy I can barely carry it around.

And yesterday we lost one of my childhood heroes.  My handsome, funny, endlessly entertaining Uncle, Lenny Merullo, went to join his parents and his eleven brothers and sisters in the next world. He took his brashness, his cocky grin and his 1945 World Series Ring with him into the afterlife, and all of those who loved and looked up to him are left bereft.


He was the last of his family; the last of the Byron Street East Boston Merullo clan.  He was the last living member of the Chicago Cubs to have played in a world series.

He showed me how to throw a curve ball.  He taught me to field by holding my glove right on the grass and keeping my eye on the ball.

He brought me to Fenway to see young players when he was a scout.  He introduced me to Frank Malzone, who told him, “She looks just like you!”

Wow. Tonight my heart is heavy.

For the past few days, this combined grief has pulled on my heart with an almost unmanageable heaviness.  My eyes are leaky faucets, and I am at a loss for how to explain what I feel.

But the past week has also been filled with a sense of incredible lightness and joy.

I will be free at last when I retire. No more worrying about data; no more trying so desperately to squeeze my students and myself into the neat little boxes of the Curriculum Units.  No more trying to please those who will not be pleased.

I will be free.

I’ll have my life back, my time back, my peace of mind back.  ” I am so ready!  Let me go, let me go!”

And Uncle Lennie is free now, too; I am sure that he is at his best right now, racing across the infield of Heaven, flashing that irresistible grin.

His Mamma is waiting for him, hands on her ample hips, ladle full of sauce at the ready.  She will scold him for being late, pass around the basket of bread, and serve her children their dinner.  They will tease her and laugh with her, and dip the bread into the sauce.  They’ll pour more wine, tell more outrageous stories, and talk over each other.  Pappanonni will sit with his wine in his hand and listen.

It will be a happy, joyful, loving time.

My heart, my heavy, aching heart, will soar with theirs as I picture my Dad listening with shining eyes as his big brother shares his stories.

Dear Theo

My pal, Theo.

My pal, Theo.

Dear Mr. Epstein,

Is it OK if I call you Theo?  I kind of feel like we’re friends.  You and I go way back, even though you don’t know it.

See, I became a Red Sox fan way, way back in 1967, when my fifth grade teacher took our class to Fenway to see a baseball game. (This was a LONG time before the Common Core; field trips were just for fun back then. My teacher was a huge Sox fan.  She was very….stoic.)   I went with my classmates to Fenway on that warm June night back in 1967, and I saw Tony Conigliaro hit a home run in the tenth to win the game.  My heart literally turned over in my chest, and I fell hopelessly and permanently in love with Boston Baseball.

And so I suffered.

For a very, very long time. I welcomed every spring with the words “This is our year!” and I ushered out every October with the murmured sigh, “Wait till next year.”

It was a long, sad stretch of years, Theo, without a Championship Team.

And then………

You came along.  You were young, and handsome and confident and brash.  Everyone in New England fell in love with you. We bought those fabulous “In Theo we trust” Tshirts.  We put on hats that said, “Why not us?”  We started to believe in each other, in our Team, in our boys. We started to believe in you.

And you brought us the incredible life-changing miracle of 2004.


I’ll never forget that blood red moon, or the feeling of disbelief and euphoria that came over us that night.

Theo, in you we trusted, and you delivered the goods.

Now I have a favor to ask you.

Now you are a Cub.  You’re in charge of breaking another curse.  You are being trusted by a whole new crew of stoic, die-hard fans.  They are praying for you to pull off another miracle.

You’re pretty young, Theo. You probably think you have all the time in the world. But the thing is, there is one guy, one awesome, feisty, proud old Cubbie who needs you to pull off the miracle THIS YEAR.

That guy is my Uncle, Lennie Merullo. The last remaining Cub to have played in a World Series.  He was the starting shortstop for the Cubs in 1945.  He’s been dining out on those stories ever since.


