HOW GRAMPS FOSTERED MY LOVE OF YOUTH SPORTS
By Marc Philip Agar
August 3, 2021
Grandfathers—who else would a fatherless boy long to visit? You know, all those humid, summer days on Long Island, NY—the kind where you just need to shower all day. Yeah, summer in Nassau County was boring and truly stifling. Brooklyn, though, for all its flaws and deadly humidity, had an aura unto itself, which at times served as my escape.
Boy, how grimy Gerittsen Beach was those days. I was continually stepping into globs of bubblegum or kicking swarms of empty beer bottles in the filthy, soiled, discolored sand. Yet it was a relief from the boredom that plagued my early youth. At Gramps’ delicatessen in Brooklyn, I could always count on him to make the visit pleasant and special.
FOOD, FOOD, AND MORE FOOD
“Hey Marc, are you hungry,” he would ask immediately as I entered. Food, food, food—that was the way he would express affection. Surely, he’d take baseball cards and toys right off the shelves and give them to me. He’d also give me money for bowling and pizza. But these gifts paled in comparison to a great deli sandwich.
“Marc, how ‘bout a nice baloney sandwich with a big kosher pickle,” he would say. “I have some nice Kaiser rolls just in to put it on.” There was no way I could resist, nor would he ever allow me to say “no.” Thin-sliced baloney on a Kaiser roll topped with real delicatessen mustard. Add to that, the sandwich was straddled by a pickle, a can of cream soda, and an Italian ice in my homemade cardboard candy lunch box. Heavenly delight! The sandwich tasted even better when I’d get to cross the big street in front of Gramps’ store to go watch the Little Leaguers (who were big compared to me) play ball.
LITTLE LEAGUERS PLAY BALL
It was a dirty field—back in the day, the army used it as a reconnaissance base. There were tall weeds and shards of broken glass, all intermixed with stolen, burned-out cars atop the garbage-ridden sand. After all, it was the “Beach.” The baseball field was as messy as the earth it was built on.
Gerittsen Beach Little League was a poorer youth sports league. It could barely afford to buy bases, let alone line the field. The fence had so many holes in so many places, you could virtually walk through it from any playing direction. The stands consisted of three rotten, splintered lose boards, all fallen atop one another. There was always an available box seat, you see.
A CHILD IN BASEBALL HEAVEN
Unfavorable as the conditions were over there, I enjoyed every moment and I never really dwelt on the surroundings. I was just so absorbed into the excitement and action on the field. To adults, the games were probably slow and boring, but to me it was a moment I could just sit back (but not too far back…hahaha) and engulf my sandwich--licking and turning over and over again my yumptious frozen Italian ice dessert. I just loved that frozen, juicy concoction!
After the games (normally at least two were played in the afternoon), the players would gather over at “Dave’s.” They’d buy sodas and other treats. I guess they felt they owed it to Gramps since he would store all of the league’s big duffle bags full of bats, balls, and catcher’s mitts and gear.
It was a grand old time for me. No doubt, it helped form who I am today and solidified my lifelong love of youth sports.
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