Grading Eggs with the Red Sox
Spending Time with Dad
My dad, age 95 last summer, was in mourning for his team, the Boston Red Sox. After all they did for Manny Ramirez, after the good years together, Manny should have treated the team better. Dad himself has treated the Red Sox with the utmost respect, cheering faithfully for almost a century from his armchair and in the thick of farm chores accompanied by the radio. Cheering for his team to win a World Series.
With thousands of hens laying eggs in two henhouses, each house one hundred feet long and three stories high, Dad had to prepare about a dozen baskets of eggs each day for shipping. He loved my company and I was a real help. Plus, we had the Red Sox. I’m sure he decided when to grade eggs by when the game came on.
To grade the eggs, Dad first had to lift a basket of eggs from the floor of the cooler to the bench. He then picked up each egg, cleaned any sawdust off it and held it to the light to make sure it was good. If another egg had broken in the nest, there might be egg yoke dried on this one. He sanded the dried yolk off with a small piece of sandpaper which stayed in his palm by virtue of an elastic band that stretched across the backs of his fingers across the joints and gold-red hairs.
Dad switched the egg grader on and placed the eggs one at a time on a slant composed of two metal rubber-covered edges. The eggs rolled down the gentle foot long incline. At the bottom a moving part also made of two rubbered edges lifted the eggs up and over to the left, setting each one down onto a weighted tripper. If the egg was extra large, it tripped the weight and rolled into the first tray. All smaller eggs stayed on the tripper and were picked up with next lift of the conveyer. If a couple of eggs were smallish, there could be three or four moving at once from tripper to tripper until each was heavy enough to tip the weight. Then it rolled down into the medium tray or the peewee tray. I suppose even today in factory egg sorting rooms the machinery must work on a similar principle.
By now the game would be in full swing and Dad would tell me just how Lou Boudreau should coach. He’d brought Jimmy Piersall back too soon after injury or he should fine Jimmy for throwing his cap at him—which I think he did. Dad and Boudreau often agreed. Dad said he should keep Ted Williams in cleanup position and Boudreau did. Later he said it was time to put Frank Malzone fourth in the lineup. When Boudreau did just that, Dad was satisfied he had influence. Between innings he’d explain the plays to me. By the time I was twelve I knew the lineup and their batting averages. I also knew a wonderful father who could get excited about hiking up Mt.Katahdin, about getting the hay in before a storm, and about baseball. I knew that life was good, that there was much happening of interest, that I could learn, that I could care, that I was beloved.
All this made me very willing to do chores. My work was to place the clean and size-sorted eggs from the trays into the correct shipping boxes where paper-mache flats, pressed into egg shaped forms just like the smaller cartons with which we are all familiar, could hold thirty-six eggs a layer. I’d fill six layers. When one end of the box was full, I’d turn it around and fill the other end, layer on layer. I’d write a tag with date and egg size. Dad would put the full egg box into the cooler where he stacked it to wait for the market truck. In those days our eggs went to a hatchery in New Jersey. The chicks would become broilers. That’s why we had to keep roosters with the hens—so the eggs would be fertile.
I didn’t like roosters very much. They had opinions. (Just whose hens were these, anyway?) Sometimes they got mean and tackled us kids. Growing taller helped. The hens also had their point of view, as we found out when we reached under a hen to take out the eggs—and got soundly pecked. The wonder is that many hens were quite docile and let us take the eggs without retribution. I gathered eggs into a wire basket, held in the crook of my arm, and brought the full baskets out to the platform elevator to be brought down to the egg room. Gathering eggs was not my favorite chore. No radio, no Red Sox.
I married a man who collected baseball cards and baseball facts. Don loves the game as much as my dad. We raised our kids on baseball. For example, they were allowed six hours of TV a week. But baseball didn’t count. We’d turn the game on, make the popcorn, and go off the clock. They could watch as much baseball as they wished. Watching baseball inspired doing baseball. After a game they ran for their gloves and pulled their father to the park. Later they played in Little League.
Sometimes we took them to see major league games. They remember the Mets game in which Dwight Gooden hit a home run and lost his no hitter. Apparently the home run broke his concentration. Our kids were present in Yankee Stadium the day a fan grabbed Red Sox player Jim Rice’s cap. Rice went into the stands to get his cap back—followed by the entire team! The fan gave the cap back. The players went back onto the field, riot averted. But for a few tense moments it looked--interesting.
Among Don’s baseball trivia is the story of an early player, Germany Schaefer, who stole second base in an attempt to attract a throw and allow the player on third to steal home. When that didn’t work, Schaefer stole first so he could try the ploy again! Schaefer had a reputation for being a clown and also for playing serious baseball. Sometime later, a rule was made against the reverse steal, purportedly because of Schaefer’s stunt.
I had a cousin who loved baseball and could talk about nothing and no one except Jimmy Piersall, her personal favorite among the Rex Sox. Piersall was a center fielder and could be quite funny with some of his antics—when he wasn’t getting mad. My uncle and my dad decided to treat us to a real live Red Sox game. I remember riding down the new interstate out of Maine, parking somewhere north of Boston and taking the “el” or elevated train into Boston, how it traveled high above the streets beside third floor apartments and suddenly went underground, coming out near Fenway Park, how on my birthday we sat high above the sunny field watching, watching, watching the plays I had only ever heard described on the radio! After that day I was always able to see the games better when I heard them from the radio announcer.
Spending time with Dad in the egg room after school or in the evening was a pleasure. We were a team. When it came to the Red Sox we were co-conspirators, pitching with the pitcher, batting with the batter, managing with the manager. We talked strategy. Dad took me into his confidence, shared his passion. We discussed the weight of the baseball, the composition of the bats, the distance between bases, all the factors that kept the game in balance so that there could be a game. He gave me a deep understanding of and appreciation for the game of baseball, and, by example, the game of life.
Moving around in the northeast, I have sometimes cheered other teams—Yankees, Mets, and any team having a good season. I have admired many players. But when I go home and find Dad in his easy chair, the National Anthem playing, the starting signal to “Play ball!,” there is only one team to root for and we all help, cheering with Dad for the team that finally vindicated him for his years of faithful encouragement and won the World Series, twice!! Back when Manny still wanted to help