by Susan M. Schultz
When I moved to Hawai`i in 1990 to take my job at the University, I told everyone I was a huge baseball fan. “Oh, you love the Mets!” they’d say. (I detested the Mets!) Sid Fernandez played for the Mets, and he was local. Everyone loved El Sid.
I remembered seeing Fernandez pitch for the Mets in the 1986 World Series, and perhaps in an All-Star game or two. He was a large man on the mound, a lefty; he delivered the ball from the side. When I was in graduate school in the ’80s, I’d watched him pitch in a dingy Charlottesville restaurant on a grainy projection TV.
It turns out the restaurant I frequented was The Garrett. I know that now because I asked my 1980s Charlottesville friends on Facebook; only one of them remembered. During the seventh game of the 1985 World Series, I’d sat alone at a round table, watching my Cardinals fall apart against the Kansas City Royals. I couldn’t bring myself to leave. Late in that awful evening, a waiter brought me a free beer, which I suspect I cried in. They knew me well at the Garrett.
Late in that awful evening, a waiter brought me a free beer, which I suspect I cried in.
The next year I watched the World Series between the Mets and Red Sox, much of it, at the Garrett. Game 6: I sat at a round table near a fellow grad student named John Lynch. Red Sox fan, as befit his Irish name. John Lynch would remember the name of the restaurant; he was one of those people with a photographic memory. He remembered everything. When Buckner made his error, John fell to his knees and screamed. I think I remember that.
I may have watched Game 7, but don’t remember. The box score tells me that Ron Darling started for the Mets (he was born in Honolulu in 1960) and that Sid Fernandez (Honolulu, 1962) came in for 2.1 innings thereafter, mowing down the Sox. I watched his pitches this morning on my computer. Good fastball, better change up. The combination was unhittable.
And then I got my teaching job in Honolulu. In the early days of tape delays, I’d sometimes listen to World Series games on the radio and then watch them in the evening on television. At least I did that during the wonderful 1991 Braves / Twins series, learning to appreciate seeing happen what I already knew had happened. (And yes, I also worked hard at my job, though writing this reminds me how much time I’ve devoted to baseball over the decades.)
Sid Fernandez left the Mets in the early ’90s, pitched for a couple other teams, then retired. I remembered him mostly as the annoying guy that made Hawai`i love the Mets. I got married, adopted a couple kids, kept teaching poetry, kept watching baseball games. When the 2000s came around, the Cardinals got really good again, and my son, Sangha, became a fierce Cards fan, as did my husband (though his fandom was more performative and had more to do with beer and conversation, I’m afraid, than with the sport itself). When Sangha was in high school we made a couple trips to the Midwest, in large part to visit family in Chicago, but also to take in Cards’ games in St. Louis. We took (faux) ti leaves and wore lei. During a game when Kolten Wong hit two homers (2015?), an entire section of the stadium asked to share our ti leaves, they so clearly made good things happen. Our cultural work was done.
My son went to Assets School in Honolulu. Early in high school, he told me that his classmate Canaan’s dad had played in the majors. I regarded this with the skepticism I had when a woman told me that her grandfather wrote poetry. “Oh everyone’s grandfather writes poetry,” I’d thought, until she said his name. Basil Bunting. So I assumed this dad was some journeyman no one had heard of. Until Sangha showed me the picture of his friend’s dad. Sid Fernandez. Sid Fernandez!!
I saw a tall, heavy-set man surrounded by his family near the front door. I walked over, introduced myself, and blurted out, ‘I hated your team.
One week during my son’s junior year of high school I taught creative writing at Assets. The next week I told my creative writing students at UH what I’d been up to. “My brother goes to Assets,” said Dominique, who sat to my right and wore black clothing. An alarm went off in my head. Her last name was Fernandez.
The school had an art show a few months later, held oddly in a Honolulu whiskey bar. The brick walls were perfect for the art, even if the kids couldn’t drink. I was near the back talking to a fellow parent when someone said, “there’s Sid.” I saw a tall, heavy-set man surrounded by his family near the front door. I walked over, introduced myself, and blurted out, “I hated your team.” Pretty sure I’d already told Dominique that in class. Then I prattled on about the Cards and his kids. Sid turns out to be a man of very few words. So I ended up talking to his wife. She “took it well,” as my mother once said of Pope Pius, whose hand she shook, instead of kissing the papal ring.
When my son graduated from high school, everyone gathered outdoors, festooned with balloons and lei. I spotted Dominique, who waved. We talked; she was thinking of law school, and I said I’d write her a letter (which somehow never happened). She gestured toward her dad, but he was standing stock still, somewhere more in his mind than at graduation. I congratulated his son, said good-bye to his daughter, and went back to Sangha.
Early in the pandemic, Sangha and I watched Game 6 together. The best game in World Series history. Seems like a long time ago, 2011. I bought a line-up card done in pencil by David Freese for charity, but I’ve never met him.
SUSAN M. SCHULTZ has lived in Hawai`i since 1990. Her books of prose poetry include I Want to Write an Honest Sentence (Talisman House, Publishers), several volumes of Memory Cards, and two volumes of Dementia Blog (Singing Horse Press). She’s been a Cardinals fan since 1967, when she was a child living in northern Virginia.