If you read my testimony above, you will see an insurance agent named Bill mentioned. His full name is Bill Sheridan. He is a true man of God, but also a great writer. The following is an excerpt from his memoir, which I recommend to everyone. It’s a great read and only $2.99 on Amazon.
MIRACLE IN PEW 24
I begged my mom to let me stay home.
“I’m sick, Mom. I really, truly am!”
She didn’t believe me for a minute. And with good reason. After all, she pointed out, I had already been sick every school day during this 1955 Brooklyn Dodger-New York Yankee World Series, and had miraculously healed on travel days and weekends.
“You, young man, are going to Mass and then to school. Enough of this fooling around.”
When she said “young man,” I know my goose was cooked. Mom always saved that for when she meant there was nothing left to discuss.
Why couldn’t she cut me some slack? I was eleven years-old and the Dodgers had already broken my heart so many times before. The ’51 Giants game in the Polo Grounds. That stupid Bobby Thomsen. Those creepy Yankees year after year. And having to face George Timlin, my good friend but Yankee fan, every fall and argue that Mickey Mantle was just lucky and my Bums “was robbed” by bad calls.
This was their year and the Dodgers couldn’t blow it again. Didn’t she understand that I couldn’t miss Game Seven? I just knew that Johnny Podres could do it. I just knew it. We would finally win.
And I could swagger into Mt. Carmel Catholic Grade School in Lawler, Iowa, with my head held high.
But no. She wouldn’t believe me. It was this Irish-Catholic thing about not missing Mass. Even for the Dodgers. I can’t even remember why there was Mass on a school day. It might have been a First Friday.
The nuns taught us that if we made Mass on nine consecutive First Fridays we would have a priest by our side when we died. As a kid, I always had this picture in my mind of my mom being really proud as I lay dying at a car wreck, wearing clean underwear, with a Father O’Brien or Monsignor Murphy administering me the last rites.
Or it may have been a Holy Day.
I just knew that Campy might knock a ninth-inning winner out of the park and I didn’t want to miss it.
Mom was right, of course. I wasn’t sick. Not the upchucking kind of sick anyway. Just the kind of sick that comes from knowing that The Duke, PeeWee, ‘Oisk,’ Junior, and the boys were finally gonna win a Series. And I was going to be stuck in Sister Mary Bernard’s sixth-grade classroom all day conjugating verbs and learning about the martyrs.
If only Dad hadn’t died a few years before. He would have understood. He would have let me have the flu one more time. Then I could see Junior Gilliam and Sandy Amoros finally win the Big One. But not Mom. She was a GIRL. She didn’t get it. And neither did my three brothers or two sisters. Not one of them stuck up for me.
They said, “He’s faking it Ma, and he should go to Mass and school just like the rest of us.” They thought it was funny that Mom knew I wasn’t really sick. Sometimes I hated my siblings. This was one of those times.
My fate was sealed. But I didn’t have to like it. And I could still whine and pout. I could skip breakfast, still pretending that I couldn’t hold anything down. If my life was going to be miserable, I could at least try to make their lives miserable, too. So, I did. I went to Mass still pretending that I really was sick.
And it happened. A real-life miracle. I swear on a stack of bibles. A gift from God. Like Paul on the road to Damascus. Like Moses and the burning bush. Like David when he dropped The Big G.
We were all kneeling in Pew 24 of Mt. Carmel Catholic Church. Pew 24 was halfway down the right side of the church from the back near the middle aisle. We paid something called pew rent to sit there.
I remember staring at the candles on the altar and everything getting blurry. And getting dizzy. And a strange sound. Father Delay’s back seemed to be swaying back and forth. I could hear a clunking noise and sensed commotion. Confusion.
Then, for a brief moment, total silence. Suddenly, I felt myself being carried out of church by Tom Cooney and Bob Emery. I remember it like it was yesterday. I had fainted! I had never fainted before and I’ve never fainted since. But on that day, when fainting is probably the only thing in the world that would have kept me home, I fainted!
Mom was in a tizzy. She was upset with herself for not believing me. I could vaguely hear her in my semi-conscious state. “He told me he was sick. He told me, but I didn’t believe him.”
It has now been 65 years and Mt. Carmel Catholic School has long since burned to the ground. Mt. Carmel Catholic Church has been torn down and replaced. And I still have no definitive assurance of why it all happened. Granted, I had not eaten breakfast and it was very warm in church. Perhaps that’s all there was to it.
But I have a better idea. Admittedly, it’s just a theory, but one that I like very much.
Could it be that God was a Brooklyn Dodger fan?
Being omniscient, He knew in advance that after the 1957 season they would be moving to Los Angeles and it would never be the same. And He knew that a little red-haired boy from Iowa could not bear to miss that game on television. So He let me gently collapse somewhere between the seat and the kneeler of Pew 24 in Mt. Carmel Catholic Church. In so doing, He gave me a glimpse of Heaven, a Dodger victory.
Later that afternoon I was in our living room watching our black and white Philco TV, cheering on my beloved Bums. I saw Sandy Amoros glide toward the left-field stands and make the most spectacular catch I’ve ever seen in my whole life, and then double Yankee Gil McDougal off first base to kill a rally! Johnny Podres went on to pitch a 2-0 shutout. Justice had been served on those Yankee Pinstripes; and I cried tears of joy.
My mom died a few years ago at age 87 and I’ve been thinking of her as yet another Major League season begins.
I’ll bet by now God has had time to clue her in about what really happened that morning. That she was right all along. I really wasn’t sick on that October day in 1955.
But He looked down and decided it was more important for me to finally see the Dodgers beat the Yankees than attend Sister Mary Bernard’s classes on what would turn out to be an unforgettable fall afternoon.
And maybe—just maybe—He’s arranged for Mom to meet Roy Campenella and Gil Hodges and Carl Furillo and Sandy Amoros and Walter Alston—and they’ve had a big laugh about it.
Just the thought of it makes me smile.
(Excerpt from Depot Street Memories…The Lawler Stories by Bill Sheridan)