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“Put me in coach I’m ready to play…” John Fogerty

April 5, 2012

Its opening day! Spring has officially arrived. (Never mind those games in Japan between Oakland and Seattle). Today and tomorrow, every team will start their season. And the beginning of baseball season reminds me of my childhood story of watching my first baseball game in person.

I was 8 years old and it was 1962. In fact, I seem to remember that it was in celebration of my birthday in May, that my mother agreed to take me and two of my best friends-Neil Van Dyke and Dougie Vreeland-to the Yankees game. Neil and I are longtime friends. I believe the term in blog speak is BFFs. However, I lost track of Dougie ( probably no longer wants to be called that!) soon after he moved out of NYC and started school in New Jersey.

At any rate, the three of us and my mother went up to Yankee game via the Lexington Avenue Subway. For three 8-year old boys, the relatively long subway ride was fascinating in itself. (How quickly that changed for this long time New Yorker!!!) . But when we arrived at the stadium with its radiant patch of green on the field and the enormity of the stands and the distant fences, it was quite a vivid first impression. Naturally, I remember little of the game or even if the Yanks won or not, though with the 1962 team a win was pretty likely. However, I do remember that sometime in the middle of the game Mickey Mantle launched a prodigious shot deep into the sky for a home run. No doubt the ball landed somewhere in the upper deck. But to these three 8 year olds who quickly lost sight of the ball, we were certain that Mickey had hit the ball out of the stadium and into the parking lot. Never mind that no player has ever hit a ball out of Yankee stadium not then or since. These were facts that we were innocently unaware of. So for the rest of the game, a mantra developed among the three of us ( I remember Neil started it!). We would have to go look for the ball after the game in the parking lot.

After the game was completed, my mother very patiently took us to the edge of the parking lot (though it was on the way to the subway so I don’t want to give her too much credit). After literally only a couple of minutes of looking around, we concluded that someone else must have already run off with “our ball”. I believe this fantasy was encouraged by my mother. Our disappointment was short-lived as we got to enjoy the subway ride again on the way home and relish our first experience with major league baseball. It’s never quite been the same as that first game, but baseball always brings back pleasant memories for me.

What’s your baseball story?

  1. Rob Carey permalink

    I remember going to a game at Yankee Stadium with you, at about that age, by cab. I don’t remember the game.

    Right now I am just basking in the glow of the UK Wildcats. You know what a big sports fan I have always been :-)

    • I think I vaguely remember that. It probably cost more for the cab ride than the tickets!

  2. Dale Heydlauff permalink

    I have two experiences from my youth to mention. I was in middle school in 1968 when the Tigers won the World Series. We were excused from class to watch the seventh game in home room. I’ve never forgotten it. In fact, it may be the only thing I remember about 7th grade! I still have a mint-condition set of baseball cards of the ’68 team.

    In 1971, I attended the All Star game in Tiger Stadium. I saw Reggie Jackson of your beloved Yankees hit one out of the park. Unlike Yankee Stadium, there were a lot of balls hit out of Tigers Stadium.

    • I remember Reggie’s home run (then with the As) . I think it was one of the longest hit in All Star game history. It was his first full year and he had 37 HRs already.

  3. Dale Heydlauff permalink

    P.S. Did you see that my Tigers beat your hated Red Sox in their home opener this afternoon?

  4. Neil Van Dyke permalink

    This is the toughest assignment I’ve had in a long time! Strangely I think my favorite baseball story is one in which I don’t even remember exactly who was playing. What I do remember was that it was the postseason and back in those days they played day games – which meant we were in school while the games were being played. I couldn’t bear to miss the action. While I wasn’t very fond of the tradition at the time, we were required to wear jackets and ties to school. This ended up working in my favor, as I was able to put my transistor radio in the generously sized blazer pocket, and surreptitiously run the wire to the earphone up the inside of my jacket sleeve into the palm of my hand. I would then sit in class with a studious look while I put my elbow on the desk and rested my head in my hand, hiding the earphone while I listened to the game. Between innings (or if asked a question by the teacher) I could simply put my hand down with the earphone (I guess they would call them “buds” now) hidden in my hand. I never got caught, but I suspect some of the teachers probably knew what was going on. Fortunately many of them were Yankee fans too!

  5. Neil Van Dyke permalink

    P.S. I still think Mick hit that one out of the park in ’62.

  6. Linda permalink

    Although this year’s Opening Day has come and gone (I went to the Mets home opener) I decided to share my memories of my first MLB game. I was also 8 and it was at Yankee Stadium because there were no National League teams in NY at the time. It was Old Timer’s Day. I couldn’t wait to see Mickey Mantle in person. I didn’t care about the retired players, I just wanted to see Mickey.
    I remember being awed by how green the grass was and how the infield looked perfect before the game started and how precise and white the chalk lines were. I went with my father and brother in what was to become our own family baseball tradition of always going to a Yankee game on Old-Timers Day.

    To my father’s dismay I became an instant Mets fan when they came into existence. I couldn’t convince my father to take me to a game at the Polo Grounds or to Shea Stadium. My father finally took me when the Mets were in the 1969 World Series. We went to Game 4, the Ron Swoboda catch, extra inning affair where Tom Seaver pitched 10 innings for the win. I was ecstatic and my father was happy the game was over because he had to get back home to go to work! In his later years he shared that going to that game was very special for because he knew I truly loved baseball and the Mets. It’s a father-daughter experience I will always cherish. I enjoyed the yearly Old-Timers games but I had to share that with my brother. There’s a lot to be said for one-on-one outings with a parent.

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