I’ve been a baseball fan since I was in grade school and maybe even before that, but I do remember telling my first-grade teacher, Sister Michael, that I had been to a baseball game that previous Sunday and that was why I had a suntan, probably a sunburn! My love for the game was born early on because of my love for my Dad. It was a way that I could have a personal connection to him. (I had another personal connection with him that I and I alone could claim. My Dad had a great dimple in his chin. I was the only one of his four children blessed with that dimple.) I went to baseball games only with my Dad. On Sundays, Dad and I had special outings. Just the two of us. I had much older sisters and a baby brother, so I was at the perfect age for Father-daughter outings. Sometimes Central Park, sometimes, Coney Island, or Ebbets field and, of course, Yankee Stadium. And I remember those Sundays like it was yesterday.
I remember the train ride up to Yankee Stadium. Tokens purchased at the 42nd street station and put into the little coin slot as we went thru the turnstile and rode down one of the longest escalators I ever remember riding.
Once on the platform, we would put two pennies in a small machine on a post, and out came a small yellow cardboard box with two chicklets tucked inside. One for now and one for the ride home. The ride was always exciting with its blackouts and screeching and rocking and rolling as it chugged along to Yankee Stadium in and out of dark mysterious tunnels where I sometimes held my breath to save my soul from ghosts. The seats were some kind of woven plastic and if you knelt on them long enough your knees ended up with a design, which I thought was interesting, so I did kneel for a while.
Dressing for a ballgame back then was not with the casual attire you see today. My Dad, like most all the other gentlemen, wore a suit. He only wore casual clothes to work and he would never wear them on a Sunday. He didn’t even own a sport jacket. The only jacket he owned, and one that I was most fond of, was an old leather one that he wore all winter long over his work clothes. All the ladies were nicely dressed too and some even wore hats. For me it would have been a dress because I never owned a pair of nice dress pants until I was much older and could buy my own. For playtime I probably did have some sort of denim or corduroy pants, but I don’t remember any of them. Yes, everyone dressed to go to the ballpark.
I remember that we sat way out in the sun. I don’t remember exactly where it was but I remember that it seemed far out and always in the sun. My Dad told me that we sat there because it was the best place to catch a ball. One shared drink, no peanuts, no hot dogs, just me and my Dad watching the game and intent on catching that elusive ball that was sure to be hit our way. Some balls were hit way out but they were yards away and then we would just look at each other and say “that was a close one. The next one will be it”.
Yankee Stadium was magnificent back then for me. I knew most of the players’ names and even though they were adults, I was allowed to refer to them by first names or just last names but never Mr. I remember #5, Joe DiMaggio, #22 Allie Reynolds, #35 and my Dad’s favorite, Yogi Berra, #10 Phil “Scooter” Rizzuto, #15 Tommy Henrich and my all time favorite, Billy Martin who came to the Yankees in 1950. He saved the Yankees in the 1953 World Series by catching a pop-fly off of Jackie Robinson. Billy Martin, loved a good brawl –
and that was his undoing. Being at the game was for me so adult, I was part of the crowd, loudly cheering and my Dad never told me it wasn’t lady-like!
I was always sad to leave because it was the end of the special day with my Dad. My treat was that downstairs, just outside the Stadium was a Nedick’s hot dog small store or maybe it was just a stand. Nedick’s, home of the frank on the buttered bun, home of the orange drink.
The hot dogs smelled delicious and we would each have one and share their infamous orange drink, which I think was called Orange Julius. And, without fail, Dad never forgot to say “and don’t mention this to your Mother, when we get home”.
We didn’t have a tv back then. I was 12 or 13 before we got one. But we followed the ups and downs of two teams in the scoreboard printed each day in the Daily News and the Daily Mirror. We followed the New York Yankees and the Brooklyn Dodgers. I don’t really remember listening to games on the radio except sometimes in summer when we were at my Grandmother’s farm. And she did get a tv before we did so we got to watch games there, too. My Mother didn’t care for baseball and my sisters monopolized the radio listening to music or serial programs like The Green Hornet or The Shadow at night. My Dad could catch an inning or three at the local bar down the corner with his friends. Anyway, for me it wasn’t the same and didn’t have the enchantment as sitting far out in the sun with my Dad waiting to catch a ball.
My Dad really was a Dodger fan. He loved those Bums. A time or two we did go to Ebbets Field. I don’t remember too much about those games. For me it was the Yankees and Yankee Stadium. However, I felt really bad for my Dad on that awful day when they were lured to California. He vowed to never follow them again. They were traitors as far as has concerned. So we concentrated together on the Yankees. He showed interest in the Mets but not with the same Dodger passion.
I’m still a Yankee fan. I read the scoreboard daily in the papers. Get updated scores on my cellphone during World Series time. Get updates on players from our son, Chuck. All great fun. I have not been to the new stadium. I’m sure I wouldn’t recognize it. But I would love to go back for just one day and sit far out in the sun feel my Dad sitting next to me as we wait together for that baseball that is sure to come our way.
My Dad died in 1965, one of the saddest days of my life. He was buried in military style, complete with the honor guard salute and Taps. He’s buried in Pinelawn National Cemetery on Long Island. I think of him all the time and hope as he looks downs on his grandchildren and great grandchildren he’s smiling because baseball is still a family enjoyment.
Happy Father’s Day Dad. I love you.
PS: a little side story. When I was very, very young, maybe 4 or 5ish young, I used to tell my Dad that when I grew up I wanted to marry him. He always answered back that when I grew up a Prince Charming would find me and I’d fall in love would want to marry him and we would live happily ever after.
As usual, my Dad was right. Happy Father’s Day, Charl! I love you, too. Thank you for making that dream come true.
Happy Father’s Day to all the
men out there who work endlessly
and selflessly, whether biological
or not, to be a Dad to a child.
God Bless You!