On August 21, 1983, I went to my first baseball game. Angels vs. Yankees. Uncle Paul, one of those family friends who's not related but you call "uncle" anyway, was so excited to take me. "Aunt" Sandy was pregnant at the time, but I don't think they were telling people yet. I remember driving across the George Washington Bridge and at one point — though I don't know if it was on the bridge — Uncle Paul jokingly let go of the steering wheel and I leaned over to hold the car steady. Sandy let me sit in the front seat. Although we may have been in stop-and-go traffic or Uncle Paul might've been holding the wheel steady with his knee, I felt like I was saving the day, keeping the car from driving off the bridge.
Now I live within minutes of the bridge. I pass it every day going to work, I see it from the riverbank several times a week.
It's been 20 years since my first baseball game, and I've seen more than 60 since.
A coworker introduced me to Retrosheet, a website that archives baseball box scores and I went back to discover my first game.
Then I got hooked. I wanted to find all the games I've seen. My urge for archiving and preserving my personal history overpowered me and I spent as much free time at work as I could trying to remember when I went to games, who I saw, when it was. I remembered hot days at Shea and the Vet, cold days in Wrigley ... and Shea and the Vet. I remembered Ken Griffey Jr.'s first game as a Red against the Mets, Bo Jackson robbing Jack Clark of a home run at Yankee Stadium, Mo Vaughn's first major-league home run (at old Memorial Stadium in Baltimore), Tim Salmon's first bomb (against the Yankees), all my games at Camden Yards and Fenway. I found some easily by those events and others through deduction: I remembered a game when we had seats down the right-field line at Yankee Stadium when Jesse Barfield slid trying in vain to catch a ball hit by the Blue Jays' Kelly Gruber. It turned into a triple. I found the game where Gruber tripled against the Yankees with Barfield in right. Another I tracked down because I remembered the Beach Boys concert we saw after the Yankee game against the Brewers in 1991, on a Sunday. The only Sunday games against the Brewers were June and September; that's easy, it was June.
Other details I remembered after finding the box scores themselves. Bo Jackson robbing Jack Clark of a home run won't show up in the box score, but since I remembered the game was the last before the all-star break in July of the late 80s, I checked the Yankees schedules for when they played Kansas City at home just before a three-day gap in the list of games. Clicking on the box score for the July 10, 1988, game, I noticed that pitcher Ron Guidry appeared for the Yankees as a pinch runner — a detail I remember from that day 16 years ago because of its uniqueness.
Baseball is my first passion, my one true sport. The only professional team to which I can be as attached as I am to my alma mater, Notre Dame, is the New York Mets. Attending Game 5 of the 2000 NLCS when they beat the Cardinals on the strength of Mike Hampton's complete game is the absolute number one professional game I've ever attended. Top of the list. Easily. So at the start of the 2004 season, I decided to transfer my passion and my sporadic writing into something more lasting, more permanent, more open to the world wide web. I started a blog. But I never grew truly comfortable with it; the setup on another site, another host, just didn't fit what I was looking for. I updated infrequently and found, at the end of the season, I wasn't happy with my output. I managed to post daily updates through the postseason, but I realized that it would be much more inviting on another site.
I couldn't wait until Opening Day to start this time. So here I am. I've got three months until the first pitch of the 2005 season, so I'll use that time to transfer over most of the old entries from the other site and then add some new material from my personal archives and former days as a reporter, as well as fresh musings as we head into spring training.
Well, that's my plan, anyway. Let's see how it all turns out.
Labels: in attendance