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The Day I Grew Up

By Ben Pilla

No, it wasn’t learning about the “Birds and the Bees;” that was a few years before this story.

Here I was, a young sheltered teen from a middle-class family who attended parochial school and knew nothing about the worldly things of life, but I was to quickly find out.

One day, my cousin Lew’s  father told us he had arranged for us to meet the New York Yankees in person.

Imagine that. Young boys from modest homes in Philadelphia could actually meet the World Series Champions – The  New York Yankees in person.

Lew’s father worked in a fine hotel where the Yankees were staying overnight after they’d played the Philadelphia A’s (No longer there, moved to K.C. and now, to Oakland.)

After hearing the news, the first thing I did was buy an autograph book. I went to Kresge’s 5 & 10, a small store that later became Kmart.

The special day arrived. Lew and I went into center city to that fancy hotel  where we were to meet the Yankees.

We waited in a small room, chatted and played cards to pass the time until the game was over.

It seemed like hours until my uncle arrived and told us, “Sorry boys, but you won’t be meeting the team.”

The Yankees beat the home town Philadelphia A’s and were at a bar celebrating! 

I couldn’t believe it. How could this be? My heroes Mickey Mantle and Yogi Berra drinking, and not drinking milk or soda.

What about eating Wheaties, “the Breakfast of Champions?”  I was crushed.

Sadly, we went home with a lesson learned. People were not always who they appeared to be, especially in the newspaper or magazines. 

Edgar Allan Poe wrote, “Believe one-half of what you see and nothing of what you hear.” This is the day that I became the cynic I am today.

7 thoughts on “The Day I Grew Up”

  1. Linda Lee Keenan

    I’m crushed. I was excited to read about two boys meeting the Yankee’s. I felt your disappointment. I enjoyed learning a couple of things I did not know: Kresge’s became Kmart and the Philadelphia A’s moved to K.C. then Oakland. But what I really liked was the blasts from the past . . . remembering going to Kresge’s with babysitting earnings and eating the breakfast of champs and feeling strong and positive. Thanks for sharing!

    1. Glad you liked the “Blast from the Past” Linda Lee.
      One of the reasons I enjoy reading articles from HallardPress is I always learn something new even in my old age.

  2. I was disappointed by the item from Ben Pilla. Like him, I grew up in a modest, suburban neighborhood in the 1950s and ’60s and idolized the New York Yankees. My heroes were Mickey Mantle — of course (his number 7 became, and probably remains, my “favorite” number) — and his Yankee teammates: Yogi, Tony Kubek, Bobby Richardson, Clete Boyer, Hank Bauer, Roger Maris, Hector Lopez, and so many others. And, also like him, I came to understand as I grew up that my idolatry of baseball players, like idolatry of all kinds, is a common if not in many ways a universal human characteristic.

    I was at Yankee Stadium for Yogi Berra Day in 1959, and stood for an hour or more near the players parking lot — accessible then but of course not now — to wait for Mickey and Yogi to emerge from the stadium and to wave to them and cheer them. They came out, smiled weakly but otherwise paid no attention to the adoring crowd, and drove off. My disappointment at their seeming indifference to their fans was for me a small and subtle recognition that perhaps my youthful idolatry was misplaced.

    Idolatry — of sports heroes, political and religious leaders, and even of our own parents — is a phase we all go through, but growing through it and emerging from it with the recognition that our idols are, like we ourselves, flawed is a sign of maturity, not an excuse for cynicism. I forgave Mickey and Yogi, and I celebrated their later successes and mourned their on-field disappointments, but my experience that day in 1959 was a step in the process of growing up, of maturing, of seeing the world as it is, and of understanding and accepting that world. Specifically, I realized and over time understood that the inclination to hero-worship and idolatry resided entirely in me and had little to do with those whom I idolized.

    Considering the challenges we Americans face today, it would be well if my fellow citizens came to that same recognition and understanding.

    1. Sorry you were disappointed in my short story Paul. Maybe the word I used CYNIC was a bit strong, and unlike Diogenes the true cynic,
      I should have said I became a little cynical. I never Idolized anyone. Idolatry is also a strong word and against religious beliefs.
      Yes we mature and find out our parents didn’t know as much as we thought they did when we were children, but we also learn
      (sometimes the hard way) that they knew what they were talking about.

  3. Manijeh Badiozamani

    Good story. Liked Poe’s quotation at the end which reminded me of the advice I received from a relative when I was younger. She said, “Don’t even trust the pupil of your own eyes!”

    1. Glad you liked my story Manijeh, and thank you for adding the quote from your relative. That’s one I hadn’t heard.

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