Woof! Woof! Woof!”
They started coming before 11, clogging the street and filling the parking lot, then streaming toward the stadium. Despite the early fall chill in the air, they came in summer clothes, T-shirts emblazoned with the Giants’ black and orange logo, caps covered in buttons. There were some with jackets, with the required emblems and colors of course, but mostly they came as if the sunlight wasn’t filtered through a high haze of fog.
I sat in my windowed office space and watched the parade stream past. The air conditioning was turned up too high for my taste and even in my turtleneck sweater I felt slightly chilled. A strange sort of homesickness settled on me, a longing for small English towns and a pub-lunch of soup and cider by the fireplace after a walk in the rain. My mind full of turning leaves and the scent of autumn, I watched summer incarnate walk by.
The final weeks of the season have arrived; playoffs are well underway. Even the part-time fans have become rabid supporters with the possibility that the local team may make the World Series.
Baseball, to me, and I’ll confess to knowing about 2% more than nothing about it, somehow seems synonymous with summer. “The boys of summer,” someone once labeled the players standing in the middle of a field of mown green grass and lazily shifting dust. Hot dogs, the summer food of fairs and carnivals, are handily available at the games. And when else is there a time for dusty backyard games, with the dog playing catcher, than the summertime.
So baseball in the fall is backwards looking. I’m ready for autumn, for warm drinks and cozy sweaters, and all the people streaming by my windows, in their short-sleeved shirts and logo’d caps, are mourning the passing of a season. It seems a desperate, clinging reach for the ease of vacation, the bliss of grass under bare feet, the simplicity of ice cream dripping from the bottom of the cone. Going to the playoffs, and maybe the World Series, means you can hang on to those long, lazy, golden afternoons just a little longer, pretend that summer vacation isn’t over, that the gray of winter isn’t making its entrance.
By one o’clock, the crowds outside had thinned, and, shortly after, a roar erupted from the stadium as the game began. The voices of so many crowded together merged into something distinctly other sounding. It’s an inhuman roar, sounding more of water falling from a great height or wind in the palm trees, not thousands of screaming fans. I imagined the stadium as a place of transformation; if I were to glance inside, I would not find people there.
Three and one-half hours later, the deed was done, the home team victorious, and the parade resumed, retracing its steps. The fans spilled from the gates, flooding through the parking lot, their hands filled with souvenirs free and purchased, reliving the highlights. The conversations were animated, joyful, and in the secret language of baseball fans, a code of names and statistics and abbreviations.
I pulled my cloak up close around me in the chill of the evening and the fog offshore. They may keep the barking dogs of the ninth inning soundtrack, the smell of hotdogs and beer, the dying season. I’m going home to a bowl of soup and fresh bread, to a cozy corner to watch the rain streak the windows.