What are Your Favorite MLB Childhood Memories?

Driving into Kansas City last night, I was listening to the Royals long-time broadcaster, Denny Matthews. Matthews has that old-time Ernie Harwell type delivery, which brings back memories of my childhood, as he was one of the people I listened to on a regular basis. Baseball on the radio is something that can’t be matched by other sports. Living in the middle of America, I was able to listen to 10 different teams, which gave me a thrill, as it felt like a connection to the rest of the country. Between the games and a steady diet of sports talk shows coming from KMOX in St. Louis (young Bob Costas), 700 WLW (Bob Trumpy), and WTAM (the great Pete Franklin), I felt somewhat informed about what was happening in the sports world. Remember this was before ESPN, the USA Today, or the Internet. I know I sound like someone’s Grandpa sitting on the front porch reminiscing, but it was a different time.

Growing up in Iowa, I had no major league team to root for, which was a negative in that there was no common bond among your friends when it came to favorite teams. On the other hand, it made for more interesting playground discussions and baseball card trading was more lively, because it wasn’t all about 4 boys trying to trade for the same players.

Living in the central part of Iowa in the 1970’s, there seemed to be a pretty even split between the Royals and Twins fans, with the Cardinals and Cubs having a decent amount of market share, as well. This was before the Cubs had located their Triple A team to Des Moines. Actually, there was a fair amount of A’s fan where I lived because for a stretch Des Moines had been an Oakland farm club. I guess as a toddler, I had been to a game with Vida Blue pitching. I know when I was told this at the age of 6, I was angry, because I wished very hard that I could remember the event.

My favorite team was the Tigers (I didn’t become a White Sox fan until 1988), because I had went to my first game in Detroit. I have fond memories of playing imaginary baseball games by myself, throwing the whiffle ball up and slugging it in the air of my backyard, as I pretended I was Norm Cash, Al Kaline, or Willie Horton. Since Iowa didn’t have a Major League team, the only time a non-playoff game was on TV was when there was the NBC Saturday game of the week featuring Joe Garagiola and Tony Kubek.

Unlike major cities, which had independent channels, we had 4 stations to watch, so this one game a week was pretty much it, except for the occasional Sunday Cubs game. This was where my loathing of the Cubs began, as I was forced to feed my baseball addiction through the dismal doings taking place in Wrigley Field. Between the period of 1973-83 the Cubs never had a winning season. Add to this the incredibly boring announcing of Jack Brickhouse and Lou Boudreau and it seemed cruel this was my only choice. I seem to remember a time watching a Cubs game where Brickhouse actually fell asleep on the air. Urban Legend in my head or not, I can see why it could’ve happened, as between the announcing and the team’s pitiful offense (exception being a few years of Bill Madlock), it formed a powerful sedative. Another annoying thing was how Boudreau would frame everything into the phrase, “now all you little leaguers out there should watch how Kessinger did this or how Trillo did that.” Yeeech.

My childhood has shaped why I have a hard time just wanting to talk about only one team. Considering that Will lived a very nomadic life at a young age, as he followed his dad around from city to city, I’m guessing this is why he was never interested in covering just one team, either. While I like having a site of variety, I would be less than honest if I didn’t mention I was jealous of the large amount of comments that happen at some other Toaster sites, because of their sense of commnunity. I’m going to try to make more interactive posts, as I want to develop a more interactive feel at thejuiceblog, especially now that the Creator (Will) has left. Please do me a favor and post whenever you feel the urge. The hits we get make me feel good about the direction the site is going, but feedback through comments and email is the best way for me to know how best to connect with you.

I’m looking forward to hearing about your favorite MLB childhood memories.

22 thoughts on “What are Your Favorite MLB Childhood Memories?

  1. 1.  My greatest radio moment was listening to Vin Scully call Koufax’ perfect game in 1965. I was camping with my family in the Sierras and somehow we were able to get the game on our little transistor (19 transistors!) radio. We gathered around the fire and were mesmerized. I can still “hear” Harvey Kuenne (sp?) striking out to end the game.