Uncle Lennie was my hero, especially after 1967.  He taught me how to throw a curve ball.  He talked to me about Spring Training, and PeeWee Reese and signing with Mr. Wrigley.  He is a living, breathing artifact of American History. I grew up on my Dad’s stories of the exploits of his famous older brother.

Theo, Uncle Lennie is 97 years old now.  The Cubs flew him out to Wrigley last spring to celebrate the 100th Anniversary of the ball park where you are now the man in charge.

You should watch this video from that day. You’ll see just how much your Cubs mean to Uncle Lennie. 

0606_cubs-merullo-e1402066276932-624x499Dear Theo, old friend, old pal.

Can you please work your magic this year? It would be so incredibly wonderful if Uncle Lennie could celebrate the end of the Cubs Curse.  It would mean the world to him, and to all of his kids and grandkids and nieces and nephews and cousins and friends and neighbors.

Theo, in you we trust.   We BELIEVE.   You can do it. I mean, you have Jon Lester on your side, for goodness sake. We sort of gave him to you.

Dear Theo,  You can do it.  I will personally promise you all the homemade ravioli you can eat if you just manage this one additional miracle.

Please let the Cubbies win it all in 2015.

Just think of how cool it would be to have Uncle Lennie there to hold up the trophy.

Good bye, good luck, and thanks.

MLB 2013: Yankees vs Dodgers JUL 30

I’ve been a Red Sox fan since in 1967.  I love my Sox. I hate those Yankees.

In the midst of the glorious, dramatic, emotional, incredible fall of 2004, when my team was fighting back against those Damn Yankees to win the World Series for the first time in 86 years, I was as eager as any other New Englander to hate everyone in pinstripes.  Fans and players and coaches alike, we despised them all.

But when it was all over, and the crazy euphoria of the miracle year began to fade, I realized that I didn’t actually hate them all in quite the same way.

I knew pretty early on his career that I would have nothing but disdain for the self-absorbed pretty boy known as A-Rod.  I feel sorry for him, in many ways, but I have always thought that he was the quintessential jerk.  And it was pretty easy to dislike guys like Mike “I went to an Ivy League School” Mussina and Jason “I’m a thug” Giambi. I was able to whip myself up against Joe Torre, Jorge Posada, and all the rest of those loud mouthed, bad accented, New York jack asses.

But somehow, try as I might, I couldn’t get myself to hate Derek Jeter.

I mean, sure I wished him ill.  I wished him strikeouts and dropped balls and maybe even the occasional pulled hammy.

But I couldn’t get myself to hate the man himself.

Derek Jeter always seemed like an old time baseball hero.  He was a guy who could have swaggered and postured like Manny Ramirez.  But he didn’t.  He could have been a womanizing, bragging, A-list-actress dating ass.  But he wasn’t. He was more like the guy I always thought Honus Wagner must have been.  He was the NY version of Gentleman Jim Lonborg.

He was a true ball player.  He was grateful for the chance to play the game.  Unlike the JD Drew and Manny types on my team, he didn’t take days off for fatigue or hangnails or bad haircuts.  He showed up, and he played. He always gave it his best.

But here is the reason why I most admire the Captain of the New York Yankees.

I once heard him interviewed on an ESPN special. He talked about being nine years old, and lying in bed, dreaming of playing shortstop for the Yanks. He was a New Jersey kid, and the Yankees were his team.  Like ten million kids before and after him, Jeter dreamed of playing for his home team.  He talked about how he got up from bed, a little boy with a big dream, and went into his parents’ bedroom. He woke them up so that he could tell them what he dreamed of doing with his life. “Someday”, he said, “I’m going to play shortstop for the Yankees.”  His parents’ reaction is what I love the most about this story. They listened to him seriously, and then they told him to go for it. “You’re going to have to work really hard.”, they said. “You can do it if you really want to.  Now go back to bed.”

I love that story.  I love that Derek Jeter took that work ethic to heart, and made his dream come true.

When my fifth graders talk about their dreams, they sometimes add the words, “But it probably won’t come true.” I always tell them about Derek Jeter, and about the night he woke his parents up to announce his intentions. I repeat their wise advice, and I tell my students that they will have to work hard, but that they can achieve any dream they seek.

