Tuesday, April 05, 2005
Recently I was re-reading the chapter of Doris Kearns Goodwin’s Wait ‘Til Next Year dealing with a trip she took with her family to Ebbets Field to see the Dodgers and Giants play, and I was reminded of nights I spent at the Vet. Some of my most vivid memories of my childhood deal with going to the Vet with my Dad or my Grandfather. I still remember going to games: the long drive from our home in central Chester County, the crawl on I-95 to the Vet past the Philadelphia Naval Yard (I was always fascinated to see the massive aircraft carriers sitting in their drydocks during their refits), the parking lot at the sports complex, and the entry into the Vet … the hot summer night was practically dripping with moisture it was so humid. I remember following my dad as we walked through the hustle and bustle of the Vet corridors on our way to our seats. Through all of the grey concrete and soda-stained hallways.
Then we’d walk into our section. I’d stare at the sight before me: the dull green of the astroturf. The dark sky surrounded by the dull red and yellows of the seats and the gray concrete. Being in the Vet was like being at the bottom of a massive concrete bowl.
My father and I would sit through some so-so baseball. For some odd reason we went to games against the Giants each year and saw Barry Bonds club home runs in each. The Phillies won, more often than not (I’ve found my experience to be atypical of Phillies fans), prevailing in some great games. We’d get hot dogs, sodas, a program. We’d sit under the hot night sky and watch the game being played, though it was rarely played well. The ugly astroturf of the Vet looked oddly nice … I’d sometimes stare at the numbers of the players retired in the outfield, wondering who Robin Roberts was, or what made Richie Ashburn so special (later in life I found out). I went to Steve Carlton night with my grandfather in 1989 and I still remember Harry Kalas speech, talking about Carlton’s 1972 season with the Phillies, and how great he was on an awful team.
Then my dad and I would head out (we’d usually stay rather than leave in the seventh inning the way so many suburbanites do: purists we are), crawling through the traffic on 95 to Chester County. We’d get home at 11:30 or so and I’d collapse into bed, dreaming of catching flyballs in centerfield or blowing fastballs by Barry Bonds. My athletic abilities being as meager as they are this was a forlorn hope, but I was always thinking about the game I love. I memorized stats, I imagined myself the General Manager of the Phillies (in my mind I always managed to make a Joe Carter-for-Von Hayes deal possible).
These are the sort of memories I’ve made over the years watching baseball. My dad & I haven’t seen a game in years together (my life in Pittsburgh being a deterent). I go to games at PNC Park (nice place, by the way) and watch the Pirates play with detachment: I want my friends to have a winning team, but the Pirates cause isn’t my own. I still enjoy it, but it isn’t the same. It doesn’t mean the same thing when you get older and have responsibilies and dreams of things like getting promoted and getting a house. But it means a lot to reach back in your memories and remember those days so long ago. I hope everyone out there is making memories of their own with their kids. These are the things they’ll remember.
I'll try to work up something about yesterday's game. Here is the thumbnail version: don't cheer results outside of their meaning. Talk to me in a week and we'll have an idea about where the Phillies are going.