Tuesday, July 16, 2013


Apparently, the average baseball fan isn't really "into it" until they're 9 or 10 years old. At least that's what sports personality types tend to say. For me it was more like 0 years old. I was born in '75, and by '76 I was swinging a Whiffle bat. By '78 I was saying "Ankees Stink." I knew Thurman Munson jokes before I knew about the chicken crossing the road. By '80 I'd been to Yankee Stadium to see the Red Sox play, and in a tape of my dad giving the first name and me giving the last name of every Red Sox player ("Carl?"..."Ya-shrems-kee." "Fred?"..."Lynn-stone!"), I pointed out to him that he'd omitted obscure pitcher Jim Wright from the list. By '81 I had collected the entire set of Topps baseball stickers (inaugural edition) and was pissed that they had flipped the picture of George Brett on the cover, making him appear to swing right-handed.

But 1983 was a big year for me. Seems like at that point, as a 7-year-old, I was finally really paying attention to individual games. It must have been my first year of listening to the Red Sox on radio on my own, as it was Castiglione's first year, and I have no recollection of hearing anyone before him. Of course, my all-time favorite, Ken Coleman, was the main man then. Since the Sox weren't on TV too much in Fairfield County, CT (sound familiar?), I'd watch the Yanks on channel 11 after Barney Miller and listen to the Sox on 1080-AM out of Hartford (the "pulse of New England"--I still don't know if they were referring to the station or the city).

There were a lot of milestones that year. There was the pine tar game, which taught me a lot about the "Yankee Way" ("no, you didn't win, we win, we always win, you must have cheated").

There was Rags's no-hitter on that sweltering July 4th. My friend Chris Jones's brother, Tommy, was at that game. I'd gone three days earlier to the July 1st game (box) with two other kids from my Little League team and our dads. Cory Plock seemed way more upset that the minivan we were traveling in hit a moth than about the Red Sox loss. Though we did see a lot of home runs--our entire outfield of Dewey, Rice, and Armas went deep, but for some reason the one I really remember was the one by catcher Jeff Newman.

There was Yaz's last at bat. I sat and listened in my room as they threw him 3 balls, and he had to swing on a high pitch to avoid walking, popping out. Stupid Cleveland pitcher.

But my favorite event that year was the All-Star Game. The game meant more back then, with the leagues still being two distinct entities. We loved our A.L. guys and wanted to see them bash the shit out of those bunting commies. We'd root for Dave Winfield but made it very clear that it was just for this one exhibition game and hey, if he gets injured, it's a sweet bonus. It was such a thrill to see all those guys from baseball cards come to life on one field for one night.

So there I was on July 6, 1983, in scenic Old Saybrook, Connecticut, where my grandpa had his beach cottage. If you're thinking about sun-porches and verandas and cool ocean breezes as the waves lapped upon the shore, you'll be sorry to hear that it was actually a small shack on swampland a long walk from wave-less Long Island Sound with showering facilities that were, how do I say this....not indoors. But we loved it. Katherine Hepburn had a beach house of her own in the same town--sometimes I wonder what would have happened if her dinner guests had been given the wrong address and showed up at 5 Kenn Road.

Sometimes on our trips to Old Saybrook, we'd stay at the motel down the road from the cottage, where the amenities were almost-modern and we didn't have to say "blue" every time we said "red," or "D" instead of "four." (I had an autistic uncle who lived in the cottage, and was portrayed on film by Dustin Hoffman in Rain Man. That's not actually true but it might as well have been. We had to make sure we did and said the right things so he wouldn't have a cloud of pins hit him in the face.) This was the Heritage Motor Inn. (It's still there!) That night in 1983, in our room at the Inn, the big game wasn't on. Or the TV didn't work. Or it didn't get the NBC channel. Or my sister wanted to watch something else. Whatever the reason, we had to do something, and do it fast. We were gonna miss the All-Star Game! So my dad took me across the parking lot, past the crab apple tree and the AstroTurf that led to the pool with the Coke machine, to the owner's quarters. Old guy named Cy. (Si? Psy?) We asked if we could watch the game at his place. He said yes.

We got to see the intros. Our guys in their pristine home whites at Comiskey Park. Jim Rice. Yaz. Big Foot. And of course, Fred Lynn. Fred Lynn was an Angel, you say! But you'd be wrong. Fred Lynn was and is a Red Sox. Freddie was as much an Angel as Reggie Jackson was.

The game was going well for the Americans. Jim Rice started the third with a homer to make it 3-1 A.L. It got to 5-1 in the same inning, when Fred Lynn stepped up to the plate with the bases loaded. It was the 50th anniversary of the All-Star Game, and no player had ever hit a grand slam in one. But "our" Fred Lynn? Watch the video. It's the whole at bat.

And that's the end of the story, guys. I look forward to telling it again next year with maybe a slightly different spin on it. Oh. What happened after that? Not much. I probably watched a few more innings and then went back to the room, went to bed, got up, swam in the pool, went to T 'n' T diner with grandpa, played mini-golf, and then got married 30 years later. Talk about burying the lede! But yes, later this month Kim and I are tying the sheepshank, and we're not saying how short we want it. I'll be using my grandpa's ring.

I guess the other postscript is: Some people look back on the ASG fondly and HATE the way it is now. Of course it's not the same, and Bud Selig should be executed for making it "count," but it's still the same game as it's always been, and I'll be watching. Maybe not the whole thing, but some. Throw out your arm saving the game for us, Mo!
You'll be wearing a pinstripe suit, I presume?

Thanks! Know what's funny? I actually DO want to get one of those old gangster style zoot suits which very well could be pinstriped. But I might just wear something much less formal since it's just the two of us on a beach for the actual ceremony.

Sorry to hear about your loss of '04 Sox newspapers! Horrible feeling. I'm glad you nursed them somewhat back to health.
Mom here:


I love you. Congratulations.

See you at the game, Sunday. I'll be shouting, "Yankees 'tink!"
Congratulations to you and Kim!! Wonderful
Mom, see you there, love you too.....

Kat: Thanks!

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Location: Rhode Island, United States