Tuesday, December 14, 2010

A TRIP TO THE BALLPARK WITH DAD

My dad is a true baseball fanatic.  He played baseball in some form or other through most of his life so far.  Kansas City use to be home of the Yankee's farm team and his mother would do laundry for some of the players coming up through the Yankee organization by way of Kansas City.  These players would help form dad's ability playing baseball by teaching him how to throw and catch.  Especially catch.  His top position was that of a catcher and he was one of the best short of the major leagues.  He had a love for baseball that I have never seen in anyone else my whole life.

Major league baseball entered the Kansas City market when the Athletics moved to town. It became a normal family outing to go down to the old Municipal Stadium in Kansas City to see the A's play ball.  During this period of my life, thanks to my dad, I saw some of the greatest players who ever played ball.  I saw Brooks and Frank Robinson, Rod Carew, Carl Yastrzemski, Norm Cash, Al Kaline, Mickey Mantle and Roger Maris and many other future hall of famers play while at their peaks.  It is a gift my dad gave me that I can never repay.


Dad had rules about attending a baseball game.  The first rule was that you arrive at the game in time to see batting practice.  For those of you who have never seen batting practice, it involves getting to the stadium about two hours before game time.  Once you are there you sit and watch a pitching coach throw up pitches that a decent high school player could knock out of the stadium.  While one team is in the cage batting, the other team is stretching out in the outfield.  Then after about forty five minutes the other team takes batting practice while the first team goes out and loosens up.  Makes for an hour and a half of riveting entertainment.


The second rule was that you only get one drink per game.  He would take bags of peanuts for us to eat and buy the drinks there, but if you spilled it before the game was over you were out of luck.  You either quit eating the salted peanuts to keep yourself from dying of thirst or you continued to choke them down to keep yourself from dying of hunger.  Either way it was a good incentive not to spill your drink.


Rule number three was that you never get out of your seat once the game begins and you stay seated until the last out of the last inning.  This helped us learn the ever important art of bathroom planning.  You had to time a trip to the restroom just right so you would be in your seat before the first pitch and would be able to last until the ninth inning.  If a game went into extra innings, you had better have good bladder control.


Number four on the list was that you kept score.  You would not be able to appreciate the game or understand it unless you kept score.  I actually agree with this rule and continue to keep score to this day.  It keeps your mind off of going to the restroom because you must pay attention to the game to score it correctly.  It was a means to help you stay in your seat basically.


Rule number five was not always kept but for the most part if there was a double header, you go to both games.  In the case of a double header you arrive early for batting practice and stay until the last out of the second game.  This could lead up to about eight hours being spent at the stadium with only that one break between games to make a dash to the restroom and get a second drink.  The double header days was a marathon of baseball that stressed you badly if you hadn't slept well the night before.


Rule number six goes back to pre-game activity.  Never park in the parking lot.  You can save fifty cents by parking in someone's front yard five or six blocks away from the stadium.  This gets your muscles ready for the long ordeal ahead of you by getting any kinks that may have set in your muscles worked out.


Finally the seventh rule.  This is a basic simple rule.  In the old stadium there were support beams that went from the lower level to the upper level and on up to the overhang at the top of the stadium.  It always blocked your view of  part of the field, but there was always one seat that did not get to see more of the field than the other seats.  Elaine was to sit in that seat.  It was hers no questions asked.  She would spend hours sitting behind a pole not being able to see half the ballgame.  According to dad the reason for this rule was very simple.  Elaine never paid attention to the game anyway so as her reward, she stared at a pole for the length of a game.


Once you understood the rules and were able to work around them, you were able to enjoy baseball at it's worst.  The Kansas City A's were horrible even though they had some decent players.  Probably the best known player on those teams was the short stop Bert "Campy" Campenaris.  He partnered with Dick Green at second base to make up about the only decent part of the team.  They were able to turn double plays pretty good.


The best game dad ever took us to though was one hot summer night in 1965 when the great Satchel Paige made his final pitching appearance.  It was a historical night as Paige, at the age of sixty, threw three scoreless innings of ball.  It was a piece of history that our whole family was able to see and to appreciate.  A clip of that game was included in Ken Burns' "Baseball" documentary.  Everyone in our family got to see that lanky figure and that long windup that befuddled batters for decades.  Well, everyone got to see him but my sister Elaine, who was sitting behind a pole that night.

Thank you for that special night dad, as well as all the other games you shared with us.

3 comments:

  1. And a big thanks from me, too, Bill. Your dad took me along with you guys to see my first major league game at Royals Stadium. It was George Brett's rookie season. Do you remember your dad introducing us boys to Yankee Hall of Famer and announcer Phil Rizzuto? A very special memory. Thanks, Uncle Howard.

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  2. Of course I remember the Rizzuto meeting. Felt like I was in the presence of royalty when we met him.

    Dad loves baseball and loves sharing it. I think I got a little of that in me.

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  3. Yes, I remember fondly sitting behind the poles at each and every game. There was an up side to Dad's assessment of my ball watching skills. He NEVER expected me to keep score....didn't even give me a writing utensil. My afternoons and evenings at the stadium consisted of watching the concession salespeople walking up and down the aisles selling the stuff that looked SO interesting and fun but that I knew I would NEVER experience. Gotta love how much Daddy loves baseball! Gotta love Daddy. Thanks, Bill, AGAIN...for pulling that memory up.

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