Easter meant Koufax, Clemente

Apr 3, 2007 2:06 AM

All I can say about the NCAA championship game was that I had Ohio State +5 against Florida and was locked up at home rooting for the Buckeyes.

Major league baseball began Sunday night with the Mets hammering the World champion Cardinals 6-1. Seeing the Cards brought back many wonderful memories of spring and my days growing up back in Steubenville, Ohio.

Easter is this Sunday. As a kid, that meant a lot more than putting on a suit and tie to attend 9 a.m. mass at St. Peter’s with the entire family. My dad Broadway Bennie would even make his Easter duty and once a year confession before we headed downtown. We would usually hit Tommys Lounge or the Smoke House and put in a few bets for the games that day.

One Easter, Bennie was working in the Pittsburgh area as head chief for a Lebanese dinner club called the Colonial Manner. He would stay there most of the week and come home on Sunday. In those days most of the people performing at the clubs in Pittsburgh would usually head Sundays for Columbus and some would even make a stop in the "Ville."

The legendary Danny Thomas happened to be performing at the Colonial Manner at the time and got along real good with Bennie. That one Easter Sunday, my brother Tom and I woke up to a very nice surprise. Danny had brought us two beautiful live bunny rabbits. My mother Mary was not very happy, but we did get to keep them.

If you’re not from back East, everyone had a basement. Down there was the furnace and it would get mighty hot down there. That’s where the little rabbits went and, after several months, grew to an enormous size. We moved them to our backyard and put a little wire fence around the grapevine area where they stayed.

I know that they got as big as a medium size dog, but I just can’t remember what happened to them. Isn’t it amazing how a little memory like that can bring you back to times when life was so much slower. Sitting at home watching that first baseball game really made me think about how much we take for granted.

It was rare when I was growing up that we would see a baseball game on the tube. That was good because we got to go to Forbes Field and watch the game in person and the price was right. Four people could go and have a great time for around $10. I received some tickets for last Saturday’s exhibition game in Vegas and they were $100 apiece. No lie!

Going to the games were wonderful, especially having the chance to see greats like Roberto Clemente and my favorite pitcher of all time Sandy Koufax. Did you know that in Koufax’s last four seasons, he threw a no hitter each year? Sandy won 3 Cy Youngs, an MVP and never exceeded an ERA of 2.04. Koufax struck out 1228 hitters in 1192 innings and retired at the ripe age of 30.

In his illustrious career, only Clemente batted over .300 against him. Yeah, it was great going to the games, hearing the crack of the bat and inhaling all those wonderful smells. Now there are games on all the time and I rarely watch one. I do have cable with around 2000 channels that cost me around $70 dollars a month.

I only watch around 3 of them and my package includes about 20 Spanish speaking channels. I guess you need it, even if you don’t speak or understand Spanish. I do speak a little Italian, but there are no Italian stations in my package.

When I was growing up, we had three stations on the TV. They were free and there was always something to watch. The Lone Ranger, Cisco Kid, Paladin, Ed Sullivan and baseball, on a rare occasion. The entire family would gather around the tube and root for the Buccos!

Yes, Easter is Sunday. There is spring in the air, the birds are chirping. Time to play ball!