December 30, 2017
Karen and I have several items on our travel bucket list. One is to visit every Major League baseball stadium. So far, we’ve been to, Pittsburg, Washington, Seattle, St. Louis, Colorado, Baltimore, both parks in Chicago, and of course Atlanta.
Karen was a casual fan when we met and has since transformed into a real fan who keeps up with her hometown Braves and even keeps score when we go to a ballgame. For me, I’ve always been obsessed with baseball. When I was five-years-old I remember seeing the 1977 World Series between the Dodgers and Yankees, which featured Reggie “Mr. October” hitting three homeruns in the 6th game giving the series win to the Yankees. My granddad insisted that we all pull for the Dodgers during that series because as a true southern gentleman he wouldn’t be caught dead pulling for the Yankees. This is the same man who refused to carry $50 bills because “The Government defiled them with Ulysses S. Grant’s picture.”
As much as I love watching games, my baseball career actually ended when I was 10 years old. During my first year of ‘fast pitch” (no batting tees or coaches pitching to the kids) Jimmy Beauchamp plunked me in the helmet with a fastball on the first pitch of the at bat. It certainly was not Jimmy’s fault; I’ve always had a rather large head. I remember that it didn’t hurt, but somehow, I wound up sitting on home plate and watching my mom hurdle over a four-foot-tall chain-link fence. I tried to wave her off on my way to first base, but she insisted that I come out of the game. She was well ahead of her time when it came to concussion protocol. I also remember that my coach had to restrain her from charging poor Jimmy on the mound. After that incident, I found it hard to stay in the batter’s box on inside pitches and became an easy strikeout victim.
After abandoning my early dreams of playing in the big leagues, I continued to follow my favorite teams throughout my childhood. My teenage summers were spent working late nights stocking the shelves at the local Food Lion. After working in the bright florescent lights, I found it difficult to go straight to sleep at home, so I would watch baseball games on the west coast. The Los Angeles Dodgers were once again in the hunt for pennants, and I remember cheering them on during the summer of 1988. Later that season, they would win the World Series against the Oakland Athletics which featured the iconic Kirk Gibson home run.
In my senior year of high school, I remember following the 1989 World Series which saw the Athletics face the Giants in the “Bay Bridge Series” which included a devastating earthquake and an Oakland four-game sweep both of which took the national headlines away from Hurricane Hugo, the 20th century villain of South Carolina who rivaled the 19th century villain known as Hurricane Sherman.
I was never really a Braves fan growing up, although I’d kept up with them on Ted Turner’s Superstation that broadcast the Atlanta games around the world. In 1991, I was in a dorm room at Clemson when I saw Sid Bream slide into home clinching the National League pennant, and I got caught up in the dynasty that followed. Although they only won one World Series in the strike shortened 1995 season, they would go on to win 14 National League pennants in a row. I moved to Atlanta in 2003, and although I watch baseball on television almost daily during the season, I make it a point to go see several games at the ballpark.
At one time, I could tell you the World Series winners for every year from 1977 to the present. Although I’ve since forgotten most of these trivial tidbits as I’ve gotten older. The other day I complained to my dad about how surprised I was at how my memory was not as good as it used to be. He responded with, “Well, it only gets worse as you get older, Pete.” I don’t even bother to correct him anymore.
Next year, Karen and I are planning an ambitious road trip that will take us into Ohio, Michigan and Wisconsin where we hope to see ballgames at Cincinnati, Cleveland, Detroit, and Milwaukee. We plan to hit several National Parks along the way, so stay tuned for our “Parks & Recreation Trip” in 2018.
Happy New Year,
PS: When do pitchers and catchers report to Spring Training?