I miss him a lot in the summertime. Baseball season.
Busch Stadium II. The Bottlecap. Baseball Heaven.
The seats were red and they were so hot in July. Yes, St. Louis is north of Arkansas and Tennessee, they get more snow in the winter, but it gets darned scorching hot in the summer. We had excellent seats, which meant we were very close to the 120-degree turf and there was no chance of shade. I was nine, maybe 10. I didn’t really care how hot it was. I made sure to sit next to him because I wanted to hear him explain what was happening on the field. He told me about throwing around the horn, taught me to fill out a scorecard, and corrected me when I got confused and wrote five instead of six for the shortstop.
I remember the loud “whack” that made me jump when Bob Gibson’s fastball hit Ted Simmons’ mitt as they warmed up before the game. We got there early to watch batting practice and get autographs and I didn’t want to miss one moment.
I watched Gibson warm up from about 10 feet away. I’m not sure how long I stood there watching, but I can’t imagine myself leaving that scene voluntarily. In the 1960s, there wasn’t an MLB At Bat app, nor a smart phone, so I found out that Gibson, my favorite pitcher, was taking the mound when we got to the ballpark.
Dal Maxvill played a pretty good shortshop, but he could not hit. Steve Carlton still pitched for the Cardinals, and Joe Torre played the infield. The outfield was Brock, Flood, and Maris. Pitchers often pitched complete games, and no one talked about pitch counts.
Brock batted leadoff. When he got on base, Daddy would point to him and tell me to watch while his lead off first base grew until he finally ran, blazingly fast, to second base, safe, while the crowd roared.
Yes, it’s baseball, but it’s so much more — I know what it meant to him, and I remember how thrilled I was to share it. I think of the passions of mine that I’ve shared with my girls — some of them silly, and some important. We laugh at inside jokes, share funny stories and memories that others can’t appreciate.
I’m so grateful my Daddy shared his love for baseball with me, and for the many hours we spent watching, whether in St. Louis, or at home on our TV on Sunday afternoons. We always listened to the Cardinals on AM radio on the way home from the lake on Sundays.
Not too long ago, Jim and I were in the car while the Cardinals were playing. He was searching for the XM station where they broadcast the games. I told him, no, we had to listen on AM — the sounds I remember from my childhood, when I knew Daddy was at the wheel, the Cardinals were on the radio, and all was right with the world.