The Off-Season: Stirring Up Memories
The Off-Season: Stirring Up Memories
by Tim Kabel
November 27, 2021
The holidays, and in particular Thanksgiving, tend to evoke thoughts and memories of our families. Whether we are with them or not, it is a natural time to reminisce. When I was a kid, family vacations were interesting, to say the least. My father was the hardest working man I ever knew. He was a carpenter, and vacations were not something he received as part of a benefits package. There was no benefits package. It was a different time. If he didn’t work, he didn’t get paid. So, I don’t remember ever taking a trip anywhere with my mother and father other than family picnics, which occurred on weekends. The trips that I went on were with my mother and my sister, Penny. I was the youngest and there is a wide age gap between me and the others. Penny is 16 years older than I am. She had a good clerical job at a local manufacturing company. I remember the car she purchased, a baby blue Mustang. Now baby blue and Mustang don’t necessarily match but, it worked for her.
The three of us took trips during the summer. I can still remember some of them. There was the time we drove from our home in Connecticut to the Vermont Country Store because my mother wanted wheat germ, which apparently could only be purchased at that one establishment. My sister wound up taking out a small flock of birds that were gathered in the middle of the road for some reason. I can recall the sound of them bouncing off the front of her car. Another time, we went down to Amish country in Pennsylvania. Being a kid, I didn’t have a full appreciation for those trips. They were fun but now that I look back upon it, I realize how hard my mother and sister worked to try to provide me and to a lesser degree, themselves with special experiences.
Among the trips, was my first visit to Yankee Stadium it was July 28th, 1977. The Yankees played the Baltimore Orioles. I didn’t know we were going. I wasn’t quite 13 years old; there were a lot of things I didn’t know. All of a sudden, we were in the car, headed to New York. I distinctly remember that when we arrived, it wasn’t just the simple matter of parking in one of the adjacent lots and walking into the stadium. We drove to a couple of different lots and garages, before eventually parking somewhere. I just wanted to get into the stadium. We arrived at our seats, after the game had started. I don’t remember exactly where we were sitting but, the seats were pretty good. Heck, it was my first game; any seat would have been pretty good. I believe my mother and sister purchased a hot dog for me but, since it would have been only one among a million hot dogs I have consumed in my life, I’m not a hundred percent sure. Other things I do remember distinctly.
My mother was a feisty woman. We are talking about a woman who in her later years found that she had tongue cancer, and drove herself to the doctor for the surgery, and was prepared to drive herself home. My mother was also extremely sensitive to smoke and other offensive odors. She was not one to suffer in silence. There was someone seated near us, who was smoking. At that time, it was accepted behavior. In fact, I believe there was more than one person. However, I recall one of them may have been smoking something other than tobacco. Whatever the case may be, my mother began fanning the air furiously with her purse and the program in her hand. It almost seemed as if she had grown a third hand somehow. She made it clear to everyone that the smoke was offensive to her. Eventually, despite the fact that we were late in arriving, and the behavior of the fans was irritating my mother, I was able to focus on the game.
Mike Torrez was pitching for the Yankees that day. Thurman Munson, my favorite player, had three hits, including his 100th career home run. I believe it was the only game in which I ever saw him play in person. Graig Nettles and Roy White also hit home runs. Torrez pitched a complete game and the Yankees won 14-2. Munson was removed later in the game for a pinch runner. You might have heard of him. His name was Ron Guidry. Fran Healy came in to finish catching the game. The thrill of my first game was something I will never forget. Seeing my favorite player hit a home run was unbelievable. Unlike Torrez, it was not a complete game for me. Since we had arrived late, it only made sense that we would leave early, to avoid traffic, further conflict with the smokers, and to extract the car from whichever garage we had used.
I have been to many games at Yankee Stadium. I have been to the old stadium and the new one. At one point, I had Sunday season tickets for a few years. I have gone to games with friends, family, co-workers, and even a date or two here and there. I have many memories. There was the time I went with a friend and co-worker, and he purchased a beer for me. As I was drinking it, the woman in front of me inadvertently dunked her ponytail into it. It lost all its charm after that. Another time, a very large vendor tripped on the stairs, and I turned around just in time to see a tsunami of soda headed in my direction. I ducked. The person sitting behind me turned around instead. He was drenched in soda. Another time, my date noticed that Eddie Layton, the organist, played Take Me Out to the Ball Game for the 7th inning stretch. She found this to be remarkable and suggested they do it on a regular basis. I’m not sure how I let her get away. There was the time when my son, who is now quite an accomplished baseball player himself, decided it would be a good idea to jump as hard as he could on a packet of ketchup that was on the steps of the stands. The woman who was sitting in front of us was not amused when she suddenly had a red-speckled shirt.
I have seen many great players and numerous wonderful games. However, no memory stands out as much to me as the one of that first game in 1977. It is almost 45 years later and I can still see Thurman Munson running around the bases and my mother waving her hand in front of her face and scrunching up her nose in displeasure. I don’t know if I ever fully expressed my gratitude for that day to my mother and sister. My mother is gone but, I know my sister will be reading this. So, to her I say thank you for an indelible memory.