Forty years ago this summer I fell in love. I can't believe it's been that long. I remember it like it was an hour ago.

The names are still fresh: "The Boomer" at first base. Reggie Smith started the season at second base, but he was quickly moved to centerfield and Mike Andrews became the everyday second baseman. "Rico" and Joe Foy rounded out the infield that year. Mike Ryan was the catcher; his brother went to high school with me a year later. I couldn't believe that I knew Mike Ryan's brother | "How lucky could one guy get?" Yaz and Tony C. (he was 22 that year) were the corner outfielders.

Like so many loves, it started slowly. I would watch the black and white 19-inch with my mom and dad, a time or two in April, more in May. The Wall, not yet a green monster, was one shade of gray, the grass another. The uniforms never seemed again so white.

By June, my dad told me quietly, as if saying it too loud might break the spell, "This year is different." Somehow I knew it was, too.

At night I would turn on the radio at 7. "You're just in time for the ballgame," the jingle went. "You're just in time for excitement and fun." I'd pull my covers up and listen, the transistor against my ear, to Mel Parnell and Ken Coleman.

In July that year, the fever began to build. Every night they would be down a run, maybe two, and every night "The Cardiac Kids" found a way to win.

By the end of the season, it was clear that those last games would be decisive. Minnesota was still in it and Dean Chance could pitch. They had a good team too: Harmon Killebrew, Rod Carew, Tony Oliva. Chicago had pitching and defense to spare: Gary Peters, Joel Horlen and Tommy John. But it was Detroit that probably had the best team overall. In fact, they won the Series the next year easily.

The last weekend of the season, nobody was talking about anything else. They had to win two from Minnesota, then hope the Angels beat Detroit out on the coast. The Sox did their part: Yaz went six for eight, carried them to the end. My mom, my dad and I tuned in late, listening to California beat the Tigers. I think everyone did.

It was October 1967 by the time I realized how deeply I had fallen. The sixth game of the World Series, I went to Fenway for the first time: the Wall green, not gray; the grass, greener still. And the uniforms, just as white. I was 12 years old that year. They were twice my age then; I am now twice theirs. But every year around this time I am 12 again for a moment, thinking maybe this year.

The Sox won the pennant that year; they lost the Series to a great St. Louis team. And me? I lost my heart to baseball.

Londonderry police Capt. Bill Hart's column appears Fridays in the Derry News.

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