Nostalgia at the ballpark

 

by cheri block

1962

I remember the anticipation I felt as my Dad and I drove to Candlestick Park in San Francisco to watch my favorite team, the Giants, play baseball. On the way to our seats, Dad would hurry to the concession stand and buy a Pabst Blue Ribbon beer for himself and a Coke for me. Two plump hotdogs smothered in pickled relish and oozing with mustard rested in my hands. Hurry was our pace because the hotdogs had a warmth shelf- life of about two minutes. Although tucked into their foil blankets, they cooled off fast. After all, the game was in San Francisco.

There in the bleachers overlooking center field where the frigid winds from the Pacific Ocean and San Francisco Bay swirled, sucking papers upward like a centrifuge, and where the pigeons glided overhead in a circular orbit  in preparation for their 9th inning scavenging, we settled in. Dad would unpack the wool blanket we would share on a summer night in one of the coldest stadiums on earth, not counting Rome’s Coliseum, of course. Most out-of-towners attending the game would freeze their fritters off, having forgotten that San Francisco is a beach town where the fog and wind roll in and out as consistently as the tide.

That year, the Giants were hot, unlike we fans at the game. There looking down on center field with my dad and regaled by players like Willie Mays, Orlando Cepeda, Willie McCovey and Juan Marichal as they dazzled everyone—from old codger to young sprite—I thought that everything about life was happy. What more could a 12-year-old want?

Back at home on Mayfield Drive, where life was good and I was bossy, I wanted to listen to every Giants game on the radio, even though they  usually ended well past my bedtime of 8:30 pm. In 1962—because the Giants were having a killer season (especially against the LA Dodgers), my dad bought me a transistor radio so that when I was supposed to be asleep in preparation for a full day of school, I could turn it on quietly in the room I shared with Stevie, my little brother, and listen to the play-by-play coverage, called by Gil Hodges and Lon Simmons.

In those days, I knew every single player’s name, his batting average, and his other vital statistics—RBI’s, marital status, chosen philanthropies, and blood type. Only my acumen about the horse racing industry exceeded that of my baseball trivia.

When other girls at age twelve were shaving their legs and curling their hair, I was watching the win-loss columns of the Giants and yes, our arch enemy’s—the Los Angeles Dodgers. My grandmother, Rosalie, and my step-grandfather, Harold, lived in Westwood, minutes from Chavez Ravine, the Dodgers’ version of Candlestick Park.

Rosie didn’t know a baseball from a cabbage but Harold, an obstetrician to the stars (he delivered Jamie Lee Curtis and was friends with Tony Curtis and Guy Williams, aka Zorro, but that is another story) would take me to the Dodgers’ game at Chavez Ravine (which made Candlestick Park look like a San Francisco bum) when I visited them in Los Angeles.

As much as I didn’t want to admit it, watching a game there was a warm experience, so comfortable and luxurious. Harold had third base seats, lots of money, and a star’s odd presence. I remember thinking, even in those days, how quirky he was. Those thoughts vanished when I sank into our warmed leather seats and when a waitress came to take our hotdog order.

Even at a young age, I possessed a sense of timing and, if truth be told, a sense of self, so you can bet I never told my dad what a cool person Harold was or how charming Chavez Ravine was. After all, I was a hard-core Giants fan.

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2015

Today, here in Goodyear, Arizona, anticipating my first Spring Training games—the Cleveland Indians vs. the San Diego Padres on Sunday and…..and….and…the Cincinnati Reds vs. the San Francisco Giants on Monday, my thoughts are of the impending 90 degree heat and the intimacy of this cozy ballpark.

Dad, Mom, Rosie, and Harold are long gone (like one of Willie McCovey’s shots out of the park), but their memories will be in the air, on the field, and in those hot seats at Goodyear Ballpark.

I shall report back….

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About Cheri

Writer, artist, cable television host, grandmother to four!
This entry was posted in My childhood and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

18 Responses to Nostalgia at the ballpark

  1. Suzanne Snow says:

    Giant’s spring training on my bucket list Cheri!

  2. Brighid says:

    I loved this piece, though I have never been to but a couple of Giants games at the stick. My granny was a huge Giants fan. Always a goer she would claim she needed a nap at game time. Lay down on her couch, put her arm over her eyes, and listen to the game… If you walked by and whispered “I wonder what the score is?” she would answer.
    Have an awesome time, and catch one for the team! GO GIANTS!

  3. Cheri says:

    Thanks so much, Brighid. If I remember correctly, your youngins’ are out here for a game, aren’t they? I can’t wait to see those Giants up close!

  4. wkkortas says:

    It is a shame that this generation will never truly appreciate the nuances of baseball on the radio–I grew up listening to the Pirates on KDKA (when the vagaries of topography and transmission strength allowd) when Bob Prince, confidant of Roberto Clemente and almost as legendary in Pittsburgh, was the play-by-play man. What memories, what memories.

  5. shoreacres says:

    It’s a testament to your writing skills that you kept me interested all the way through, since (oh, woe) I just never have been able to “get” baseball. On the other hand, I love hotdogs. I can sing the whole of “Take Me Out to the Ball Game.” I love Yogi Berra quotations, and yes, I do remember that famous Harry Carry quotation that begins: “He kisses her on the strikes, and she….”

    Here in Houston, I did listen now and then to Milo Hamilton, and I remember Curt Gowdy. And the curse of the goat.

    Now I want some cracker jacks.

  6. Cyberquill says:

    It’s been explained to me many times, but I still don’t understand baseball. Somebody throws a ball at a guy with a big wooden bat, and if the guy with the glove fails to intercept the ball and the batter manages to hit it, the latter drops his bat, mayhem ensues and everybody starts running heaven knows where. If the ball leaves the field, it’s called a home run, and that’s a good thing; hence it became a metaphor for getting laid. That’s about the size of my baseball trivia.

    Baseball always reminds me that I’ll never be a true American.

    I do own a baseball bat, though. I bought it a long time ago because I figured it might be useful around the house, in lieu of owning a gun.

    • Cheri says:

      The game is slow and the older I get, the slower it seems.
      We kept a baseball bat by the front door when our daughter was bringing home guys she was dating.

  7. Christopher says:

    I loved this posting. I felt I was there with you, in long-gone 1962, watching the Giants, while savouring a hotdog “…….smothered in pickled relish and oozing with mustard……..”.

    Baseball, to me, is so paradigmatically .. ………American. It oozes nostalgia as much as your hot-dog oozed mustard. Through baseball’s agency, I feel I’m tapping into how it must be to be American. I loved the film “Field of Dreams”, by the way…….

    It was the “1962” at the top of your piece that pulled me in, for it was in 1962 that I left Senior (High) School and went out into the cruel world to earn my daily crust full-time.

    I remember 1962 also as the time of the Cuban Missile Crisis, that I followed almost by the hour, with trepidation, from 6,000 miles away on short-wave radio, and avariciously read about each morning in our local newspaper as the drama approached its apogee.

    As I read your piece and came upon the likes of “……Dad would hurry to the concession stand….” and “……Dad would unpack the wool blanket……” and “…….out-of-towners attending the game would freeze their fritters off……”, I was struck yet again by the English language’s idiosyncratic use of the conditional tense when describing the past.

    • Cheri says:

      Hi Christopher,
      Thank you for this comment. I tried to put my reader there at Candlestick with me, so I feel somewhat successful that “you” liked the piece. You have your own terrific description here…especially your line about following on short-wave radio. I liked that sentence very much.

      Oh…I know you are right about the conditional tense…but using it seemed right to me in this little story.

      I hope you are well. You turned 70 this year, I see?

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