  2. 2.  For the life of me, I can’t remember the year, opponent, or many other details; it was a day game at Yankee Stadium, I was watching it on TV with my grandmother (a die-hard fan after giving up on her beloved bums the Dodgers when they moved west). Grams had shuffled off to the kitchen to get us more pretzals and cheese. Sitting indian style a foot from the box, I remember Mattingly prowling after a pop foul only to see it go into the 7th or 8th row. While the rest of the crowd was watching to see where it landed, he grabbed a handful of popcorn from a some lucky kid’s tub. Man, I wanted to be that kid.

  3. 3.  I have a lot of favorite childhood memories, but I always seem to think that on Saturdays when I would watch NBC’s “Game of the Week”, I would always want to watch the “backup” game (the one shown in the cities of the teams that were in the primary game). I just assumed that would always be a better game.

  4. 4.  A few come to mind:

    *My first MLB game was in 1976 at Fulton County, Phils vs. Braves. I mostly remember that Greg Luzinski sure looked different than the other guys.

    *A few years later, I caught a game in Atlanta again with 2,500 of my closest friends and I ended up with a foul ball from Rafael Ramirez (a ball that ened up in a cornfield in the outfield at my local park the next summer).

    Like Scott, the TV offerings in central Illinois were basically limited to the Saturday game and the occasional Sunday Cub suckfest (at least until 1982 and the welcome arrival of cable and therefore TBS). I guess I didn’t end up as a Cub or Card fan primarily because my dad wasn’t much of a baseball fan and therefore didn’t have a stake in any particular club; additionally, the 70’s weren’t exactly the Golden Age for either team.

    These days with three little ones under 2.5 years old, I don’t get to many games, but I’ve taken my son to four Cubs/Braves games at Wrigley (Glen Hubbard gave him a ball and it’s on a shelf not in a field) and hopefully he’ll have some of his own memories in a few years.

  5. 5.  I have a couple involving the Yankees and one with the Mets I posted the other day, but I’ll mention the yin-yang experience of my downstate trips to the Bronx…

    My first memory of the stadium was when my older brother took me a year after we had moved upstate. I still have a picture of me as an eight-year old standing on the 4 train platform in my cap and dis-coordinated clothing, replete with clod-hopper shoes. The Yankees wereplaying the Angels and I remember watching Reggie from the upper deck popping a foul only a few rows away from us before striking out.

    My brother bought any stupid little thing I asked for, including a pack of Underoos and a red tank top that I wore for nearly ten years afterwards. When I moved to the Bronx nearly twenty years later, I again stood at the very spot that we had taken that picture, like it had happened yesterday.

    The other memory was horrid at the time, but gradually became a classic in our griot-inspired tales of yore. My oldest sister, who was a huge fan, took her daughter and I to the stadium for our second excursion together, which started with us missing the train out of New Hamburg, taking the bus to Moshulu to catch the 4 train and missing that, arriving in the fifth inning to the worst seats in the joint, where we only heard the Yankees getting their behinds handed to them, then watching this soap opera begin…

    “Jose” and his girl got on the train and stood, holdingg the pole while another guy was checking them out. Jose sees this and goes bananas, whirling and windmilling his fists and stumbling around in a circle (because apparently Jose had one too many cervesas), while his girl was worrisomely crying, “Jose, Jose, no, Jose!” over and over again as the other guy was circling around protesting, “No, I wasn’t lookin’ at your girl, homes,” and the three of us are watching this play out right in front of us. After a couple of stops with Jose windmilling and mumbling, “Cuz I’ll… and I’ll… and I’ll…” they got off and we breathed a sigh of relief.

    No the story doesn’t end there. My sister decides to take a shortcut and gets us on the bus and to Yonkers, where we get off next to the Toys ‘R’ Us off of the Thruway. There we climb the embankment and wait for the bus to take us to Yonkers Train Station… and wait… and wait… finally someone walks by and she asks when the next bus is coming. “Oh, it’s Sunday. The last bus left three hours ago.” Unbelieveable. We ended up walking from the Thruway to the train station, just in time to catch the last train upstate.

