Nadworny: The Moon and Baseball

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(HOST) As we mark the 40th anniversary of man landing on the moon, commentator Rich Nadworny offers his own reflections on the significance of that event.

(NADWORNY)  So here we are, looking back 40 years to celebrate the anniversary of Apollo 11 and Neil Armstrong’s giant leap for mankind.

It’s one of those dates where those of us who were around then automatically think back to where we were when the moonwalk happened. I know where I was: Camp Lown in Oakland Maine sound asleep in my bunk.

In the afternoon, they had let us all crowd into the camp directors cottage to watch the lunar landing.

By the time Neil Armstrong stepped out of the lunar module, I had already gone back to my cabin with the other young campers and was fast asleep, so I missed the momentous occasion.

Compare that with my father and brothers: They had spent the day in Jarry Park watching a twi-night double header between the Montreal Expos and the New York Mets. They raced back from Montreal and got home just in time to see man walk on the moon for the first time. My mom could never understand why I didn’t want to go away to summer camp, but I just knew that as soon as they packed me off, all the fun would start at home.

It was a let down to miss it – but fitting somehow. Like most kids growing up in the sixties, I had been weaned on the space program. I remember seeing the Gemini lift offs and splash landings on our black and white TV in our den, building tall rockets out of blocks as I watched. Every space shot was one step on our trip to the moon, to try out and test new things.

When the moonwalk came, it felt as if that were the end. There wasn’t anything left to do on the checklist..

And, to be honest, Apollo 11 wasn’t even my favorite space shot. I was actually a big Apollo 8 fan. I don’t know if it was because that was the first time we had gone to the moon and back, or whether it was those great pictures in Life magazine. But I do know that Jim Lovell became my favorite astronaut and I remember how disappointed I was when NASA didn’t choose him to be the first man to walk on the moon.

Something else happened on that historic date. After that Mets Expos double header, my dad, brothers and I started rooting for the Mets. For the rest of that summer, we listened on my brothers’ short wave radio as the Mets made an amazing pennant run. I remember racing home from school in early October to see Cleon Jones catch the last out of the World Series, watching in the same den and on the same TV where I had watched all of those Gemini flights.

July 20, 1969 might have marked the end of my boyhood passion of NASA and space flight but it also signaled the beginning something else. My life long love of baseball.

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