Thursday, April 8, 2010

Two Dabs, If You Dare

Just a few days into the season and already things are not going to plan. Circumstances prevented me from getting to the Nationals/Phillies game on April 7, but apparently the game was about par for the course for the home squad. One of the circumstances was a friend's reluctance to pay MLB prices to see the Nationals--fifty bucks for any sort of decent seat, he said, just wasn't reasonable. Given where the Nationals have been spending their money in recent years (hello, Cristian Guzman! Are you really only 32 still?), it's certainly an act of faith to subsidize them with one's hard-earned shekels.

So, no Nationals this time, but for better or worse there will probably be another opportunity.

On the up side, we're adding a date with the Fort Wayne Tincaps in mid-May. I'll be taking my younger nephew to his first real game (if we allow that a Padres affiliate is "real"). I don't expect that he'll get too much from it other than indigestion from a surfeit of cotton candy, but I still carry a vivid memory of the first game my father took me to, at Fenway Park for the last game of the 1974 season, against Greasy Gaylord Perry and the Cleveland Indians. Yes, I know going to Fenway is qualitatively different than going to a minor-league team in Indiana, but we have to work with the available materials—when I was my nephew's age, I lived in southern New Hampshire; he lives in Lima, Ohio. At least we each will have crossed a state line to see our first professional game, which I am fairly certain is not a Mann Act violation. And let's remember, anyway, that 1974 was the year before Fred Lynn and Jim Rice exploded onto the scene—they were each on the verge, and Dwight Evans and Yaz were already in place, but the future wasn't quite now yet, if you follow me. Rice did in fact play in that last game of '74, but third base was manned that day by someone named Terry Hughes, not Rico Petrocelli. The Sox finished seven games out, behind the late Mike Cuellar's Orioles and the Yankees.

I can't recall how he did it, but somehow my father arranged to have me taken out of second grade that Wednesday morning so we could drive down to Boston. I was fascinated by the highway signs and probably read the majority of them aloud, which I'm sure helps explain why these outings didn't happen more often. Unsurprisingly, I don't recall much of the game, except for the final score and the confusion I experienced when at the end people kept saying "See you next year"—I hadn't realized in was the last game of the season. Worse, the final score (11-0, with Perry pitching a complete game) that I recall so clearly is not in fact delineated in the historical record: apparently it was really 8-6, though Perry did pitch wire to wire. (Thanks, Retrosheet, for wiping out an imprecise piece of my childhood.)

Does it matter that I don't really remember the game the way it happened? I mean, for all I know, Bernie Carbo could have been rolling spliffs in left field. I don't think it does matter. If all my nephew recalls of the Tincaps is that they have an angry tomato-like thing (or is it an apple?) for a mascot and that he felt sort of seasick in the car on the way home, well, that's OK with me. With any luck it will be a memory of the time his cool uncle actually was cool and not a broken-down bore who won't shut up about that big cheater-faker Gaylord Perry and the joys and perils of Brylcreem.

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