    Nope, the story doesn’t even end there. We get off at New Hamburg and call Mom to come pick us up. It’s after midnight and the taxis had all left hours ago. Mom and my sister get into a shouting match over the phone, and then we begin the long walk home.

    In the dead of night.
    Through the woods.
    Wind whistling through the trees.
    Cricket, cricket.
    A car or two passing by with faint laughter trainling behind it.
    Eyes watching,
    water trickling,
    cows waiting to be tipped,
    it was just awful for three exhausted people.

    Two and a half miles and three pair of sneakers later, we made it home, with no feeling in our feet, nor a thought about walking for the next two weeks.

    Oddly enough, that experience is one of my favorite to recount in terms of baseball, even if baseball was only involved for less than four innings. Go figure…

  6. 6.  I remember an exhibition game played at DC Stadium (later RFK) between the Dodgers and the newly-minted expansion Senators. I was a huge Dodgers fan, since I’d lived there for three years until our recent move to NoVa. I had planned to go on Saturday (Koufax was supposed to pitch), but the lawn at our suburban home needed mowing, so I was forced to wait till Sunday. But! Alston switched pitchers, so Drysdale or somebody pitched the Saturday game and Koufax pitched on Sunday. I was seated right behind home plate for the game, and I remember hearing the ball hit the catcher’s mitt (probably Roseboro’s) and thinking how loud it was.

    I imagine Sandy only pitched about three innings, since the Dodgers were on their way back to the West Coast and he’d probably have been scheduled to pitch either Opening Day or the second game of the season.

  7. 7.  4. The Reggie Jackson 3 HR WS game. I remember my father saying “Good God” a lot, and he hated the Yankees. I remember my father’s exclamation more than the actual HRs. I was only five.

    3. My father giving me earplugs to go to school after the Yankees lost the ’81 WS. He said something to the effect of, “You’ll get over it. The Yanks go the WS every other year, practically.” Actually, never again in your lifetime, pops.

    2. The Dion James dead bird game at Shea. I think my sister bawled for about four hours after that bird got nailed.

    1. My grandmother getting me autographed 1981 press photos from Reggie Jackson, Bucky Dent, and Dave Winfield for Christmas. Reggie and Bucky personalized them to me.

    Anyone that posts that a clubhouse secretary probably signed them is asking to get hurt through the internet. Don’t screw with my #1 MLB childhood memory, dammit.

  8. 8.  7 “um, you know that picture that Bucky Dent and Reggie signed when you were a kid? Well, now that you’ve grown, I feel the need to clear the air about something… Bucky and Reggie never really signed that picture for you… hate to tell you this, but it was actually Dave Winfield.”

  9. 9.  1. I remember watching a day game at Yankee Stadium on TV in the mid 80s- it was the national game of the week. Rickey Henderson got on base 4 times and Don Mattingly knocked him in every time. I remember thinking that Mattingly and Henderson would lead the Yanks to a World Series- they were too good and both in their prime.

    2. Andy Hawkins losing a no-hitter.

    3. Little League day in the DC area was held every year at Memorial Stadium. Eddie Murray came up in the bottom of the ninth with the bases loaded and the O’s losing. The whole crowd was chanting “Eddie, Eddie, Eddie”. It was my first game and the loudest environment I had ever been in. Sure enough, Eddie delivered a grand slam and the crowd erupted. Murray was clutch.

    4. Gibson’s homer- the best baseball moment I have ever seen.

  10. 10.  5 Story #2 was incredible. I loved reading it. My memories tend to be etched in ether, so there’s not much detail to them. In 1978 we were leaving NY to move to Maryland. The night before we were to leave, my mother promised to take me to my favorite restaurant. It was the type where they had a section where they showed cartoons and kid flicks while the little ones munched on pizza or something. I loved that place. But, on the way home, and hours before what was to be my final NY supper we passed by Yankee Stadium. High above I could read that there was a game to be played that night. So, in the car I asked, or maybe it could have been begged and pleaded, to go to the game. The choice was presented clearly to me. I could not have Chez Kiddy and the game. It was one or the other. That was the night of my 1st Yankee game. In fact it was the first game I ever went to (at least I remember it as my 1st 🙂 ).

