More self-absorbed baseball reminiscing.

I'm assuming the penis and cigarette has lowered the value quite dramatically.

I’m assuming the penis and cigarette has lowered the value quite dramatically. Perhaps done by a jilted Reds or Dodgers fan?

At 12 years old my interests were the same as your average kid from the 80’s era as I enjoyed playing with Star Wars toys with friends, re-creating scenes from Return of the Jedi and eating the latest sugary cereal concoction that hit the market. Seeing that we were boys and enjoyed rough-housing, there was also the random broken window from a baseball being batted which is decidedly why my friends and I began making balls with newspaper and duct tape– in retrospect this was a genius move as we couldn’t care less if we lost the ball and there were no more broken windows and the inevitable grounding and ass-tanning that came with it.

This was the year I went to my first Major League Baseball game which was on September 26, 1987. I know this because my Grandfather took me because it was “Reggie Jackson Day,” and Reggie being his all-time favorite player made this game matter-of-course. The Oakland Coliseum wasn’t the out-dated monstrosity that it has become today and back then you actually had a view of the Oakland hills behind the bleachers, a view akin to Dodger Stadium today. The details of the actual game have been blurred through time, yet I remember being disappointed that Reggie batted only once (on his day!) in a pinch hit role, popping out. After a bit of research what had once been in my mind’s-eye, indeed, the above date held true. Ol’ Reg had stepped in the box once–popping out with runners on second and third in a 3-2 loss to the Chicago White Sox and their new pig-tail “C” caps.

After the game Reggie was in a bad mood.

“I’m not into talking about how wonderful things are for me when we’ve lost four in a row,” he said. “I’m embarrassed.”

“If we had won, it would be different. But right now, my esteem is low. My self-importance is microscopic.”

The box-score is interesting to me as I remember my 12-year-old self wondering, “Who in the hell is Walt Weiss?” (Regular short-stop Alfredo Griffin must have been hurt or taking the day off) Weiss was in his third month in the league, and went on to win Rookie of the Year the next season. Long time Oakland A’s pitching coach Curt Young started the game, pitching 7 strong innings and giving up 1 run. (This wasn’t part of my memory, as the only one I remember is Reggie batting once and popping out which probably destroyed my belief in predestiny and prepared me for the heartbreak and disappointment of being an A’s fan for years to come) Overall, I don’t remember much as far as feelings or any other waxing “ball park details”, except the expansiveness of the field, my grandfathers chain-smoking of Marlboro “Reds”, and pissing in a trough for the first time. Yet, I must liken this experience to a crack head’s first hit as it led me a life-long obsession that still exists to this day.

11 Comments

Great story. I think I’d be out at the Coliseum more often if we could still see the outside – the East Bay hills gave everything a very California feel. I went to my first game out there in 1980, watching some of the good pitchers they had those days. These were, of course, the Billy Ball days.

Tony Armas was someone to watch too. And of course, Rickey Henderson was the big attraction. That man could fly.

My early experiences with Baseball were much more humble. There was a splintery old ball park on the edge of town (Lincoln, Nebraska), in which played what I remember to be a farm team of the then Philadelphia Athletics- although I just did a quick search, and it appears that memory is incorrect.
In any case, there were warm summer nights and avid fans and hot dogs and a crackly sound system and, yes, my grandfather beside me. Wonderful nights.
Even more humble: On a sandlot, in the middle of town, teams representing local businesses played softball, almost every night. I rode my bike over and paid a nickle to sit in the bleachers, unless I sneaked in, which wasn’t hard. Those are the “early baseball memories” I love the most. All those out-of-shape guys, proudly wearing the uniform of “Ed’s Tire Sales and Repair”, out there playing serious softball, their families and buddies shouting encouragement. I didn’t care who won; I just loved being there, for reasons I didn’t examine. What I was, was in love, and it was Baseball.
Finally: I love listening to baseball on the radio (as I’ve probably written earlier), largely because it seems like everybody listened to Baseball on the radio when I was a kid. Unthinkably shocking fact: there was no television on which to watch the game, but everyone listened- to what games I can’t imagine, since we had no Major League team in the area, and on those warm summer nights I keep going on about, you could hear the games from open windows, up and down the street- since there was no home air conditioning either, to shut us away from one another. Seventy years later (I’m an old guy, yes), I listen to a game, and, even as I enjoy it in the moment, it takes me back to a time when I didn’t have to lock up my fat-tired bicycle…. and that’s about enough of that.

Thanks for sharing John….those sound like wonderful memories.

The fact that you used “pissing in a trough” and “crack head” means that you have been nominated for my inaugural “best post of the month”.
It was also a great story, I cannot wait to finally visit O.co in May. I hope the park lives up to it’s rather low expectations. Since I grew up on Metrodome baseball in Minneapolis (and lived through the near “contraction” talk) has me well prepared to enjoy this no-frills experience.

(Let me know if you end up going to the Twins/A’s game on May 30th. Maybe we can share a high five and talk about the 1989 Carnie Lansford/Kirby Puckett batting title battle.)

Thanks for the kind words Tony. Kirby Puckett was one of my favorite players growing up and I actually got his autograph once in Anaheim!
O.co is amazing because of the fans. In my opinion A’s fans are some of the best in the game.

Like you, I still remember my first game (minor league level for me). Great memories. Thanks for reminding me of them.
v

Is that your baseball card? Pretty sure I had that one too — if memory serves that’s the 1970 or 71 topps. I used to write on my cards too — ugh!

I believe Jack Murphy Stadium, in San Diego, also had an open outfield with views of hills. What a shame we’ve lost those parks to corporate greed. I’m guessing the view from Levis Stadium is…nothing.

It is a 1971 Topps but unfortunately I am not the “artist.” Thanks for the comment Keith.

Great post, Gary. I really love reading about people’s earliest baseball memories.

Still remember my first game. 1971 Gary Peters pitching for the Bosox. Just recently found the old program at my mothers house. Great memories

Very nice column, Gary. Our pledge of love and allegiance to baseball starts actively, emotionally and variedly, but the one characteristic we deep blue fans share is – the fact it starts early. I’ve met a guy who found the game at 48. He likes the game. To really love the game, it helps to have found it on a sandlot or in Little League at the age of 8.

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