With the opening of exhibition baseball this past week, it really brought back memories of years gone by when I was just a kid.
Growing up in Steubenville, Ohio in the late 1950s and early 60s, there were cigar stores on every corner. For those of you not familiar with cigar stores, they sold cigs, cigars, candy and such at the front counter. In the back, you bet just about anything that was going on.
In those days everyone in the "Ville" bet, including law enforcement. Gambling was a way of life and just kept the economy going. Being a mill city there wasn’t much to do except drink, have babies, go to church and gamble.
I knew how to play a baseball parlay before I was 13. Sundays after mass my father would walk my brother and I down to Tommy’s Lounge (his lucky joint). My dad would bet a baseball parlay, have a ham "sangwich" and watch the ticker. In the back of the lounge there was this big box of sangwiches just sitting there for the taking.
I just thought this was great. Then we would sit there and watch the ticker along with all the old timers. In those days these guys could just listen to the ticks on the bubble gum ticker. They could tell if someone scored, got a homer or showed that the inning was over.
What amazes me to this day is how these guys lived to be as old as they were. Each one had a cigarette or one of those little black Perodi cigars sticking out of their mouths, and they ate anything and everything. They didn’t worry about any hospitalization because they never went to the doctor or the hospital. They only had one stop when they got sick and that was the cemetery. My grandfather before he went to bed would eat watermelon with bread and butter on the side and he lived well into his 80’s.
Well times, food and habits have changed. The only thing those guys had to worry about was hitting a three-teamer. What was really great in those days was that everyone knew who was on his team each year. Now we don’t know who is on our favorite team on a weekly basis.
Baseball was great back then and will never be the same. I guess nothing will ever be the same, but I learned a lot just thinking back. I’m going to light one up, have a cocktail, eat a big bowl of pasta with peas, and root my three-teamer in.