Wednesday, July 16, 2008

My First Time

I’ve been to about 20 baseball stadiums, but the last time I went to a “new” one (for me) was two years ago, when I went a Dodgers game in the immediate jetlagged haze of a return flight to the States from New Zealand.

I just read a Baseball Prospectus writer’s column where he waxes poetic about his first time in Yankee Stadium, so here’s my first impressions of the stadiums I visited as a kid:

1. Fenway Park
During the 1986 season, we were taking a vacation in Boston during the summer when I asked my dad if we could go to a Red Sox game. We lived outside Washington, DC, but I was born in Boston, so I had declared my 8-year-old self a Red Sox fan. We saw that there was a game coming up on a Saturday, and my dad my a couple calls, and we were set (how quaint). At first, I thought Clemens was pitching, but it was Schraldi. It was an afternoon game, and all I remember is being really close to the field and that it was gray and misty — cinematically so. I remember the seminal experience of coming out of the tunnel and seeing the field, and the burly players, for the first time, and walking along the innermost walkway on Fenway’s periphery to find our seats. I also remember that the Red Sox won. Or maybe they lost. I’m not sure. I don’t even care.

2. Yankee Stadium
A couple years later — important years — my father picked us up from his home in Connecticut to take us up to New York, and I suggested we see a Yankees game. It was the middle of the summer, and I remember taking the train up to the Stadium, where my youngest brother was yelled at on the train by someone asking if he had seen a black person before. We got off the train and made what seemed to be an eternal walk to a monstrous, colossal stadium, past the city parks where people were playing their own baseball. Our tickets cost $6 each and we sat waaaaaaaaaay up in the upper deck, along the third base line, and watched the Twins beat the Yankees in 10. The Yankee Stadium of then and now, to me, seem so different it’s ridiculous, but they’re both going bye-bye next year. I miss the one from my youth.

3. Baltimore’s Memorial Stadium
The first time I went to Memorial Stadium was in 1989, to see the first game of a doubleheader against the Red Sox. This one has two standout moments — one was on the bus on the way there (it was a camp field trip) that, sadly, I can’t share — the other was that just when we walked in, Nick Esasky’s 21st home run was going over the fence. I would choose not to add that Roger Clemens pitched for the Sox, which I only know because I just found the game on (it’s easy to find doubleheaders, and Esasky was only on the team for one season), but there you go.

4. Exhibition Stadium, Toronto
Finally, one with mom! We were in Toronto for a vacation with our uncle and his family when I convinced her to take us to a Blue Jays game — again, I think against the Red Sox. (Many Red Sox-related coincidences like this one — them playing the Blue Jays when we were on vacation — seemed positively karmic to me as a youngster; actually, they still do). We sat in deep centerfield of the stadium, and I remember the people around us being really nice to us, which makes sense, because they were Canadian and my mom was a single woman with three brats. We actually still have pictures from this game, and I think at least one of us has a Blue Jays hat on. The unquestionable highlight of this trip, though, was being in the elevator with Jim Henson in our hotel, the four of us and him. My mom immediately knew who it was, and he knew that she knew, and she kind of looked at us with a ‘Pay attention to this man!’ look while trying to stifle a smile, unsuccessfully. So when he said, “Four, please” to us, who by this time were staring up at him, he said it in Kermit’s voice. I can still hear it.

5. New Comiskey
On a trip to Chicago, the White Sox were playing someone who was NOT the Red Sox in the first year at the new Comiskey Park. Even as a 13- or 14-year-old, I was unimpressed with the stadium, though I was damn proud of myself for having visited the stadium, being from Massachusetts and all, and I bragged to all my friends at home about it. Or at least I assume I did. I went with my Uncle Mike, which was the most fun part about it.


Coachie Ballgames said...

bragging about visiting the new comiskey is always tolerated.

and just why are canadians so irritatingly nice? is it the tim horton's? does all their aggression get vented through hockey and bizarre-rules football?

Ryan said...

Important question: had your brother ever seen a black person before?