Sunday, June 15, 2014

My First Phillies Game

I don't like to repeat myself on this blog, and I can count on one hand the number of times I've simply copied and pasted a post from the past.  But I wanted to run this post again, and there's a good chance you might see it next Father's Day too.  This was originally published on Father's Day 2013, last June 16th.
Dad and Me - Phillies Game #1
It's difficult to estimate the number of Phillies games I've attended over the years, but I'll try for purposes of this post.  Between 1979 and 1991, I probably attended one to three games a year.  For Christmas in 1991, my parents surprised me with a Sunday season ticket plan, which I held with my Dad from 1992 through (I think) 2005.  If I recall correctly, there are fourteen to fifteen home Sunday games a season.

My wife and I switched over to a 17-game partial season ticket plan in 2006 when my Dad decided he had more fun watching the games from home.  We average a dozen or so games a year, selling tickets we can't use due to work conflicts, t-ball conflicts or my desire to steer clear of any Mets games.  Adding up these loose figures means that I've probably attended between 250 and 400 Phillies games in my 40 summers.

I don't remember all of these games, of course.  But I definitely remember some of the more memorable games I've attended.  I remember watching Mike Schmidt, Steve Carlton and Pete Rose play.  I remember the excitement of Opening Day 1992 when the Phillies debuted their new uniforms, and I received in-school suspension for skipping school along with several of my good friends.  I remember the last games at The Vet and the first games at Citizens Bank Park.  I remember Kevin Millwood's no-hitter, postseason games between 2007 and 2011, and both of my son's first games.

I do not remember my first game, but I can view a picture of myself at my first game within the Phillies' 1980 Yearbook.  And I have my Dad to thank for that.

* * *

Photo from Phillies SGA

I was five going on six in the summer of 1979 when my Dad took me to my first Phillies game.  We went with my friend Rusty and his Dad, referred to as Little Rusty and Big Rusty in my household, similar to how my Dad and I were known at the time as Big Jim and Little Jimmy.  (It's been a very long time since anyone has referred to me as Little Jimmy.)

1979 Topps #90
My guess is that we rode in Big Rusty's van, with Dire Straits or the Beatles playing on his eight-track player.  The pictures we have of that day tell me that upon arriving at The Vet, my Dad made sure I was properly attired.  I already had a Phillies hat, but he bought me a Phillie Phanatic t-shirt and a button, and a 1979 Phillies Yearbook.  Luckily enough, the give-away that day was a Dick Perez produced poster of the entire 1979 Phillies team.

As we were making our way to our seats, a roaming photographer must have spotted Little Rusty and me in our Phillies gear and he asked us to pose for a few pictures.  We obliged of course, thinking we were minor celebrities, and this type of thing was typical at a Phillies game.  The photographer wanted us to open up our new posters and look at them, smiling.  I'm guessing Rusty and I thought that was a pretty corny thing to do, but we smiled and posed and then probably started bugging our fathers for food.

I don't remember the game at all.  Thanks to information available over at Phillies SGA, I've determined the game was against the Dodgers on Sunday, July 15, 1979, as that was when the poster was given away.  The Phils won that day by a score of 10-3, behind Bob Boone's four-hit day and Del Unser's three RBIs.

Months passed, my interest in the Phillies waned over the winter months and my attention most likely drifted back to Star Wars.  At the beginning of the 1980 season, Big Rusty purchased a 1980 Phillies Yearbook and he was stunned to see my picture on page six among a collage of fans enjoying the good times to be had at Veterans Stadium.  I'm in the circle on the bottom left, between the picture of the ice skater (?) and the score board.  Unfortunately, Little Rusty had been cropped from the shot.

The yearbook was shared with my Dad and he too couldn't believe there was a picture of me, at my first ever Phillies game, within its pages.  He brought the yearbook home to share it with me, and I remember my first thought was, "How did my Dad pull that off?"

* * *

I always smile whenever I see a 1980 Phillies Yearbook.  I was at a Phillies game recently with my six-year-old son, Doug, and we came across a kiosk at Citizens Bank Park that sells old Phillies publications and baseball cards.  I pointed to the familiar mint green cover of the 1980 Phillies Yearbook for sale at the kiosk and mentioned to Doug, "See that Yearbook?  There's a picture of me in there."  He thought that was pretty cool.  And then he asked when were we getting nachos.

When I started this blog over four years ago, I chose the picture of me at my first Phillies game as my profile picture.  It seemed a fitting choice, as that was when and where my love of baseball and the Phillies truly began.

Once I grew older and (slightly) wiser, I realized it was more luck than anything that landed me in that yearbook.  My Dad had nothing to do with the photographer's choice to take our picture, and he had nothing to do with the yearbook editor's choice to include me in the collage on page six.  But my Dad got me to the game, he bought me the Phillies gear, and he made it all possible.

And I can repeat that last sentence for just about everything I've accomplished to this point in my life when it comes to my Dad, and my Mom for that matter.

Happy Father's Day, Dad.  And thanks for getting me to the game, buying me the gear and making it all possible.  I miss you every day.


Bob Grim said...

Well done!! Thanks for sharing.

Steve F. said...

Definitely worth pulling out that post again. Happy (belated) Father's Day!

My wife pointed out that while she and our daughters were happy to go to the game on Sunday for Father's Day, it might also/instead be more fun for me to just take my son on Friday or Saturday as he would stay in the seats and watch the game as opposed to wanting to go to get food and souvenirs and play games every 10 minutes as would likely be the case on Sunday.... I mulled it over for two minutes--and checked out StubHub prices on Friday afternoon--and agreed.

We bought Diamond Club tickets for $45 each ($140 face value--thanks StubHub and also threat of rain!) and enjoyed the game, even though it was a 2-1 loss. We did some activities in the early innings, and in the 7th or so got on Phanavision as my son had made a sign and was decked out in Phillies gear. (Probably essentially the same look that got you into the yearbook!). I got a video of it on my iPhone. He had the biggest smile I ever saw after he realized that everyone in the stadium had seen him up there. Then we milled around the Diamond Club for awhile after the game, and walking to our car we saw the players leaving their parking lot. We stopped with the small crowd there, and he got autographs of Brignac and Gwynn on their yearbook pages. (Justin DeFratus not only stopped to sign but actually parked his car on the street and popped out so as not to sign from the car window. Nice guy!)

Then Jimmy Rollins was coming out--my parking lot buddy Gene gave us the heads up--and the regulars said that Jimmy only stops if a kid is there, so they asked me to lift my son up up so Jimmy would see him. I did, and sure enough, Jimmy stopped, rolled down his window, and said "Let me sign for this young man." Then he also signed about 5 more autographs for the crowd. Pretty nice of him as most players just cruised by. Finally, I told my son to stand next to the window for a photo. Jimmy said, "Hold on a second" and finished signing an autograph, then faced the camera and gave us a huge smile, so we have a pretty good photo too--and on the night that Jimmy tied Schmidt's record!

Jim said...

Thanks Bob.

And Steve, that's a great story! It's great to hear the players "get it" and your son will never forget those moments with the Phillies players. Very cool.