Thank you, Derek Jeter. Thank you for the drama and delicious euphoria of 2004. Thank you for being a real live, honest to God role model. Thank you for being someone I can refer to when I talk to my students about goals and dreams.

I’m still glad that the Yanks didn’t make the playoffs, but I am truly sad tonight as I watch Derek Jeter play his last game at Yankee Stadium.  It is truly the end of an age.


Even when they're awful....they're my team.

Even when they’re awful….they’re my team.

One of the hard things about being a parent is helping kids to learn what it means to be a good human being.   It’s hard to teach them that integrity is something that can’t be faked.

One of the really hard things about being an elementary school teacher is helping children to learn and understand that winning is really fun, but there is more.

I’m a Red Sox fan. I know a lot about losing teams, and about unexpected success. I know a lot about loyalty, and sticking with your team even when it sucks.  I’m a Red Sox fan; the memory of the 2004 American League Series will stay with me forever.


There have been few things in my life that have been sweeter than defeating the Damn Yankees. Watching A-Rod squirm. Watching Jeter Mourn. Watching Mariano blow it.

But here we are now, in 2014.  And A-Rod has been exposed as the cheater that he was. Mariano has retired. Both the Red Sox and the Yankees are awful this year. There will be no playoff rivalry this year.

This year its all different.

This year is the last year of Derek Jeter’s career.  And I find myself thinking, often, of how I can use him as a role model for my students. How he can be a perfect example of what it means to have integrity.

Oddly enough, Derek Jeter is reminding me of my Dad.

Like Dad, Derek Jeter took his job seriously.  He was humble.  Did you ever here Jeter refer to himself as “we”?  Me either.

Like my Dad, Derek Jeter was always aware of how lucky he was to have his job, his skills, his success. He is rich, but I don’t know if he lived that way.  He is single, but I have never heard of him being filmed in the elevator with a celebrity, have you?

I know that Derek Jeter isn’t a real hero: he hasn’t saved lives or changed the world or created beautiful art.  But he can be a hero in my classroom this fall, as I talk to my class about integrity, and doing your best, and about being a good sport.  He can help me as I talk to the kids about why it is important to support your own team but to appreciate the talents and skills and admirable traits of the “enemy”, too.

Maybe those lessons can go beyond the fifth grade classroom. Maybe they can resonate beyond baseball.

Who knows.

What I know is that I hope I can be at Derek Jeter’s last Fenway game.  I’ll cheer myself hoarse.

Baseball Voodoo

I became a baseball fan way back in June of 1967.

To be specific, I became a Red Sox fan in June of 1967.

My fifth grade teacher brought us all to a night game at Fenway, and the Sox won in the tenth inning on what had not yet been labelled a “walk-off homerun”.   It was fun, it was exhilarating, Tony Conigliaro was cute and heroic and not that much older than me. I fell in love, and I fell hard.

I became a Sox fan, and that meant pain. I watched my Sox come close in ’67, then founder and drift and struggle and come close a few times again.

But it wasn’t until 2004 that all of our baseball dreams came true.  It felt like a miracle when they won the World Series. It felt like a dream.

It felt like a once in a lifetime experience for everyone who ever loved the Boston Red Sox.

My boys were young back then.  Matt was 14, Tim was only 12.  Kate was a freshman in college, so she wasn’t at home as we suffered through the first three ALCS games against the dreaded Yankees (“The evil empire”).  But the boys were here.  And they were pulled into the crazy magical thinking that went along with each of the wins of that series.

I remember that I had to stop at the grocery store before game 5, and I bought Boston baked beans and Boston brown bread to go with the meatloaf that I had planned.  The Sox won.

We ate Boston Baked Beans and Boston Brown Bread for the next two games.  And the Sox won.