  11. 11.  As the DTers have heard, my favorite childhood memory was August 25th 1995. The first ballgame I tried to keep a scorecard, even though we showed up late and I had to listen to the first inning (I clearly remember Hard Hittin’ Mark Whiten) on my parents’ Walkman. We finally got up to our seats in the old Vet’s 700 level, right next to a section full of Japanese media who were following Hideo Nomo around.

    Final score: Phillies 17, Dodgers 4. Gregg Jefferies hit for the cycle in the first five innings, Jeff Juden hit a grand slam, and I gave up on the scorecard right around perhaps the second inning. AWESOME game and there may never be another one quite like it again…

  12. 12.  When I was in fifth grade, the World Series was all day games. There was a war between students and teachers to smuggle a radio into the class.

    In 1960, the series went to a game seven, and my buddy Dave Nelson got his radio into class, and we talked the teacher into listening to the game. Unfortunately Dave’s radio only had an ear piece, so Dave got to sit in front of the class and give us the play by play.

    In the bottom of the ninth, when Mazeroski hit the series winning Home Run, we all jumped up and down and cheered. Dave dropped his radio and it broke, and that was the end of the play by play.

    I remember it like it was yesterday.

  13. 13.  Some of these childhood memories are making me feel old.

    Vida Blue was the starting pitcher in the first ballgame I ever went to, too. Like you, Scott, I can’t really remember him in that game, either. What I do remember is Reggie Jackson striking out, an Angels player hitting a home run, and that the A’s lost. Fortunately, my dad took some home movies during the game, so I do have a souvenir of sorts.

  14. 14.  Not really a childhood memory, because it happened in my senior year, but Jerry Reuss’s complete-game no-hitter against the Giants.

  15. 15.  I guess what I remember most were the idiots like Scott who, though they probably got no farther than bench in Little League, feel compiled to critize great Hall-of-Famers like Brickhouse and Boudreau. I appreciate that eveyone has an opinion, but the fact that it’s coming from Iowa certainly is suspect. Maybe you could have turned the radio off and watched the corn grow.

  16. 16.  DryHeat,

    Is your last name Brickhouse??

    First, Riggs Stephenson is a Hall of Famer, so big F$%^ing deal.

    Second, I don’t reflexively defend Scott (he’s capable enough), but Jack Brickhouse sucks. He’s better than me, but that’s where his positives begin and end. His ‘style’ is 5 a.m.-farm-report-on-the-AM-dial on the best of days; at his worst, he makes Al Gore sound like, well, I’m not sure who, but someone INTERESTING anyway.

    Of course this just might be the 10 year old in me talking but that kinda was the point in the first place.

    Sorry for the flame, it’s the beer talking (as far as you know).

  17. 17.  Brick Jackhouse blows. Hey fargin’ hey? That’s some catchphrase, pal. And I’m a lifelong Cubs fan. He sucked. This is not up for debate.

  18. 18.  In 1989, I was 7 and got to see my first major league game live. Sox and A’s at old Comiskey. I don’t remember much except wanting a Drumstick ice cream cone really bad and that there were fireworks after the game. Plus, the Cell was nearing it’s final stages next door. I still think about it when I see the old home plate in the parking lot when I make it back to Chicago for games now.

  19. 19.  Let me begin by saying I’m loving the stories. I would point out some specifically, but I think about everyone of them is great.

    In regards to Dryheat, I can’t respond any better than what chris wrote. (I might have to hire him as my PR guy) I can say that this flame was mild in comparison to when I wrote I wasn’t a fan of another particular broadcaster, whose fan’s I thought were going to put a hit out on my life.

    In Iowa’s defense, I will mention that Kurt Vonnegut, John Irving, Flannery O’Connor, W.P. Kinsella, David Milch, Anthony Swofford, etc. all lived in Iowa for a time, so I will use as a defense that it doesn’t seem to wreck their credibility.

    In regards to the whole corn grow deal, I know nothing about farming, but I can say that the idea of watching corn grow was not far behind watching a Cubs telecast in the 70’s.

