Baseball, hotdogs, apple pie, and Chevrolet

1979 – I was then the age my youngest is now (age 12).

In 1974, so I understand, General Motors began their ”baseball, hotdogs, apple pie and Chevrolet” campaign. Here is the story. Today, on Independence Day, somehow the phrase came up. I think it was when one of my sons insisted on wishing his online friends “Happy Independence Day”, instead of the more common “Happy Fourth of July”. He’s not wrong, of course; it is the reason for the red-letter date. The more common greeting is “as American as baseball, hotdogs, apple pie, and Chevrolet.”

Have you ever tossed out a phrase that you’ve known since you were knee-high to a grasshopper and the other person looks back as if they had seen an alien? Yep, it was like the kid in ‘Different Strokes’ (“Whatchyou talkin’ about, Willis?”) So, we reviewed a 1970’s history lesson.

And then, of course, we checked off the list; hotdogs, yes, for lunch today; apple pie–well, at least it’s a favorite food; and Chevrolet–sure, we’re mostly a Chevy family. But baseball? I knew maybe we’d missed a cog somewhere on the American dream thing when one of my boys said, “You ever play baseball, dad?” “Pfft,” I said, “Well, Yah. I’ll show you a photo when I get a chance.” They’d been learning baseball from die-hard Cubs fans, and were now suddenly excited about throwing a leather red-laced ball back and forth.

It isn’t as if we hadn’t tried to provide this crucial instruction from time to time. When we lived in Montana two years, we tried the tee-ball thing. We even bought a Lola Bunny mitt for our eldest daughter. The results were mixed. Batting, or shall I say, swinging the padded bat-like stick in the general vicinity of the ball, was one thing, and generally successful. Throwing and catching, on the other hand, was a matter of fearing for one’s safety (and I say that as one who tried to lob the ball but felt the need to duck on the ball’s return trip). Her mother and I recognized, in reviewing our own childhoods, that this might not be in the genes. Multiple years and seven children later, it was an accepted conclusion that we weren’t really sports people, even though we had plenty of space for a Little League diamond.

So it was, when in Minneapolis one week for work, that general confusion abounded at home at the casual mention of my attendance at a Twins game in the Humphrey Dome. “Why would Daddy want to attend a game?” My wife gets it. It isn’t her cup of tea like a yarn festival would be, but she tried as best as she could to introduce that aspect of American culture.

As I recall, though I played a few seasons of Little League minors (with only t-shirts for uniforms, as the white pants were reserved for the majors), I wasn’t interested, at first. My dad and at least two of my brothers tried. I think the biggest problem was, I sucked at the game. My hand-eye coordination was far inferior to my sense of rhythm. My stubby legs couldn’t reach the bases in time, if I finally did connect with the ball. And I tended to get bored or distracted in the warm sun of the outfield.

When I grew older, my physical ability caught up a little, but by that time, I was out of the running. Still, when I worked for a time as a newspaper sports writer, I really enjoyed following the game. Baseball in SD was like few other places. Grown men with real day jobs still played in the evenings after work, with real uniforms against real rivals in neighboring towns, like Alpena and Woonsocket and Mitchell. And they had a following of loyal fans, from little nephews and nieces to grandparents and cousins.

I’m glad the younger children have friends that have introduced them to the game. One of the boys suggested we could mow our pasture for a field. That isn’t the reason we’d mow it, I said. We mow it for the hay. But sure, I’d be open to that.

Play ball.