Every week on Monday, the WoW! writers, community and our invited guests weigh in at the Watcher’s Forum, short takes on a major issue of the day, the culture, or daily living. This week’s question: The New Baseball Season Is Here. What’s Your Favorite Baseball Memory?
Dave Schuler: That’s easy. My favorite baseball memory is the first professional ball game I ever attended, in the first Busch Stadium, the old Sportsman’s Park, on Grand Avenue in North St. Louis.
I can remember the starters and their positions. Larry Jackson was the pitcher, backed up by Lindy and Von McDaniel, brothers from Oklahoma. Hobie Landrith caught. Stan “the Man” Musial, a favorite of mine, was on first base with Don Blasingame on second and Kenny Boyer on third. Eddie Kasko played short stop.
In the outfield were Wally Moon, Curt Flood, and Del Ennis.
It was an exciting night. The most fun I’ve ever had at a sporting event.
Michael McDaniel: I’m afraid I have no interest in baseball, so I have no personal tale of authentic, peanuts and hot dogs, Americana to tell. However, I’ve always loved The Naked Gun: From The Files of Police Squad.
In that brilliant comedy, Sgt. Lt. Frank Drebin, played by Leslie Nielsen, is trying to prevent the assassination of the Queen of England at a baseball game. He knocks out and impersonates a famous operatic singer–Enrico Pallazo–and ends up performing the most hilarious rendition of the Star Spangled Banner in the history of sports. Of course, he saves the Queen–in his own unintentional bungling way–and eventually launches OJ Simpson, who is in a wheelchair, down a flight of stairs and into the stratosphere. Poetic, if unintentional, justice.
Ah, baseball! It’s certainly my fondest baseball moment.
JoshuaPundit: My favorite baseball memory is also one of my first ones, and it is clear and distinct. We had rented a small house in Santa Monica (imagine a working man trying to do that today) and I was probably between one and two years old. It had what seemed to me then like a large kitchen, with a black and white checkered floor. That was where my father (Z’L) and I used to play a kind of catch with a pair of socks balled together as a ‘baseball.’ I can clearly remember laughing as I tried to catch the ball, and toddling after it when I missed.
My dad was a real ball fan who used to watch the game at Ebbett’s field growing up in Brooklyn. Even when I was a kid he’d get together with some of the neighborhood guys to play sandlot ball and bring me along to watch. He also got me my first glove and taught me how to break it in.
Being an old Brooklyn Dodgers fan, like many others he never forgave Walter O’Malley for moving the team west, but I had no such prejudices as a kid. So he’d take me to Dodger games now and then.
Dodger Stadium is still a great place to watch a game, and one oddity was that even people at the game brought their transistor radios to the park so they could listen to Vin Sculley describe what was happening right before their eyes. He was really that good! I remember running around with the other kids after the game with a program to get autographs. Ballplayers then were far more accessible (this was the early 1960’s) then than they are now. The Dodger teams then were built around great pitching (Sandy Koufax, Don Drysdale, Johnny Padres, Ron Perronoski), defense, and speed (Maury Wills, Tommy and Willie Davis). I haven’t followed sports for years, but watching those guys play was exciting.
A more recent memory concerns my daughter. She inherited the jock genes and played both baseball and AYSO soccer. I never missed a game. I also bought her that first glove. For a father to help coach his kid and later help coach his kid’s team and then see her excel was awesome. She played second base. Her baseball team, the Athletics (or as I call them,the MIGHTY Athletics) were undefeated and won the championship for her league. Fourth graders, but they had the drive, y’know?
Fausta Rodriquez Wertz: The last time I went to a baseball game my son was in grade school (he’s now in his mid-twenties). We went with other his friends and their moms to a minor league game in Trenton and everybody had a great time eating hot dogs and funnel cake.
Prior to that, the only other time I’ve been to baseball games was in the 1980s when I worked in New York City. The entire office loved the Yankees, and one of the gentlemen – who back then was in his fifties – had attended every Yankees opener since he was twelve years old. It was a great group of people and everybody had a great time eating hot dogs and drinking beer.
The games were nice but I don’t remember much of them.
Don Surber: My baseball memories include Bat Day and Ball Day doubleheaders as a kid at Municipal Stadium in Cleveland, and of course a couple of Game 7 losses in extra innings.
But my best memory came when my daughter played softball when she was 12. Like my wife, she is height challenged and was shorter than the kindergärtners even in second grade. That does not make for a good player.
Under the rule that every player plays, she became a late inning specialist. When the playoffs came, the Poca Dots drew the Buffalo gals. Now that’s farm country and those Buffalo gals play a mean game of softball. In high school, they win the state championship in their class every damned year. They are like the UConn Huskies women’s basketball team of West Virginia girl’s basketball.
So in the 12-year-old league, drawing them in the payoffs was a one-and-done.
Their pitcher was mowing down Dots. Seventh inning comes up and Sarah goes to bat. Their pitcher could not find her eensy-beensy strike zone. Their coach called time and demanded to see her birth certificate showing she was old enough (this happened occasionally). He knew Sarah was trouble. And she was. She walked and the Buffalo pitcher lost her confidence. The Dots came back and won. You could get a good baseball movie out of this, I suppose, with a feel good ending and the moral of everyone matters. Kumbaya.
Sarah is now a lawyer working on a PhD.
But I wonder about that Buffalo gal. She would be the age where she now has a 12-year-old daughter. Maybe a 5-year-old too. I like to think that she has taught her 12-year-old daughter how to pitch to her 5-year-old. The one thing I admire about those Buffalo gals is their determination to win. Ain’t no way they will lose that way again
Scott Kirwin: As a kid growing up in St. Louis I was fated to come of age in the 1970’s, just after the St. Louis Cardinals baseball team dominated the sport and before Whitey Herzog became a St. Louis legend by bringing the championship back to St. Louis. Jack Buck, one of the country’s greatest sports announcers ever, called them all – from Lou Brock’s record breaking base stealing to the Ozzie Smith’s home run in the 1985 World Series “Go crazy, folks! Go crazy!” Jack Buck, along with his sidekick Mike Shannon, was the voice of the St. Louis Cardinals, and decades later I can still hear the love of the game and excitement in Jack Buck’s voice as he called games for a pretty sad and mediocre baseball team the Cardinals had become in the 1970’s.
My father listened to each game on the radio, even when the games were broadcast on TV. When that happened we’d turn down the volume on the television and listen to Jack Buck’s play-by-play. It was the best way to watch the game. My father’s radio broadcasting Cardinals games was an indelible part of my childhood. When he passed away in 1977 we even buried his radio with him.
Laura Rambeau Lee: Growing up in the northeast, the coming of spring ushered in the new baseball season. We all rooted for the Phillies; the home team. While we enjoyed watching the games on TV, baseball was much more than a spectator sport for most of us. Baseball, or softball, was a game my father taught me and some of my fondest memories with him were playing catch or batting a ball he pitched to me. Later when I joined a girl’s little league team my father would come to practices and help with coaching. And he always made sure to be there to cheer me on during my games. Unlike football, baseball is a game fathers can share with their daughters. Participating in sports is a great way for young girls, and boys, to build confidence and self esteem.
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