© Chuck Duboff
The ballplayers were all my heroes, like Supermen flying through the sky. They played a game that I always dreamed about playing. They were big and strong and could run, throw and hit the baseball like Giants. They played their games in breath taking cathedrals and ran on fields that were a perfect ballpark green.
I remember going to my first major league baseball game. The anticipation built till game day. I made sure to wear my tattered Yankees hat and bring my perfectly shaped glove. Driving to the Metropolitan Stadium in Minneapolis, all I could think about was finally seeing real honest to goodness ballplayers. Till now it had just been seeing the Game of the Week on Saturday afternoons, which always featured the Yankees. But, finally I was going to see a real game, the Minnesota Twins and Detroit Tigers.
First it was the giant light standards that were seen from miles away. I couldn’t believe it, real Major League lights. After we parked the car and gave the old man his $2 for parking in a gravel lot, we walked towards the ballpark. It got bigger and bigger and as we entered it felt like I was dreaming. There were people selling programs, peanuts, beer (Schlitz beer that is!!) and t-shirts and Twins hats for sale. I felt like I was in heaven.
We found our way to our seats. I was mesmerized trying to take it all in. A real pitcher’s mound, the on-deck circle, the grass a perfect green, the outfield fences covered in advertising for beer, gasoline, and cigarettes. The scoreboard was like the Bible; all the scores, the batting order, the stats…it was almost overwhelming in its perfection.
The dugouts, the home for each team for nine innings. Watching the players warmup, playing catch, stretching, jogging to the outfield…all never seen before on the Game of the Week. The silver haired umpires gathered around home plate with the curmudgeonly managers and went over the “secret rules”.
The game itself almost seemed secondary; I was taking in every little baseball moment. Watching the hitters come out of the dugout, kneel down on one knee and swing three baseball bats over their shoulders was amazing. I couldn’t stop watching. One after another they came to the on deck circle, hopeful of getting a hit. I wasn’t even keeping score on the 5 cent scorecard we had bought…the fans yelling at the umps and cheering on the home team’s hits; watching the pitcher throwing pitches I only dreamed of throwing.
It seemed like the game was over in a matter of moments. I had seen my first major league home run hit by Norm Cash of the Tigers. I had seen Tony Oliva get a hit and Harmon Killebrew strike out. I had seen a major league game and it all seemed bigger than life itself.
I didn’t sleep that night, nor for many nights to come; I lay in bed looking at my baseball cards, memorizing the stats. My Norm Cash card held a very special place in my collection.
Every time I took the mound after that perfect day, I tried to emulate the pitchers I had seen. I never quite reached their talent level, but, I had seen a major league game. I smiled a lot and seemed to throw and hit and run and play the game just a little better.