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.