Wednesday, April 6, 2011

My Life is An Oprah Episode - The Boys of Summer

My love affair with baseball began when I was very young.  Although he was born in England, I think my father became a New York Yankee fan the moment he stepped off the boat at Ellis Island.  During the spring and summer months, and into the fall, no matter where we were, we could hear a play by play, by announcer Mel Allen, blasting on the radio or we were watching the game on TV.  My father took me to many games -- I can remember how we would take the subway to 161st Street in the Bronx, meet up with one of his friends who provided our tickets, and my father would always give the guy a six-pack of Ballentine beer.  We sat in what was then the "press level" somewhere between third base and left field; I just loved being there.  Since I was a collector of baseball cards, I often brought my "stash" with me, just in case.  Of what, I am not sure.  I knew every Yankee player by name, by number, their batting average, RBIs, homers, or a pitcher's ERA.  I was still pretty young, no more than 10 probably.  Sounds impressive?  Maybe.  But, just about all my friends were just as knowledgeable.  

I didn't plan on dating a baseball player, but, it was a bonus for me. I attended so many baseball games, all around the country.   And, as a residual of that relationship, I also became close friends with one of the sports writers, who I talked about in an earlier blog.  That relationship/friendship provided some of the most fun I ever had, often with baseball as a back drop.  There was hardly a time during baseball season, or even football season, when I was not hanging around Steve and all his sports writer buddies.  Guys that had names like Houdini, Loose Shoes, Goose, all of whom worked for either top newspapers or wire services (UPI).  We all partied like crazy. And laughed.  I know Steve would agree, we had a blast!  I knew some of the players like Lou Pinella and George Brett (who I actually met at a hockey game and turned down three times -- once was actually for a date!)  I knew spring training had started each year, when I would receive two phone calls...without from a local radio announcer, and one from Charlie Lau, who at the time was a batting coach for the KC Royals, and credited with developing George Brett into the hitter he became.  I never had a relationship with Charlie, even though he would call me often, if fact, I only saw him once or twice when out with Steve and the "boys".  We had many long, telephone conversations, and I was saddened when I learned he had died at an early age, of cancer.
Also, during those years, I worked for an airline as a ticket agent, and all the American League umpires would come into our office,  usually to make changes to their airline tickets...yeah, back in the day...:).  I became friends with a few of them, and one in particular, Dale Ford, would make it a point to call my father whenever he was umping a Yankee game, and leave tickets for him at the stadium.  My father referred to Dale as his buddy, and was always so thrilled to go to a game to see his beloved Yankees.   The last time I saw Dale he stopped into the ticket office to say hi and say he would be calling my father the following week. I told Dale that my father had passed away that spring, and Dale felt so badly about that -- even though he had never met my father and only spoke with him on the phone.  It remains a tender memory for me.

I miss the old Yankee Stadium, but, I must say, going to a game at the new Stadium last year was quite a thrill. Imagine sitting in cushioned seats, with waitress service!  I just find it so despicable that the cost of tickets and all the food etc, is so expensive.  You have to practically mortgage your home.  It's so sad.  The game used to be accessible, as were the players, to the fans.  Even so, I still get excited when watching a game and cheering on my Boys of Summer.

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