How many times have you heard about, talked about or read about somebody's first trip to the ballpark? Remember Billy Crystal in "City Slickers? " That was MY trip to Yankee Stadium!!! I was ten years old in 1962 and I remember my father coming home from work and pulling the tickets out of his brown leather bomber jacket. A lot better than a Snickers. You coulda knocked me over. Man, I held those things, turned them over and over, tried to figure out the seating.......whew!!.
"The Day" was one adventure after another. The bus ride from Plainfield, NJ to the Port Authority in NY, to the Horn and Hardart automat for lunch..... to the subway ride (on two different trains) up to the Bronx. Each of these is a story in itself. But....the Bronx. When the D train came up over that rise....well Holy Cow! There it was; huge, majestic......crowded. "The House That Ruth Built." Somehow my father seemed to know where to go. We passed the vendors and the small brass band, squeezed through the turnstiles and......we were in!!! We could hear the muffled roar of the fans as balls sailed through the air during batting practice. The inside of the stadium was a mass of humanity and sounds as we followed the huge circlular trail in search of our gate. And now here it is...... you've heard it a dozen times before. As we passed each gate and I got brief glimpses onto the field, something looked.......odd. Oh my God. Yankee Stadium was in COLOR. I mean gorgeous green, rich deep brown, white bases and lines., and, of course, pinstripes. After our small black and white tv, This was almost too much to take in. And that's a feeling modern kids will never know. It was a flippin' jaw dropper.
We got to our seats and let the barrage of peanuts, programs, hot dogs, soda, pennants etc begin. I know my dad was on a budget, but I don't remember wanting for anything. The smell of cigar smoke wove through the stands and to this day reminds me of a Bronx day in 1962. I don't really remember where our seats were but they were close enough to see faces. Yogi, Mickey, Roger, Moose, Bobby Richardson, Tom Thresh. ........they were all there. And so was Jimmy Piersall. Remember him......"Fear Strikes Out?" That was a bonus. He even did us the honor of geting into a bench clearing brawl that started with some fans in the right field stands harassing Jimmy and finally jumping onto the field.....much to their ultimate dismay. I can still see so clearly the black infield dirt flying off Yankee cleats as they met the Cleveland Indians in right field. Wasn't much of a rumble. Baseballs players are notorious for their non brawls. But the image was indelibly imprinted on my ten year old brain. I don't remember who won the game....or the brawl, but Johnny Blanchard smacked two out of the park, and Jim Bouton was throwing pure smoke. Man, it had it all!!
The trip home was anti-climatic, but my neighborhood status soared. I'd made it. The first one. I felt like George from "Of Mice And Men" as he related the rabbits story to Lenny. The boys.....and girls..... never tired of hearing about "the trip." I didn't even have to embellish all that much. I'm not a parent, but I can appreciate the impact we have on creating kid's memories. You have to recognize the moment. A backyard catch, a fishing trip, a new guitar chord, a walk in the woods. They're all potential life changers. I could tell you a story about each one of these. And ......I probably will.