    I enjoy a good flame though, so feel free to slam away, as long as you are willing to take some back.

  20. 20.  I can only write this since my mom isn’t internets savvy…on October 1, 1973 I faked being sick from 6th grade so I could stay home and watch the Mets clinch the National League Least against the Cubs. It was just me and WOR and Ralph Kiner, Bob Murphy and Lindsey Nelson (whose sports coat almost did make me sick), and the Mets winning, Seaver beating Hooton. OK, I don’t really remember who pitched (even if I took my cofirmation name of Thomas not for either of the saints but so I could be George Thomas, Seaver’s real name, btw), but the paltry attendance of 1,913 recorded in Retrosheet does confirm what I do remember: it rained before (and during?) the game, and Wrigley’s seats were slicked wet. Those wet seats still make my inner-ten-year-old Mets fan very happy.

  21. 21.  As a lifelong Central Iowa resident, Scott’s story was very interesting. Very similar to my background. Started out a Twins fan until Calvin couldn’t handle free agancy. Then a Brewers fan until I couldn’t stand Bud any longer, then a White Sox fan starting in 1988, too.

    A lot of family & friends were Cubs fans, but I couldn’t stand the Cubs. Especially the fair weather fans that showed up in 1984.

    As a kid we made road trips to Minnesota, KC, Milwaukee, and Wrigley. But never got to old Comiskey.

    And I definitely enjoy the KC radio over the Cubs.

  22. 22.  Growing up in the Chicago suburbs and being reared by very frugal parents, my childhood MLB memories center on going to Sox games for free thanks to the combination of my good health (perfect attendance at school each year) and the largesse of the Interlake Corporation (and their “Straight A” free Sox tickets promotion, which my school also doled out to those of us kind enough to show up every day).

    Old Comiskey in the ’70s can be summed up in a few words: ramshackle, mustachioed (the attendees moreso than the park), fascinating, and fun.

    Everything about the park was an eye-opener, from the walk from our parking spot in Bridgeport to the wooden seats with their dozens of layers of peeling green paint to exotic delights like the churro to my erroneous assumption that manager Bob Lemon was the father of Chet the center fielder. My father’s bizarre bellowing of phrases like “swing and a long poke!” and rampant beer consumption left him just behind Andy the Clown on the list of weirdos I encountered for the first time at the stadium.

    The baseball was exciting to me despite the general crappiness of those ’70s teams. Sluggers like Richie Zisk, Oscar Gamble and Eric Soderholm would try for a rooftop shot every time up. Chet Lemon could pick it out in the field. Guys with names like Nordhagen, Garr and Orta left a bigger impression on me than just about anyone outside of their immediate families.

    The teen years brought more tangible memories. The ’83 squad and its rapid dissolution into dust the following year. Feeling that Richard Dotson deserved the Cy Young over Lamarr Hoyt due to his superior ERA, wondering why on earth Floyd Bannister always underachieved, admiring the way Britt Burns pitched through the pain of his bum hip. Pondering who sucked more, Scott Fletcher or Jerry Dybzinski. Finally getting cable TV for a brief spell after years without Sox baseball on the telly, and loving the heck out of the scrappy ’85 club, and digging to the fact that several Smiths tunes from Meat Is Murder were used as bumper music going to commercials. Tom Seaver recording his 300th victory in a Sox uni. Listening to the radio as the legendary Joe Cowley (no, not the Sox beat reporter from the Sun-Times) throwing a no-hitter against the Angels in ’86 but giving up a run anyway. Being at a game on literally the very last day of my teens to see Andy Hawkins of the Yanks throw a no-hitter but lose 4-0 anyway due to bad control and worse defense behind him, then walking behind some drunken Yankee fans who kept chanting “Old Stadium” and pointing north and then “New Stadium” and pointing south to the looming monstrosity that was nearing completion, smiling at the secret knowledge that I had tinted hundreds of gallons of the blue paint that would be featured throughout the stadium on my summer job at a Sherwin-Williams commercial store.

    And even though I was 35 when the Sox finally won me a damn World Series last year, I still felt like a kid all season long.

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