Most of us have come to recognize that baseball isn’t just about the players. It’s also about us, our friendships and memories.
A little example: For several years, Esther Hankin and Jenny “Puddy” Berlovitz were always talking baseball, especially about their team, the Twins.
Ruth London, a longtime friend of Esther and Puddy, spent years being mystified by their love of the game.
“She’d tell us it’s just a stupid game,” Puddy recalled. “That didn’t stop us.”
All of these women had lives filled with grandchildren, hobbies, music and friends. None was more involved in all aspects of life than Ruth, who loved bridge and classical music.
“She didn’t want to miss out on anything,” said her daughter, MaryAnne London. “She always was pushing to be as active as possible.”
Sometime last year — during the 2009 baseball season — Ruth apparently made the decision to sit down and watch a few Twins baseball games in an effort to understand what Esther and Puddy always were talking about.
She got hooked.
“All of a sudden, we were getting calls from her,” Puddy said. “She’d wonder, ‘Who are the Twins playing tonight? What time’s the game?’ We were taken aback.”
But they welcomed her onto the team. There were nightly calls before games to remind each other that the team was playing and nightly post-game calls to discuss the outcomes. Puddy, Esther and Ruth, talking baseball and laughing.
On Sundays, MaryAnne would call her mom and asked if it would be all right if she stopped over for a visit.
“If she hesitated, I’d say, ‘There must be a Twins game on.’ ”
The two would laugh. The visit would be delayed.
In the last two months, Ruth’s health took a turn for the worse. She moved from her home to live with her daughter.
“When there was a game on,” MaryAnne said, “she put on her Twins cap and have the TV blasting.”
The mother and daughter would have a conversation that would go something like this:
Daughter: “Maybe you should try your hearing aids.”
Mom: “You don’t care at all about baseball, do you?”
Daughter: “Not really.”
They’d both shake their heads.
In fact, MaryAnne did come to appreciate baseball, not for the game, but for what it did for her mom.
“She enjoyed it so much,” she said. “It was something she could look forward to.”
Esther and Puddy knew that their friend’s health was slipping, but they also knew that there was a very good side of her moving in with MaryAnne.
“She told us that MaryAnne had one of those big flat screens and a real comfortable leather chair,” said Puddy.
Ruth wanted to see the new ballpark, but her fragile health made the idea of going when there was a crowd impossible. So friends set up a special tour of the park when the Twins were on the road.
She loved it, MaryAnne said. Ruth, wearing her Twins cap, was taken to the field for a special photograph.
Her health continued to slip. Last week, she died at the age of 91.
More than 100 people gathered for her graveside services Sunday. The traditional Jewish Mourner’s Kaddish was said.
There was a non-traditional point in the service, too, when the mourners burst out in song: “Take Me Out to the Ball Game.”
“It was a good way to go,” said Puddy.