Thursday, October 22, 2009

Repost- Talking Baseball

In honor of the Phils getting into the world series, some childhood memories of seeing the Phils play at Veteran Stadium. 

What does the final game of the 1980 World Series have in common with the final game of the 2008 World Series? It was the only time in my father's life, where he, a die hard Yankee fan, wanted the Phillies to win the World Series.  

My father grew up in Brooklyn. And like all pre-teen boys, he lived to play baseball. Baseball was his passion. When he wasn't playing, he was with his friends at Ebbets field watching the Brooklyn Dodgers, or the Polo grounds. It was a treat when his mother, the woman I was named after, took him to a game at Yankee stadium when school was out. Dad rooted for the Dodgers and the Yankees, and to this day, will tell you what he was doing when Bobby Thompson fired the shot heard around the world. 

He played ball every waking moment as a boy, stopping only for a stretch when he was drafted into service during WW II. When he came back home, he settled down in NJ and played locally on a softball team, as pitcher. He was so good, that in the early 50s, he was approached by the local Negro league, as a reverse Jackie Robinson, to be the first white player on their team. Dad was humbled and accepted the post of pitcher for this team as well. 

Eventually dad met mom, they got married, and had a nice two bedroom house with a back yard in the suburbs of NJ. My mom, a Brooklyn girl, was thrilled to have a back yard to garden. She has, and still has, a green thumb, as does my father.  

But you can take the boy off the baseball diamond, you cannot take baseball out of the boy. My father became my father, and from the moment his girls were old enough, he bought us mitts, bats, (painted pink) and taught us how to throw and pitch softballs. My sister excelled at this, it was more difficult for me. But the time with my father was priceless, since dad often worked such long hours, time with him was wonderful. If he wasn't playing with his girls, he was sitting on "his" chair, watching the Yankees on WPIX. I use to crawl up and sit on his lap, smelling his Old Spice as I would watch the game with him. I had to be perfectly still and not move until commercials, but it was lovely. 

When the girls got a bit older, a client at my dad's laboratory, had season tickets for the Phillies at Veteran Stadium. My father would go 5 or 6 times a year with the whole family; mom, and the two girls. It was a treat. Dad was at his element, first bundling the entire family in one of those monsterous Pontiacs with white walls he use to drive. My father was a Pontiac man.  

We would get to Veteran's stadium early, so dad could see the players practice. He would get a score card, and mom would have one too. Dad taught mom how to fill out a score card when they were dating. Dad would point out the players to us, like the King entertaining his court. One time we saw Willie Mays warming up. Dad walked down to the fence with my sister, watching in awe. Mays saw dad and my sister, waving to him, and (this is a true story) picked up a baseball to throw at my sister to catch. Dad caught it, whipped out a pen, and asked Mays to sign it. Mays came over and said something like "I don't like signing autographs, but my sister was way too cute and he signed his name and handed her the ball.  

In Junior High my father was down sized and lost access to the games. There were no more live ball games until I went to college and would drive out to Yankee stadium with a friend.  

But in my Freshman year in college, dad was not only following his beloved Yankees, he was closely watching the Phils. Maybe because their line up was so fantastic, Pete Rose, Mike Schmidt, Tug McGraw. I had gone to bed early that night they won the World Series, the dorm was quiet, and I had spent the evening studying. The next thing I knew i was in the fountain in front of the dorm. Seems like the guys were so excited (and drunk) that the Phils won, they went into the all girls dorm and raided it, dumping every girl they could find in the fountain. I had gone to bed that night as my wont, in a t shirt and panties. I woke up in the fountain, soaking wet, and when i raised up, one of the Frat boys, drunk as a skunk, said " First prize wet T shirt" and handed me a medal.  

Those were the days. I will let Terry Cashman take it from here.

