I wasn’t so sure about Mr. Davlin at first, but then in one fell swoop, he had me for eternity.
I owe him a thank you, wherever he is. I pray he’s still with us. He should be; he wasn’t all that old when he taught me in fourth grade, but then again, who knows what teaching those little rascals will do to your health. Besides, I’m no spring chicken myself anymore.
He seemed kind of off-putting at first, but then one October afternoon, he pulled a move that was brilliant in its simplicity – slaying all my dragons instantly.
The Tigers were engaged with the Oakland A’s in the American League Championship Series, a.k.a. the ALCS. It was 1972, just weeks before Richard Nixon was to make mincemeat of George McGovern. Some simple Internet research tells me that the day I became a fan of Ronald Davlin for life was a Thursday – October 12 to be exact.
That was the day that one of the a/v geeks invaded our classroom, rolling in a large television set, on one of those tall, black, industrial-strength carts. It didn’t take me long to put 2 and 2 together.
“My goodness, Mr. Davlin is going to let us watch the Tigers game,” I thought. Or something like that.
Indeed he was.
On came the TV – color, no less – and there were the Tigers, in their creamy white uniforms, taking on the bad guys in their garish Kelly green and yellow monstrosities, duking it out at Tiger Stadium.
This was no ordinary game. It was the deciding Game 5 of the ALCS. The A’s took the first two contests in Oakland, but then the Tigers stormed back, winning Games 3 and 4 in Detroit. Now it was for all the marbles – to play for the right to represent the American League in the World Series, against the Cincinnati Reds.
I don’t think the girls much cared, and maybe not all of the boys, but I was transfixed. It didn’t take much to quiet me down in those days – just something on the tube involving a ball or a puck. If you bump into my mother in Livonia, she’ll tell you.
School let out before the game ended. I hurried home – we lived across the street from Grant Elementary – knowing the Tigers were trailing, 2-1, in the late innings. I remember tossing my books aside and kicking off my shoes and rushing downstairs to turn on the game. I think it was already on. There was a shot of the Tigers dugout, and the looks on the players’ faces weren’t encouraging. The crowd was quiet. It was the ninth inning, and even though the Tigers only needed one run to tie, there was a sense of foreboding.
The A’s held on. There would be no World Series for the Tigers. I might have cried. Maybe.
But it was hardly Mr. Davlin’s fault that his great public relations move turned sour as the afternoon wore on, the Tigers oh-so-close to victory. All is forgiven if you let the kids watch baseball during school hours. That’s one of my rules, unwritten until now.
The comedian/actor Billy Crystal once told of his clandestine autumns while a student in New York’s grammar schools. The Yankees were appearing in one of their many World Series. And young Crystal started making inordinately frequent trips to the bathroom. It didn’t take long for his teacher to figure out Billy’s motives.
“Mr. Crystal,” the teacher finally said, “if you’re going to duck out to check the score of the Yankees’ game, the least you can do is tell the rest of the class who’s winning.”
No need for sneaking out nowadays. No necessity that an a/v geek visit the classroom, rolling in a TV the size of Rhode Island.
They don’t play baseball post-season games in the daytime anymore. Haven’t for years. The closest they’ll come is an occasional 4:35 p.m. start in the AL or NLCS – some two hours after school lets out. Even the working stiffs are about to pack up and go home at that hour.
I recall how much of a novelty the first nighttime World Series game was, in 1971 between Baltimore and Pittsburgh. Isn’t that cute, everyone said. A World Series game at night! As if THAT will ever catch on!
Sadly, it did. Money talks, you know.
Still, I wish Bud Selig’s people at the MLB offices would toss us a bone, and schedule at least one World Series game on a weekday afternoon. For old time’s sake. You wouldn’t even have to roll carts down the halls; the schools have those fancy-shmancy monitors in their classrooms that can have just about anything pumped into them. A push of a button is probably all it would take to beam the game into every classroom in the entire school. And to hell with anyone who doesn’t care to watch the game. Who needs them, anyway? Let them brush their hair or do a crossword puzzle. I have no patience for those types, truth be told.
Not only are today’s World Series games not played during the afternoon, they’re barely played before midnight. Network TV has this fetish of wanting the games – and they’re every bit of three hours long, if not more – to end near the witching hour, for whatever reason. You certainly don’t have to worry about the kids sneaking out of class to check the score, and you really don’t even have to worry that they’ll be awake at all when the games are being played. Since when did baseball become R-rated?
So thank you, Mr. Davlin, 36 years too late. And God bless those a/v geeks, too.
TV giveth, and TV taketh away.