The New York Giants Baseball Nostalgia Society met last night at the Church on 231st street and Kingsbridge Avenue. The group met in a big room, set up foling chairs and tables. Rich McCabe, a former Giant bat boy and guest speaker at the previous meeting (check out the video here), was back again, and he brought bats, autographed balls and jerseys. Not just Giant jerseys–Fernando’s road Dodger jersey, a Glenn Davis Astros number, Lonnie Smith’s road Braves joint.
It was cold as Richie spoke. In the hallway outside of the room, new tile was being put down and you could hear the buzzing of sanders. Somewhere else in the church, the organist was practicing–in fits and starts, which gave an unintentionally comic and sometimes surreal touch to the proceedings.
Richie delivered the same exact routine he had this summer. Almost to the word. He lost the returning members in almost no time and I felt bad for him. Only Bob Mayer looked completely content, grinning as if hearing the stories for the first time. But the bat boy schtick was all Richie had. He’s been repeating the same stories for years, he didn’t have anything to add. He could have talked about all of the jerseys but didn’t. After fifteen minutes, he realized he was bombing and said,” I’ll take questions, I don’t want to repeat myself.”
The next speaker was an old sports writer that I’ve never heard of, who had also spoken at the previous gathering. He looked like a George Price cartoon from the New Yorker and refused to use the microphone that was set up. “Unless you’re deaf, you’ll hear me.” But his low, gutteral voice was drowned-out by the organ and he too, in short order, lost the audience. Not that it seemed to bother him.
Richie sat a few feet away on the table with his autographed bats and balls. He was wearing a road Giants jersey, black pants and generic white sneakers. He had long arms which he folded in his lap. Richie hung his head, lost in thought, nodding and smiling reflexively when he heard a name from the past–Burleigh Grimes, Brick Yard Kennedy. He kicked his feet back and forth as the organ played and the old sports writer droned on, an old man who looked like a boy. The bat boy.
I was freezing by the time the sports writer finished. I chatted with some of the guys, inclduing Bill Kent, the ringleader of the group, who looked a little more like Art Carney circa Harry and Tonto than ever. He gave me a tip on a mail order cataloge (“cheapest place to buy clothes…in the country“). On the way out, I shook Bob Mayer’s hand. He seemed delighted by the speakers even though they repeated themselves. It brought him back, which is why he comes to the meetings in the first place. We laughed.
“Hey,” he said as we walked out of the church, “this meeting was like Deja Vu all over again. See you next time.”