Summer 1967, South Pleasant Valley Elementary School, Wichita, Kansas.
I close my 9-year old eyes and swing as hard as I can. I’m resigned to yet another whiff, but this time, contact. I open my eyes and the ball is sailing into center field. The bases are loaded.
As I round second, I glance to the right and see my good friend, Roger Long, chasing my ball.
An inside-the-park grand slam. The highlight of my combined Plainville/Wichita youth ballplaying career.
August 2, 1968. Candlestick Park, San Francisco, California.
My eyes are wide as I walk up the tunnel. Suddenly, acres of green. Real-live, authentic big leaguers. My baseball cards come to life. My Dad asks if I want some peanuts. “Sure.” So he stands up and hollers at this guy a section over. “Hey Peanuts!” Concession vendors. I’m enjoying those peanuts when Willie Mays cracks a home run.
Buy me some peanuts and crackerjack. I don’t care if I never get back.
Summer 1976. Lawrence Stadium, Wichita, Kansas.
The Triple-A minor league Wichita Aeros host the Indianapolis Indians. Pat Darcy relieves for Indy. He gave up the now-famous Game 6 home run to Carlton Fisk in the World Series the previous fall.
Oh, how the mighty have fallen. I’m at the game with my brother. We’re merciless:
“Hey Darcy! Aren’t you spozed to be in the World Series?!” “Whaddaya doin’ in Wichita?”
Darcy hung on in the minors for four more years, throwing junk. Never made it back to the bigs.
April 16, 2011, Kauffmann Stadium, Kansas City, Missouri.
Matt Treanor’s only hitting .163, but sports an on-base percentage of .324. My 26-year old sabermetrician son takes me to the ballpark as a Christmas gift. The gift includes looking at the game in a whole different light. If the idea is to score more runs than the other team (and I think it is), the OBP is a much better gauge of a player’s worth to his team than a batting average.
Scott and I decide the M’s Justin Smoak resembles Mickey Mantle. Right up until the moment he swings the bat.
Buy me some Gates Barbecue and Dippin’ Dots. I still don’t care if I never get back.
In the gloaming in the spring, I often think about baseball.
I close my 53-year old eyes and see Roger Long hauling ass after my ball.
A father buying peanuts for his son.
Two brothers hastening a junkballer’s demise.
A son’s gift to his father.