Mantle, Maris, Matty, and Me
It was the summer of ’61, the summer of the New York Yankees, the summer of Mickey Mantle and Roger Maris, the summer when fans booed at their heroes, the summer filled with stuff that legends are made of. The summer of Matty and me.
At the foot of the scaly iron staircase leading down from the Bronx El station at Yankee Stadium, a Puerto Rican boy about ten years old held out a carton of kittens toward us as we descended.
Lady, want a kitten? he asked.
Matty rolled his eyes. My previous pets had been a goldfish won at a Brooklyn street fair by a boy who liked me in high school, and a screechy voiced blue parakeet that sang only when my mother washed the dishes (fish and bird both deceased). Still, rebelling against every scene I could imagine of my mother’s self-same screechy voice and frothy scorn, I lifted a tiny gray fuzzball from a corner of the carton and cradled it under my chin and against my neck.
What are you going to do with it at the ballgame? Matty asked.
I don’t know. Get it some milk?