Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Remembering Harold

Growing up, Harold Baines was probably my favorite player. He and Carlton Fisk would flip flop for the top spot, depending on my mood. Harold was always #1 or an extremely close second. If I had to trace it back to a moment that solidified that feeling for me, it would have to go back to the Sunday day games that my dad took me to.

I always had fun at old Comiskey Park. It didn't really matter if the Sox won or lost, I still had a great time. The air was always buzzing with excitement of some kind. Sometimes it was the game, sometimes it was the fans themselves. Either way, it was a guaranteed good time.

I can only remember certain things from my childhood. That tends to happen the older you get. I concentrate on moments rather than details, when it comes to that period of time. Those are usually enough to spark my brain to reveal a little more information.

I distinctly recall sitting in the lower level on a Sunday and hearing a bunch of drunk Hispanics, a few rows behind me, shouting for Ozzie Guillen. I'm not sure if they were cheering for him or taunting him, but it always added to the atmosphere. If I wasn't into the game more, I might have been more concerned when security started to hang out by their rows a little more often that game. I was a kid watching baseball with my dad, eating a hot dog, drinking a soda and decked out in a White Sox t-shirt and pegged adjustable hat. I was in heaven.

One moment I will remember until my final days was one of Harold's finest moments. The Sox were trailing by two in the bottom of the ninth. I don't recall how many outs there were or who the White Sox were playing. All I remember is that two men got on somehow, by the skin of their teeth. Harold Baines stepped up to the plate. He swung and gave it his all, but only managed a long strike into the stands. It looked like the game was all but over. Then it happened.

Out of nowhere, the crowd started chanting, "Harold! Harold!", and it just kept kept going. Even my dad started chanting with the crowd and he rarely does things like that. He got another strike and the chanting got louder and louder. The whole park stopped and just focused their attention to Harold Baines. Security guards and park employees started chanting too. I had never seen anything quite like this. Nothing came close. It was the best feeling in the world until I heard something that shattered the chanting.

I heard the most beautiful, perfect sound coming from Harold's bat. As soon as the crack of the bat sounded, the crowd fell deathly silent. The crowd, who was already standing, stood on their tiptoes to watch this baseball fly off of Harold's bat. It felt like a movie. Only it was better because I was right there enjoying the whole scene as it played right in front of me.

The instant that ball went over the fence for a home run, the crowd erupted. I had never heard another crowd like that until the 2005 World Series. That is a moment I was always remember and always cherish. That is why Harold has never shied away from my top 2 spots. That is why I continued to follow his career away from Chicago. That is why his uniform was retired by the White Sox in 1989. That is why he deserves to be elected to the Hall of Fame.

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