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Baseball Is Forever for Historian Doris Kearns Goodwin

The stadium may look empty, but it's full of memories

doris kearns goodwin sits in the stands of an empty baseball stadium holding a bag of peanuts

Sasha Israel

Pulitzer Prize–winning historian Doris Kearns Goodwin, 77, wrote about her baseball-loving childhood in “Wait Till Next Year.”

My father followed the Brooklyn Dodgers with an absolute passion. He taught me how to keep score when I was 6 so I could listen to the game in the afternoon and recount every play for him when he got home from work. That was a special time between me and my father, and I became as much of an irrational Brooklyn Dodgers fan as he was. I think it's what made me a historian — my father listened with such rapt attention that I thought there must be something magical about storytelling. I learned the narrative art from those nightly sessions. At first I'd blurt out, “The Dodgers won!” or “The Dodgers lost!” But that took away much of the drama from my retelling. I learned you have to tell a story from beginning to middle to end — and it's OK to take your time.

When the Dodgers abandoned us and moved to Los Angeles, in 1958, I gave up baseball for a while. Then, in the 1960s, while I was at Harvard, my boyfriend took me to Fenway Park to see the Red Sox. The warmth of Fenway reminded me of Ebbets Field, and there was an eerie similarity between the two teams. They would be close to winning, yet always seemed to lose at the last minute.

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family photo taken at a baseball stadium up close of two small children and their grandmother

Courtesy Doris Kearns Goodwin

Goodwin at Fenway Park with granddaughters Lena, left, and Willa, center.

Later, my husband, Richard, and our kids became totally involved with the Red Sox. We have had season tickets for more than 40 years. Sharing a love of baseball has been a huge part of our lives — and a bond with other fans throughout our community.

When you're young you care a lot about wins and losses. The older you get, the more you appreciate the moments — moments in the game and moments with your family at the ballpark, moments when everything seems good. Those are the times you have to truly absorb and be grateful for, because things change. There will always be ups and downs, and life will take its toll.

With the spread of the coronavirus, our community has been upended. The start of the baseball season has been postponed, and life has been disrupted. But if we tell the stories of how we got through prior crises, we can find solace and perspective.

I will always be grateful for these curious loves of history and baseball. My kids never had a chance to meet their grandfather. My husband died just two years ago. But now when my children and grandchildren are together at a game, the family members we have loved and lost live on through the memories we share and the stories we will continue to tell.

— As told to Tara McClellan McAndrew

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