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April 30, 2003

  [On October 9, 2000, the Call ran a piece by Dennis Lawlor titled "One Day in Section 24," describing a section of the bleachers at Candlestick where many kids from Hunters Point watched the ballgame. Here's a follow-up.]

It's Baseball Season Again

By Dennis Lawlor

This all-too-real conversation took place in May of last year.

Glen Park BART. I'm headed to Berkeley to visit a girlfriend. Buyin' a ticket when the kid walks up, shy but intent.

"Mister, I lost my ticket."

Where ya goin', son?"


How much is it?"

"How much ya got?"

It appears that the boy might cry, so I stop his fruitless search for pocket change.

"Hold on..."

I give him the five dollar ticket in my hand and put a ten in the slot. He looks at the ticket, then at me.

"Don't worry about it. Keep it."

"Thank you," he says in a barely audible whisper.

I arrive at the boarding deck and spot him again. He sees me and walks to where I'm standing as the Richmond train pulls in. We board the train together, and he sits down right next to me. It's not that crowded.

"You goin' to Richmond, too?" he asks me, smiling.

"No, just to Berkeley. What are you doin' over here, anyway?"

"I go to school at Roosevelt. Heard of it?"

"Course, dude. I was born here."

"Me, too!" he says, not realizing just how rare that is these days.

"I got something for you to read." I reach in my bag and hand him a copy of a story I had written about Candlestick Park and the local kids we'd take to the bleachers. He's instantly silent, immersed in the page. He digests the 1,200-plus words in a remarkably few minutes and then begins to ask me questions.

"You go to a lot of games?"

"Then I did."

"Do you know Hamburger Frank?"

I put down the newspaper and engage him. "No, who's Hamburger Frank?"

"My mom worked at Candlestick till they moved and Hamburger Frank used to work with her in the stand."

"Your mom sold food at The Stick?"

"Yeah. She works at the new park, too, but only part time."

"How come you don't live here in town?" Right away, I realize the sheer humanity this poster child represents and regret my wording. He is most unfazed.

"We used to live on Divisadero, but the new houses they built cost too much, so last year we had to move to Richmond."

Then it hits me: "You go to school at Roosevelt every day, from Richmond?"

"I take BART with my mom in the morning."

"Does she work in the city, too?"

"She got a job in an office, but she don't like it."

"With who?"

He shrugs.

I start lookin' at the paper again. "You know that the black population in the city has dropped from twelve to nine percent since Willie Brown was first elected?"

"You don't like Mayor Brown?"

As I plan a response suitable for younger ears, it occurs to me the youngster has uttered not a cuss word in my company, a surely commendable accomplishment in our modern society.

"That story you just read was kind of written for Mayor Brown."

"Why is that?" he asks.

"Well, at the time the new park was being built, I headed the local painters' union. The mayor had assured me that the kids we took to the games at The Stick would be considered when tickets became available. I'm still waiting. Unfortunately, so are they."

It gets real quiet, so I tell him about all the autographs I have.

Evidently, his mom had a little clout at The Stick. He runs off a list of current and former all-stars that dwarfs my own. I'm writing a note to his mom as he lists the names: That's one good kid you got there. You should be damn proud.

He catches me writing and asks, "Who's that for?

"Your mother. Make sure she gets this note and that story, all right? What's your name, son?"


"All right then, Robert, I'll be seein' you around!"

Young Robert looks both disappointed and happy as I exit the train. As it pulls away, I see him reading the story again, mouthing the words as he reads. I stand there, maybe thirty seconds, before realizing the train is long gone.

I feel no discernable emotion. Yet tears are somehow pouring down my face and onto my shirt. I catch a long escalator to the street level.

I get in the car and she asks me what's wrong.

"Hay fever," I tell her. "I'll be all right."

She just shrugs and starts the engine.