Forgotten By Most--Remembered By At Least One
There isn't a lot that I remember these days.
I forget where I leave my car keys...why I walked into a room.
I even sent a co-worker the same fantasy baseball trade. Twice.
But some things I recall, like the fact that this weekend marks the 37th anniversary of my first trip to a Major League Baseball game.
June 23, 1970.
My childhood Sheboygan buddy, Mark Voss, had a very generous uncle, one who was willing to make the drive to Milwaukee down old Highway 141 (yes, I-43 was but a pile of blue prints). We were just 13, absolutely nuts about baseball. We'd play fast-pitch for hours up against a wall at Washington Elementary School, a yellow box from armpit to knee serving as a silent ump. We'd heave day-glo sponge balls until we couldn't lift our arms. He'd be the Twins. I'd be the Orioles. We'd memorize box scores from the Sheboygan Press and prattle through the lineups, even announce pitching changes.
The Brewers' arrival in spring of '70 kicked us into hyperspace. I remember racing home to catch the final innings of the home opener on the radio, crushed to find out we were losing 12-0 to the Angels but amazed that so many people could get so excited by a foul ball.
Brewers fever faded that first season. Some hard-cores couldn't get used to the American League (remember, this pre-dates the DH) and were STILL bitter at the big leagues for letting the Braves leave Milwaukee.
We'd watch the handful of games that got televised, in black and white with primitive production values but hey--who cared? We had a team of our own.
When Mark's uncle offered to take us, we probably could've flown there without the car. I'd seen County Stadium a gazillion times from I-94 and going up the VA hill as we would take my dad to Wood for cancer treatments and surgeries (he would die that fall). Sometimes, there'd be a game going on, and I'd wonder what it would be like to be inside. The crowd. The game. The food. Being able to toss wrappers on the ground without getting yelled at.
It felt so strange, making the turn INTO the stadium lot instead of up that hill and onto the VA grounds. Instead of the antiseptic smell of the hospital, my nostrils caught wind of Oscar Meyer hot dogs (we never had those at home, as mom found "skinless" wieners beneath contempt). And, it's true what they say about seeing your first major league field--the green, the blue. Baseballs so white they seemed made of snow. I think Bernie Brewer was there, but not the one that slid into a mug in center field--this one was a living, breathing fan who lived in a mobile home atop the right field scoreboard, where he vowed to stay until the team drew a crowd of 40,000 or more. He'd still be there when we got home that night. He'd stay there until August.
The crowd represented more people than I'd ever seen at once at that point in my life, the game was played in front of a sea of empty seats. I couldn't believe I could see people driving by, carrying on with life when there was this incredible building filled with baseball plopped right smack dab among them--how could you possible pass by? I knew how much it tore me up to do it, but that was only because I had a sick father to visit. What else could be so important as to pass up the chance to see a big league game, even if the team wasn't the best?
My overburdened basement holds my scorecard from that night. I couldn't get my hands on it--I honestly don't even know where to start. So, I took the easy way out and went to the Baseball Almanac website. Here's what happened that magical night: Not many stars on the Brewers side of the ledger, but I did get to meet Mike Hegan later on in my career and actually got to crush beers with him a few nights during fantasy camp in the 90's. He's one of the nicest guys I've ever met, and he had me laughing so hard I damn near wet myself. The Twins had Harmon Killebrew in tow that evening, plus Bert Blyleven--who got out dueled by the likes of Bob Bolin and Dave Baldwin. And, we got to see Phil Roof ("...they aren't booing...they're saying 'Roooof!;") go yard.
County Stadium is gone, with Miller Park a more comfortable, more financially compelling replacement. Gus Gil gets a line or two in the "History" section of the Brewers Media Guide. Tommy Harper still is in the record books. The game they played in front of me that night 37 years ago made nary a dent in the annals of baseball.
But I remember it every time I walk into a stadium, be it Miller Park or somewhere else.
Minnesota Twins 3, Milwaukee Brewers 4
|Game played on Tuesday, June 23, 1970 at County Stadium|