Monday, October 06, 2008

An Obit for Two

I’ve been meaning to mention the baseball parks recently shuttered in these parts. In the same way that I feel lucky to live in New York as a film buff, a reader, and a fan of the fall season, I also feel lucky to have grown up as a baseball fan not too far from the city. The first big league game I ever attended was at Yankee Stadium, and many more followed. Those were relatively rare non-glory days for the franchise. Sure, they had Mattingly and Winfield, the same way that there’s always a star or two on almost any roster, but it was not a period defined by titles and legends like Ruth, DiMaggio, Mantle, Rivera or Jeter. It was a time of journeymen and lesser lights like Steve Kemp, Bobby Meacham, Omar Moreno, Roy Smalley, Mike Pagliarulo, Oscar Gamble, Jerry Mumphrey, Dan Pasqua, and Steve Balboni (who my dad nicknamed “The Bulbous One”).

Those were also the days of the city’s famous “squeegee men,” who would wash our windshield on our way out of the Bronx. Closer to home, we’d get the postgame show on the radio, with a wrap-up of other scores from around the league. It was sponsored by AAMCO, whose car-horn-enhanced ads became a staple of the trip -- “AAMCO, Double-A (honk, honk) M-C-O.”

Those days, the Mets were ascendant, as plenty of my Long Island friends never tired of reminding me, and we often got to Shea as well, to see the sensational Doc Gooden or the occasionally uncoiled potential of Darryl Strawberry or the scrappiness of Lenny Dykstra. That stadium, less beloved than the one in the Bronx, for reasons of architecture as well as history, will probably always be home to the most famous moment of my sports-attending life -- Game 6 of the 1986 World Series (the “Buckner Game”), which Dad and I watched from the upper deck on the third-base side. I was 12 at the time, and between my disdain for the Red Sox and my lack of true animosity toward the team from Queens, it was easy enough for me to get swept up and go absolutely nuts during the Mets’ legendary comeback.

My clearest Yankee Stadium memories are understandably vaguer than that, but they compose a pleasing montage: A line-drive grand slam by Don Baylor over the left-center field wall; getting there early for infield practice when Alan Trammell or Cal Ripken was in town; the fans chanting “REG-GIE” when Reggie Jackson came back in an Angels uniform; and a perfectly sunny afternoon game against the Royals this past August, a 13-inning affair that ended with the Yankees winning on a hit by a rookie, as good a way to say goodbye and move into the future as any.


Blogger Kraig Smith said...

Was that 13-inning affair the one we went to? It feels like I was an unfortunate witness to every NY/KC game this year so they sort of run together. If it was---YES, VERY MEMORABLE! And it was the last extra inning game ever played at Yankee Stadium. If that was the game. I can't remember.

10:16 PM  
Blogger JMW said...

That was the game, indeed. I owe you big for my last visit there.

7:02 PM  

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