What I had forgotten before today was that at the beginning of the series I had made a simple ground beef dinner.  My kids always had a yearning for sauteed ground beef over noodles.  Whenever I was away overnight, Paul would buy a box of Hamburger Helper, and everyone was happy.  Of course, being the healthy food fanatic that I am, I would gripe and complain and point out the dangers of all of those chemicals.  So I had tried to come up with a healthy, no-preservatives version of “Hamburger Helper” that would make all of us happy.

Apparently, I had made the dinner at some point during the baseball playoffs of 2004.

I had forgotten all about that meal until today, when I thumbed through a notebook of recipes, looking for a lemon cake.   As I turned the pages, passing pancakes, shrimp, Asian meatballs and various cookies, I came to a page that was recorded in my own handwriting.  It described a meal of ground beef, onions, tomato paste and spices.  I had named the dish “Yankee Noodle Dandy”.   But I laughed out loud when I saw the word “Yankee” crossed out, and in Tim’s youthful scrawl, the words “Red Sox” written just above.SONY DSC

Such sweet memories, of my own childhood, and of my children’s.  Such sweet memories of pulling for a team, wishing for something that is so out of our own control.  Of feeling that we are part of a team, a group, a collective of hope.

Go, Red Sox!

The Memory Keeper

Every family has its stories, its legends, its folklore.    Mine is no exception.

I was raised in a big Italian family.  On my mother’s side, the stories focused on the earliest days after my grandfather immigrated from Sicily.  They were stories of how he met and fell in love with my grandmother, a first generation Sicilian American. We heard about the years when my grandfather sold vegetables in Boston’s North End market. How he worked in a local candy factory.

But on my father’s side, the family folklore has only two real themes.  The sheer size of the family (12 children!) is the dominant story.  Six brothers in one bed, sleeping head to foot.  Babies born in the tiny living room. The matriarch, my “Mammanonni” stirring gigantic pots of tomato sauce on the small gas stove.  The crowd, the numbers, the list of aunts and uncles; those are the stories of my childhood.

But there was another theme that was inextricably wound throughout the first.

That theme was baseball.

I grew up hearing about the exploits of all of my uncles, but the most famous stories belonged to my Uncle Lennie, the baseball Uncle.

Of the twelve children of Carmine and Angelina, Lennie was the only one who was born in a hospital. He was frail, somewhat sickly as a baby. But he grew up, he grew tall. He was a gifted athlete who excelled in baseball. He was handsome and charming and filled with a natural confidence.

Uncle Lennie played baseball in prep school, and went on to Villanova University where he was a standout on the field.

And from 1941-1947, he played shortstop for the Chicago Cubs.  I grew up on the stories of those years.

Uncle Lennie was famous to us; we loved hearing him talk, feeling the thrill as he casually mentioned Phil Cavaretta, Jackie Robinson, Mr. Wrigley.  And then there were the World Series Stories. So much fun to hear those tales of fame and fun and excitement.

Family gatherings for us always involved a cluster of our Uncles, laughing their big booming laughs, trading stories of life in East Boston in the 1930’s and 40’s.  Tricks they played on their Mother, exploits with friends and girlfriends, memories of those crowded years in that tiny apartment. The Uncles would be in the center of the room, and all the rest of us would be scattered around them, eating, drinking wine, listening in on the familiar tales.

Now the years are passing.  The Uncles and Aunts are gone. Now only Uncle Lennie remains from that huge gang of twelve.  He is the last repository of all that lore, all those shared memories.  The last one who lived in that little house in East Boston.

Now the years are passing, and baseball is changing.  Now only Uncle Lennie remains from the last Chicago Cubs team to play in a World Series.  He is the last man who remembers taking the field to try to bring a Championship to the Windy City.

He is the last.

Life moves forward. Every day is a new adventure and there are new family stories being lived out everywhere.  Somewhere a young girl is listening wide eyed as her larger-than-life Uncle teaches her how to field a grounder in the backyard.  Somewhere a handsome, charming Uncle is regaling his relatives with stories of his famous friends, adding little details that may or may not have happened, making everyone laugh and sigh and feel just a little bit closer to an exciting world that they will never know.

So here’s to Uncle Lennie.  Here’s to family history and baseball history and honoring the past.