Somewhere, Babe Ruth Is Smiling

Somewhere, Babe Ruth Is Smiling

From Chicken Soup for the Grandparent's Soul

Somewhere, Babe Ruth Is Smiling

How old would you be if you didn’t know how old you were?

Satchel Paige

They were two chairs from Yankee Stadium, number fifteen and number twenty-two, and they sat in the basement of his grandparents’ home for years, unnoticed. Now and then, family members would come upon them and be told the story of how they were purchased. It seems when Yankee Stadium was rebuilt in the early seventies, thousands of these chairs were sold at a modest price. Fans sitting in number fifteen and number twenty-two watched the likes of Babe Ruth, Mickey Mantle and Lou Gehrig as they made baseball history. Perhaps one of them even caught a ball hit by one of the all-time baseball greats.

Someone approached my son-in-law about buying the chairs. A generous offer was made, and the family met in the basement to make a decision.

Grandson Ryan, a nine-year-old Little Leaguer just returning from a baseball game and wearing Lou Gehrig’s number four on his uniform, protested.

“I don’t believe you’re selling those chairs,” he said. “You can’t give them to someone else.” He approached his grandfather, the original owner of the chairs, with puzzled young eyes. “Why are you going to do that now?”

His parents, being much wiser about such things, explained that they could all make a healthy profit if they sold them. And now there was a buyer.

“You don’t understand,” Ryan was told as he persisted. Of course, the grown-ups understood better. They were older. They were wiser. And they were certainly more realistic about financial matters. Everyone would benefit from the money received.

The chairs were lifted from the dust and cobwebs that had gathered about them and placed in the center of the basement. They were chipped and worn. There were no fans sitting in them now, no cheers throughout the stadium surrounding them, no baseball greats to look down at with wonder. And yet they held a majesty that silenced even the adults for a few thoughtful moments.

The debate concentrated on whether to keep the chairs until they gathered more value or sell them now. But while the conversation continued, the Little Leaguer with the number four on his shirt sat down in seat number twenty-two. And while the family decided that it was the best thing that could have happened to them, and that the money sure would come in handy, and that a bird in the hand was worth two in the bush, while all of this was coming about in the basement, the Little Leaguer began to cry. He didn’t usually cry in front of an audience. It made everyone uncomfortable.

“I think we’d better go upstairs,” his father said. The discussion was over. The decision made. The chairs would be sold.

But his son didn’t move. It was as if Ryan were glued to the chair. “I can’t get up,” he said. It seemed he couldn’t, even if he tried.

It was his grandfather who approached the boy. “Would you explain to me why you are so upset?” he asked.

Grown-up words came from Ryan’s mouth when he spoke, as if they were delivered from somewhere else. “The people sitting in these seats got to see them all, the great ones, Gehrig and Mantle and Ruth. Right from this seat.” His young hands caressed the chair. “Sitting here, I know just what they felt like,” Ryan said. “What a great feeling.”

Of course, everyone knew the wise thing to do, and the realistic thing to do. And the prudent thing to do. But no one wanted to remove this young baseball player from his chair, especially his grandfather who remembered what it was like to be that young and in love with baseball.

It was Ryan’s chair now. Everybody in the basement realized it. And they finally understood what he was trying to tell them. There wasn’t enough money in the world to buy seat number twenty-two now that Ryan had found it, and there wasn’t enough money in the world to equal the look on Ryan’s face when he threw his arms around his grandfather to thank him.

That night a nine-year-old boy wearing a number four on his baseball shirt took home Yankee Stadium seat twenty-two.

And somewhere, Babe Ruth was smiling.

Harriet May Savitz

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