With the Cleveland Guardians back in town last Saturday for the third game of a best-of-five series against the Yankees, after splitting the first two games in the Bronx, and the Browns-Patriots game on Sunday, it was a rich opportunity to promote peace to hundreds of baseball and football fans–especially to Progressive Field’s sellout crowd of more than 34,000. With the temperature on the chilly side I wore my 56-year-old U.S. Army field jacket complemented by my peace flag on a pole balanced on my right shoulder.
On Saturday I stood at the northwest corner of East Ninth Street and Carnegie Avenue, greeting folks heading into Progressive Field. When noticing Yankees fans with their white pinstripe shirts sporting the NY logo on the upper left chest, I cheerily said, “Welcome to Cleveland!!” Most said “Thank you” but those who didn’t ignored me, probably not fans of my peace flag. Similarly, many Guardians fans ignored me when I greeted them. When a red bus similar to “Lolly the Trolly” approached the intersection, the driver noted my presence over the vehicle’s loudspeaker and people on board cheered me, but they also jeered a couple of gentlemen wearing Yankees shirts, shouting at them “Yankees suck….Yankees suck.” I wish they had shouted the same friendly greeting I had given them–“Welcome to Cleveland!” It would have made the Guardians fans–and the city–look much better in the eyes of Yankees fans. Oh well.
Lots and lots of walking characterized Sunday, as I headed from the blue line rapid station at Tower City to FirstEnergy Stadium to greet people on their way to the Browns-New England Patriots game. Of course, I said “Welcome to Cleveland” to Patriots fans. Most said, “Thank you” and when I had time, I mentioned that my daughter works in Charlestown, Boston’s oldest neighborhood, as manager of the Whole Foods Market store there. To Browns fans I said, “Great game last night”, referring to the Guardiaans walk-off win in the 10th inning. “Let’s do it again tonight!” They appreciated my comment but at first, I was surprised to hear Patriots fans also agree it was a great game. Then I remembered there is no love lost between Bostonians and Yankees fans. The words “hatred” and “enmity” come to mind. A gentleman opened his wallet, wanting to give me money and I declined, saying, “I wouldn’t take even a penny.” reminded me of an experience a few years ago when a Browns fan shoved a $20 bill into my hand but disappeared into the crowd before I could return it.
After the crowd of fans thinned out Sunday afternoon, I walked to the Subway store on East Ninth Street near St. John the Evangelist Cathedral. Pretty hungry, I took my time eating two-foot-long vegetarian sandwiches with honey mustard dressing on flatbread. I had lots of time to kill before heading to my post outside Progressive field for the fourth Guardians-Yankees game that was to begin at 7:27. It was fairly quiet in the Subway store, so I was able to take a brief, refreshing catnap in my chair.
I arrived outside Progressive Field about 5 o’clock to greet people as I did the day before, referencing the great game the night before, adding “Let’s put ’em away tonight!” which was not appreciated by Yankees fans intermingled with Guardians fans. Oh well. (Alas, as it turned out, the “Guardiac Kids” suffered “Guardiac arrest”, succumbing to the Bronx Bombers. Resuscitated, they are back in New York for the decisive fifth game this afternoon, as the game scheduled for last night was postponed due to rain.) I was pleasantly surprised when a young woman walked up to me and was very effusive in expressing deep gratitude for my presence, mentioning her father had been in Vietnam. She embraced me and I kissed her right cheek, and she kissed mine. The woman took a selfie of us and as she walked away, said ‘”Bye honey.” In all my years of promoting peace, I had never met anyone so grateful for my presence. It was a very touching experience.
Sometime later a mom with her teenage son waited to cross East Ninth Street, heading away from Progressive Field. She thanked me for my service, and I said–loud enough for other pedestrians to hear–“I didn’t serve my country. I served deceitful, lying, fear-mongering, war-mongering politicians and their war-profiteering bed partners” She smiled and placed her right hand over heart, appreciating my candid comment. A young street musician dressed in a powder blue bunny costume opened a case, took out his saxophone and began playing. Some of the music was improvised but one tune I recognized was the 1958 hit song “Tequila”, performed originally by The Champs. Some passersby dropped money in his saxophone case. As the saxophonist prepared to leave at the end of his gig, I gave him a $5 bill and said, “You can go buy a shot of tequila.” He smiled.