Power of the Baseball Cap

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I wore my vintage 1977 gold “pillbox” Pittsburgh Pirates cap to a high school baseball game tonight. I love that cap; it represents an era, the late 1970s Pirates. They mixed and matched colors and caps and uniforms. No matter what they wore, they won. From 1975 to 1979, their win totals were 92, 92, 96, 88, 98. And in that last season, 1979, they won the World Series. I never really saw them play, mind you, but I loved how the team fit statistically, from the box scores and my baseball cards: Dave Parker, the slugger; Omar Moreno, the light-hitting speedster; Willie Stargell, the senior captain; Kent Tekulve, the sidearm relief ace.

Anyway, so here I was at the high school game — we’re friends with one of the players, a sophomore starting shortstop, It was a tough go for the Local Nine, who just can’t get key hits lately, to the tune of a 2-0 loss. BUT my geeky-looking authentic Pirates cap got the attention of the assistant coach, to the tune of this conversation:

Coach: “Hey, nice Pirates cap!”

Me: “Thanks! 1977!”

Coach: “Kent Tekulve!”

Me, nodding: “Kent Tekulve!”

Though they don’t happen often, these are the kinds of conversations my cap generates, between knowing fans. The best one was at Fenway Park about three years ago. Wearing my Pirates cap, I was on the concourse between innings and some guy, probably around my age, yells out …

Him: “Hey, 1977 Pirates!”

Me: “You know it! Kent Tekulve!”

Him: “Willie Stargell!”

Me: “Dave Parker!”

(His eyebrows raise, the game is on; he speaks slower, and with more importance)

Him: “John Candelaria!”

Me, even slower, pronouncing each syllable carefully: “O-mar Mor-e-no!”

He nods and smiles. I nod and smile. And we moved on, two strangers having shared a pure, unscripted moment for a few seconds in the hallways of fabled Fenway. It remains a cherished conversation, one that required hardly a verb and nary an adjective but overflowed with meaning and memory, sparked by the sight of an ungainly gold pillbox baseball cap.

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