ANDY THURNAUER–AND AMERICAN’S FAVORITE PASTIME
My dad knew nothing about baseball. He was born in Nürnberg, Germany where boys played soccer. Dad dropped out of high school during the Depression and came to America for work. Mom was also from Nürnberg, but she emigrated later, to escape Hitler. Coming from the same hometown and sharing some mutual friends, my folks met in New York City. They married, and after my dad returned from World War II, my sister and I were born.
As immigrants, my folks were grateful to the United States for giving them second chances in life, and they tried hard to be good Americans. Even though German was their first language, they spoke English at home. Also, Dad tried to take an interest in America’s favorite pastime–baseball.
We lived in a suburb of New York City which, during the post-war era, was absolutely mad for baseball. So Dad took us to Yankee Stadium and to the Polo Grounds even though he didn’t understand what was happening on the field. He even bought a baseball glove so he could play catch with me. He was terrible at it, but he did it anyway.
My neighborhood was bursting with Baby Boomers who rooted passionately for the Dodgers, the Giants, or the Yankees. The Yankees were my team, and Mickey Mantle was my hero. From around the age of six, my friends and I gathered in the local park and played ball every chance we could.
When I was ten, I joined Little League and, in a couple of years, was the starting shortstop for Cutler’s Pharmacy. At thirteen, my friends and I switched to softball, and that became our passion. I played intramural softball through junior and senior high school as well as during my four years at Brandeis. After graduating from college, I played in leagues for the next forty years–as an infielder and a pitcher. I played for the Harvard Coop in Cambridge and then for the Boston Children’s Museum. But my main team was Silva Brothers Construction in the Reading Men’s Softball League.
Tom Silva, the contractor on “This Old House,” sponsored our team of Reading neighbors. For seventeen years, during my forties and fifties, I was the Silva Brothers’ third baseman. Sometimes we came in last place, sometimes in first, and usually, somewhere in between. But win or lose, we had a great time playing ball and hanging out together.
As I grew older, my knees got worse and worse. I could still get down to field a ground ball, but it became harder and harder to stand up again to make the throw to first base. Eventually, I stopped playing in a competitive league. I joined the ADD Inc team in the rather casual Boston Architectural B-League. I was the team’s pitcher, manager, and sports reporter until I hung up my cleats for good at age 60. I had entered the Teaneck Little League in 1958 and retired from the Architectural League in 2008, fifty years later.
I still get together with a few of my Silva Brother buddies on Sunday mornings. Sometimes it’s just for coffee. However, when the weather is good, we head down to the local park afterwards. We don’t play softball anymore, but when the nets are up, we stagger around the tennis court for an hour or two, playing a doubles match for what we call “the championship of the world.”
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I spent most of my working career as a bookseller, for many years owning my own bookstore. After closing the store, I went to work as an archivist for an architecture firm. I retired from that job at the end of August, 2008. Two weeks later, I began taking classes at BOLLI. My first class was “Why Sing Plays?” led by Art Finstein which included a study of Stephen Sondheim’s “Into the Woods.” My daughter had once played “Little Red” in Sondheim’s musical, so for me, Art’s class was a perfect introduction to BOLLI.
At BOLLI, I’ve been on lots of committees and task forces and such. My favorite BOLLI activities (outside of taking classes and attending lectures) have included working on The Banner and participating in the Sages & Seekers program.