My dad had a lot of rules. He had rules for almost every situation. There were rules for how we talked to mom or to him, Rules for how to start the lawnmower, and rules for how to cut the grass. Rules were in place for doing what it took to not be late anywhere. There were the Saturday night rules in which shoes were polished and clothes laid out for church the next morning. Rules existed for who sat where in the car when we traveled. In short, dad seemed to have rules for almost every situation that existed, and breaking those rules always seemed to require a price to be paid. Depending on the mood dad might have been in determined the severity of the price that was to be paid.
Some of dad's most stringent rules involved what the procedures were when attending a baseball game. They were fairly simple rules but were followed to the letter when we went to a ballgame. The rules were as followed:
1. Be ready to leave for the stadium in order to be there for batting practice, usually an hour and a half before the game actually began.
2. One drink per ballgame. You were expected to make it last through the ballgame because there would not be another one. If you spilled your drink, too bad.
3. Keep a scorecard during the game to make sure you were paying attention to the game and getting the full appreciation from the ball game.
4. Go to the restroom before the game started. There was no getting up from your seat once the game started and in the old Municipal Stadium the wooden seats would make your butt sore after three innings.
5. Elaine always sits behind the pole. It was bad for Elaine in some ways, but on the other hand, she didn't have to keep a scorecard because she couldn't see the game.
6. Never leave until the last out of the last inning. I have sat through sixteen to nineteen inning games waiting for that last out of the last inning.
The price to be paid for most of these rules were pretty much out of dad's hands. For one reason, the only rule that dad really could enforce was the one drink a game rule. We were kids so we couldn't leave until he did. Those rules were set and were enforced.
It became a habit to follow these rules, except for rule number 5 which became obsolete when they built Royals Stadium which had no poles for Elaine to sit behind. The habit of following these rules stayed with me even after I grew old enough to be going to games without dad. The rules followed me after I was married and I had to train Barb to follow the rules of attending a baseball game, which was not an easy thing to do. She had not been raised by baseball, at first she didn't understand the game and the importance of the rules but she eventually came around to accepting and following the rules.
Then came that fateful day at the ball park. I do not remember who the Royals were playing but I remember it to be a good game. It was back in the late seventies or early eighties when the Royals were a major force in baseball. It was their glory years and the stadium always held large crowds at rather inexpensive prices compared to the rest of baseball. It was on this day that I broke one of dad's baseball rules for the first time I remember. Well, that isn't exactly the truth. I did not show up for batting practice anymore and I occasionally had a second drink during the game, but not too often.
On this day though, I broke one of dad's major rules of baseball. (almost wrote a "cardinal" rule that brings up images of St. Louis which I would rather not do.) It was a long game with a lot of runs being piled up for both teams. Each team was in double digits scoring so the game had gone beyond it's usual two and a half hour to three hour length and had been going on for well over three hours. Since the game was so long I probably broke one of dad's rules by getting a second drink during the marathon. Actually I am pretty sure I did have a second coke that day.
The price for breaking that rule was that my bladder filled up. I wasn't expecting the game to continue showing runs crossing the plate every inning and so the bladder thing creeped up on me. About the top of the eighth inning I began to feel the pressure. I tried my best to keep the scorecard up to date to keep my mind off of the ever building pressure. By the top of the ninth inning I was squirming in my seat doing my best to stay until the last out of the last inning.
Finally the Royals came to bat in the bottom of the ninth and they were behind by a few runs. The bottom of the batting order was due up so it looked like the game would be over fairly soon. The Royals, however, was a never say die team and they managed to get a couple of base runners on base while at the same time getting two outs. It looked like the end of the game was imminent. That is when I made the fateful decision to break another my dad's baseball rules.
Willie Wilson was coming to bat with two out, two on and two runs down. Wilson was the Royals leadoff hitter. He did not hit for power but depended on his speed to get himself around the bases. My thinking went something like this. Wilson would not bunt, not with two out. Chances were he would be hitting away and with his power the chance of him knocking one out of the park were lean. If he hit a ground ball there were two other bases where a force out would end the game negating Wilson's speed to first base. If he managed to get a hit for a single it would score at most one run. In short, the odds were against the Royals pulling this one out of the hands of defeat and my bladder was about to burst. I made my decision.
I told a VERY surprised Barb that we were going to leave. It would give me a chance not to have to wait in line in the restroom and get us to the car a little early. So for the first time in my life that I remember, I left the game before the last out of the last inning.
We headed toward the corridor that would take us to the concourse and on to the restrooms. There were a lot of other fans leaving at the same time, so the corridor was pretty crowded with people. As soon as we cleared the corridor and stepped into the concourse, the crowd in the stadium roared louder than I can ever remember. It went on for a while and I found myself fighting with dozens of other fans to get back through the corridor to see what was causing the excitement. I started shouting "What's happening??" and I heard a reply. A reply that haunts me to this day. The voice said excitedly "Wilson hit an inside the park Homer!!"
I was stunned. I forgot about my full bladder. I don't mean to say I peed my pants, it just didn't seem to have the pressure that it did before. An inside the park homerun. I had never seen one. To this day I have yet to see one. But I was there when one was hit. I had forgotten to take into account that Willie Wilson had more inside the park homers than anyone since the fifties. During his career he hit thirteen of them and I was at the stadium the day he hit one of them, but I had not seen it.
The price to pay for my second infringement of dad's rules of baseball was to miss a small part of history and a Royals victory. I walked slowly with the crowd and slipped into the restroom where I ended up waiting in line to relieve myself of the pressure that had been building for while. I was quiet as I exited the restroom, found Barb and started to the car to head home.
Barb tried to soothe me as we drove home with me repeating to myself "An inside the park home run. I missed a Willie Wilson inside the park home run." I think it was starting to get on her nerves by the time we got home.
So, along with all of my dad's rules for all different situations, there indeed was a price to be paid. When I had broken some of dad's rules when I was younger, sometimes the price was painful but the price I paid that day for breaking two of dad's rules, hurt just as bad.
There was ALWAYS a price for breaking dad's rules.