I played baseball in high school outside Boston, and 40 years later our son played baseball in high school outside Shanghai.

We were both in New York earlier this summer, both with things we had to get done, but without anything we had to finish that day, and the late morning sun over the city was strong in the cloudless sky, and I saw the Yankees were playing that afternoon at home, and neither of us had ever been to Yankee Stadium, and so we decided to go to the game.

New Englanders both, we rode the D train from the West Side to the Bronx in our “Maine” and “Bowdoin” caps, surrounded by “NY” caps and pinstripe jerseys. Outside the stadium were suspended the images of the local baseball gods, past and present. DiMaggio, Mantle, Jeter, Judge.

And because this stadium is famously “the house that Ruth built,” we saw the photo (it won the Pulitzer Prize in 1948) of a man’s bowed back in pinstripes with the number “3,” and the man is leaning on his bat for support because he is dying. He is bowing to the crowd (so different, really, from the one surging around us?) that came here to cheer him and say a final farewell.

That same man in the photo, years before, when he still pitched for the Red Sox, owned a house outside Boston in the town where my grandfather grew up. One winter’s day, around 1916 or 1917, my grandfather and other boys were breaking ice into blocks on the river — two boys and four arms each being needed to lift and drop the iron crowbar — when along came the Babe himself. He laughed and took up the crowbar with one hand, and crack, crack, crack, he knocked out clean blocks of ice, as easy as that, for he was that strong.

I love Fenway Park, but I look with respect on the imposing entrance to this great stadium of the great rival of Boston, no less meaningful to me than the columns of the federal courthouse in downtown Manhattan. Both are places where appreciation for grace and skill under pressure and the rules of the game (the indomitable Thurgood Marshall at the courthouse, or the indomitable Lou Gehrig at first base) produce in me a deep feeling of democratic reverence.

It is always a thrill to climb up through the interior of a great sports stadium, and then suddenly, reaching the last steep steps through a sky-lit arch, one sees the green field below, and its familiar white lines, and the sweeping view of the thousands in the common stands — all this enters into an ever-widening view, as through a proscenium, and the immaculate field is always larger and closer and greener and brighter than one remembers.

So close are the players that one can hear the ball hit the glove. There they are, in the flesh, in white pinstripes against the green of the field, young men playing in the same game and the same positions as DiMaggio, and Gehrig, and Mantle and Ruth. Being there, you feel the distance and speed of the game, the weight of the pitch, the sound of the bat, the perfect shallow parabola of an outfielder’s throw to the plate, and the momentum of the runner rounding third and heading for home.

Each baseball game has a history, written on the outfield scoreboard, inning by inning. And each season, and each career, whether of journeyman or giant, and each moment on the field, takes on its meaning from what went before, and often the meaning is changed by what comes after.

My son had to leave around the seventh inning to get to an evening class, but I stayed.

I found an empty seat past third base — just barely “fair” inside the sharp line of the sun, though shadow from the grandstand would soon be upon me — and just took it all in. A teenage boy a few seats away was also watching the game. I would guess he has known what it means to be at the plate and start the swing’s motion just before the instant of decision while the ball is rushing in, and known what it felt like (and there is nothing like it) to make contact. To get a hit. To run the bases.

The game was over about four o’clock and I joined the thousands who were slowly descending the ramps of the stadium towards street level and subway. Just one green Maine cap, and one sun-reddened face, amid a throng of caps and faces and languages, just one glad heart, in a crowd of common people in a country uncommonly dedicated to the common woman and the common man.