Well, now it's the 80's, And Brett is the greatest, And Bobby Bonds can play for everyone. Rose is at the Vet, And Rusty again is a Met, And the great Alexander is pitchin' again in Washington.
Baseball. Fast foward to 2008. Phils are once again in the World Series. Rose still isn't in the Hall of Fame. Veteran's stadium is long gone, but the Phils are once again great, and the fans- let's put it this way. No other city has fans as devoted as Philadelphia, whether it's the Eagles or the Phils. As I start to write this, some high school boys are in my apartment complex parking lot setting up fireworks. They weren't even conceived when the Phils won in 80. The players, from that year, are ensconced in Cooperstown. The players of today will be there soon. And these boys, someday, will take their sons and daughters to the game and tell them what they were doing the last time the Phils won the Series. And have a drink and reminisce. Like I do when ever I hear about the players from the time I came of age in the 80s.

I'm talkin' baseball! Like Reggie, Quisenberry. Talkin' baseball! Carew and Gaylord Perry, Seaver, Garvey, Schmidt and Vida Blue, If Cooperstown is calling, it's no fluke. They'll be with Willie, Mickey, and the Duke.


herb said...

Thanks for the heads up Susan.

I enjoy your writings and the nostalgia you bring back to me especially in this piece.

Your curling up in your dad’s lap was especially heart warming and remindful as the last time I was to NY to see our granddaughters our eldest cuddled up with me as we caught the finals to the women’s college softball championship. As I recall the Gator’s had lost but it was a super playoff.

Our eldest aside from being bright is a bit of a jock and like your Dad, a year or two ago I took her out in the back yard and I began instructing her on hitting. Fast forward to this past spring and she’s moving up in the softball league and for her age she’s been walloping the ball.

You have much to cherish from your memories and even more importantly you’re blessed to share those memories, hugs and kisses with them today.

Once again, thanks and I’ll be watching along with your Dad; Go Yanks!


susan said...

I may not always agree with you, but on this one I do.


howard said...

beautiful reminiscence. as a Philly local, i have some of the same memories as it pertains to the Phillies. i think the preponderance of losing seasons in Philly sports is what first caused me to be an insufferable supporter of underdogs -- to me, there's nothing like rooting for a team everyone else seems to shortchange, especially when they win (once in the bluest of moons).

of course, many of the same dynamics apply this year. i sense that no matter which American League team the Phillies face (and at this point, the Yankees seem to have quite an edge), they'll be considered underdogs once again.

i'm sure we'll all enjoy the series to come, though i won't be rooting for the Bronx Bombers, for obvious reasons.

it should be fun, and thanks for the trip down memory lane. unlike the teenagers lighting the fireworks, i am old enough to remember every championship the Phillies have ever won ;)

susan said...

Howard, I hope it actually gets to be a series between the Yankees and the Phillies. It's going to divide NJ like nothing else I have ever seen. But I did love Veterans Stadium, I loved when the home team got a home run, an the little liberty bell would clang.

Janney said...

Congratulations to them and more power. They're indeed the best. By the way, being a great sports fan is rewarding too! Here's one from Premio Foods, the producer of delicious and quality sausage products in the U.S. They're giving away free buy one get one coupon whenever your favorite team wins. Be a Premio Facebook Fan and check out the details. Thanks and have a great day!

sallyo said...

I enjoyed reading about your memories with your dad; thanks for sharing! It reminded me of watching Packers football with my dad and brothers.
I also am a Yankees fan from way back. (I have to admit I have a crush on Derek Jeter.) Here's hoping they make it to the World Series.
Go Yanks!

susan said...

Sally, a Yankee fan in the Mid West? LOL!

Everyone has crushes on Derek Jeter. He is to us what DiMaggio was to my mom....good looking and dated all the hot women....

Wellness Writer said...

Dear Susan,
What a lovely essay, and wonderful tribute to your dad! Thanks for sharing!

Actually, I was sorry to see the Dodgers lose although I'm not a fan. But, the Phillies sure deserved to win. And, I hope we'll still be friends even though I'm rooting for the Angels:)!


Red Pill Junkie said...

You can tell that a writer is gifted when he or she can transmit passion to the reader about a topic said reader was not originally interested in.

Me? I'm afraid I couldn't care less about baseball (or any sport for that matter). But as I was reading your post, I could imagine myself in a stadium, as part of the cheering crowd.

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