Tuesday, December 24, 2013

August 30, 1990: Philadelphia Phillies vs. Los Angeles Dodgers

This is the first posting in a series about baseball games that I've attended with my father. The series will chronicle my developing love of our nation's pastime, helped along by my dear old dad and the great Phillies and Orioles teams of the past 20 years. It's something I hope to one day turn into a book, so please share this with your friends and family, particularly if they love baseball!

When I was a young child, my dad was my world. I wanted to grow up to be just like him, and everything he said and did I took as gospel.

This also meant I loathed anything that took his attention away from me. Such was the case with the Philadelphia Phillies.

Every Sunday afternoon in the spring and summer, my father parked himself in his favorite chair and tuned into WPHL17 to watch his favorite team. “How could this silly game on TV be more important than spending time with me?” I often asked myself.

My dad did his best to show me that there was plenty of room in life for him and baseball, and eventually, I came around enough to agree to go to a Phillies game with him. I was a month shy of my eighth birthday and had no idea this father-son activity would become such an important ritual that lasts to this day.

But I wasn’t going to root for those nasty Phillies just yet. Clearly, I still hung onto to some of the bitterness from the aforementioned Sunday afternoons.

A product of the “cookie cutter” era, Veterans Stadium was well known as a bit of an eyesore and an unpleasant place to play, particularly considering the Phillies and Philadelphia Eagles had to share it. But to a kid who had only known beat-up, neighborhood diamonds – where my dad would frequently take me for a game of catch or batting practice – this cathedral of our National Pastime was a sight to behold.

As my mother would later articulate for me, another big attraction of seeing a live, professional baseball game is the crowd. Veterans Stadium seated nearly 60,000 people. To put that into proper perspective, my hometown of Wilmington, Delaware has a population of approximately 72,000 people.

The crowd completely surrounded the field in several levels that seemed to ascend indefinitely, and the circle of fans created this vacuum of noise that my youthful ears had never heard. How amazing it was that these tens of thousands of people were all there for the same reason.

I was still learning the rules of the game, so I didn’t really follow what was happening on the field after the game began. I was also distracted by a teenager, there with his dad, sitting next to me, who kept on calling out, “Hey battah battah battah…”

The Phillies offense could not accommodate him, losing to Tommy Lasorda’s Los Angeles Dodgers 3-2. This would be my one and only time going to a Phillies game and rooting for the opposing team. They appeared to me as strangers in white uniforms and red caps, but I would soon know and enjoy the exploits of Darren Daulton, Lenny Dykstra and John Kruk.

The most memorable part of the night amazingly occurred after the game. My dad’s used Toyota was on its last legs. The engine kept overheating as we made our way back to Wilmington, forcing us to stop on the shoulder of 1-95 several times. The car finally conked out for good after we got off our exit, and we had to walk home from Gander Hill Prison, an impressive accomplishment in one of the most dangerous parts of the city.

Considering the deep significance this night now holds in my memory, I feel extremely fortunate the car mercifully waited until the drive home from my first-ever major league baseball experience to die. It seems quite poetic.

I was still five days from starting third grade, so my dad suggested we continue our special evening by staying up well past midnight to watch the re-broadcasting of the game we had just attended. We played Super Mario Bros. on my old-school (then brand new) Nintendo Entertainment System to pass the time. We watched about half the game, and then finally went to bed at 3:30 a.m., the latest I had ever stayed up to that point. It remained a bedtime record for the next nine years.

Now that I look back on that night, it was probably the first time I sat down and watched a Phillies game on TV with my dad. Two precedents were set mere hours from one another and soon, Sunday afternoons would turn from times of frustration to times of joy.

1 comment:

  1. great post! Did you yell "hey battah battah", too that game?