I remember once reading somewhere an article by someone in which the proposition was advanced that modern people of a certain age are less connected to their youthful selves than was formerly the case, because not only have they been changed by age but the pace of change has resulted in the disappearance of the world in which they were young. Their youth is gone, as is the world in which they were youthful, and these facts work together to leave them gray and heavyset and stranded on one side of a wide river that can't be forded, even in the mind. And this wasn't the case for an American reaching the age of, say, 60, in, say, 1840--the world in which this person was young was pretty much the same world 40 or more years later.
Maybe there's something to this, but my own experience causes me to be skeptical. We don't usually have what Minnesotans call "pop" in the house, but the other day at the grocery store I picked up some root beer, because I thought the kids might enjoy taking their nightly ice cream in the form of root beer floats on some of these summery nights. Then yesterday, to reward myself for having pedaled the stationary bike for 45 minutes, I made myself a root beer float and sat down to watch the NBA playoff game. When I tasted the root beer, I had a sudden and quite vivid memory of something that happened to me 46 years ago. I had just gotten done playing in a baseball game. My position was second base--this was the summer after eighth grade, I weighed perhaps 125 pounds, and that was the only position that I had the arm for. After home games, several of us rode our bikes to the A&W root beer stand that was a couple blocks from the ballpark, and, drinking root beer out of quart-sized milk cartons, we'd talk over what had happened. In this particular game, a key play had occurred in a late inning when the other team had runners on first and third base, and the runner on first broke with the pitch for second base. Of course this is a routine strategy in games being contested by kids who are just old enough to be playing on regulation-sized ball diamonds under the actual rules of baseball. The idea is that, with guys on base, especially one on third, good things are apt to happen for the batting team if the team in the field starts throwing the ball around. We were coached by older teens who played baseball for the high-school team and so had plays ourselves to defend against this common ploy. On this night, the play we had on called for me to run toward second base as if I was going to take the throw from the catcher, whose name was--is--Terry Kubalak, and try to tag out the runner attempting to steal; but then, when almost to the base, I would cut in a couple of steps toward the pitcher's mound and take Terry's throw in front of the bag. If the runner on third stayed put, fine, we'd concede second base to the stealing runner. If, however, the runner on third broke for home, I could relay the ball back to Terry without being at all impeded by the kid sliding into second. Well, on this night the kid on third broke for home, I caught Terry's throw in front of the base and threw it back to him, the kid was out at home, and we won the game by a run or two.
I probably would have forgotten about all of this but for Terry, at the A&W, telling me about the play from his perspective while I swilled root beer. "Geez, Eric," I remember him saying, "I didn't think your throw would ever get to me!" Yes, that would be because it was probably the farthest I had to throw the ball all season--a little farther than the distance from second base to first, when trying to complete a double play, and I had to "put a little air" under those throws. So you can imagine poor Terry, straddling home plate, listening to the footsteps of the runner coming home get louder and louder as my loopy throw arced lazily toward him. But it got there in time, he tagged the kid out, pretty much snuffing out their threat, and we won the game. All it took to bring it all happily back was the taste of root beer.
The above video is of Pete Rose crashing into Ray Fosse in a play that ended the 1970 All Star game. It's a famous play in baseball history, and the game I described would have been played in the summer of 1972, so it could have been something for Terry to contemplate as my throw hovered in the air.