When Dad and his buds took me to my first Albany Senators baseball game not long after he came back from the war I must have been about 5, and still couldn’t crack open a peanut by myself, so I and my paper bag of peanuts probably drove Dad and his buds crazy helping me open them just as their guy hit a double or something. I remember there was one player on the Senators who had only his right arm; the other he had lost in the war. He could still hit the ball a good distance, though.
The baseball game was interesting, I guess, but the stadium was even moreso; I’d never seen anything like it, and wandered around, looking. I didn’t know much about baseball in those days, since I’d been living with Mom and aunts for the duration of the war (which at that point had been half my life), so there was no baseball or talk of baseball. The men were all off in the war or working overtime, so my wartime neighborhood was mostly populated by little kids and moms, grandmas and aunts with their hands way full.
But the postwar stadium on that sweltering summer day was filled with guys, most of them not long back from the slaughter, savoring survival and yearning for a real down-home ballgame, drinking beer out of paper cups and yelling for the Albany Senators. Not knowing a Senator from a congressman, I took my peanuts and wandered down to the infield screen for a closer look, stared at the action awhile, trying to figure out exactly what was so exciting as to cause all these grown men to yell like that and curse the umpires so bitterly. (I learned most of my impressive battery of umpire curses that day.)
Finally I gave up trying to figure it all out right then and there, turned from the screen and found myself face to face with a strange man sitting there in a front row seat right behind the plate, wearing a suit and tie in that heat, with a high forehead, an unusual hair arrangement at the top of it and an unbecoming mustache, all in a combination I’d never seen before, so I stared kind of hard at him.
He smiled in reply, revealing a slightly gap-toothed situation there, reached out a hand and patted me on the head. Everyone for some distance around chuckled with appreciation. All very odd. I ran back to Dad and his buds. Why is everybody laughing, I asked. That was Governor Dewey just patted you on the head. Governor? Dewey? Neither meant anything at all to me, and no grownup explanation seemed to help. All I could do was put that in my wonder basket, along with baseball games and peanut shells.
Then one day, by the time I could crack open peanuts and was playing baseball, I saw Grandpa Brady wearing a Dewey button in his lapel, must’ve been just before the Truman-Dewey election of 1948. Dewey was a shoo-in everyone said, and carried New York, but famously lost the election, though he did beat Thurmond. Still, Dewey did do one thing memorable to me, aside from patting me on the head at the ball game (thereby augmenting his portion of the heavily Democratic Albany vote): he pushed through the legislation that some years later enabled us kids to enjoy Pipe City for just one summer day. Of which more later, when it gets written.