That headline caught your attention, didn’t it?!
What could I possibly be blaming my dad for on Father’s Day?
The joking answer is … my baseball career (or lack thereof). My dad wasn’t the world’s greatest athlete (sorry, dad) – and I got those genes from him. Thankfully, the only athletic gene I passed on to my children was the last name on their uniforms. My dad was an engineer and can build … and visualize … and follow directions. I hope those genes skipped a generation and get passed on.
In all seriousness, I credit my love for baseball – and now, to softball – to my dad. And it starts as one of those wonderful “What If” questions … What if we hadn’t gone to my first baseball game on that specific day?
I turn back the time machine to September 1972. I was closing in on birthday No. 7 – and I was really getting into baseball thanks to WGN. On September 2, I watched Milt Pappas’ near perfect game, and I was beyond “all in.” There was something about the game of baseball that was mesmerizing to me.
I’m sure I was a little bear to live with, but I wanted to go to a baseball game. I wanted to partake in the whole experience. I wanted to see if there was more to it than watching the game on TV.
The promise was made by my dad; if I behaved myself, I would go to a baseball game the next time the Cubs were in town.
I might have just been six years old, but few childhood memories stick out like September 16, 1972. Two weeks after Pappas’ no-hitter, I was on my way to Wrigley Field for the first time – thanks to my dad and my next-door neighbors, the Tecktiels, who were probably just as tired about hearing me talk about baseball as my parents were.
It’s hard to believe how fortunate I was to go to the game that Saturday afternoon. Beautiful weather. Nice crowd. Lots of offense by the home team.
The recollection of walking up the stairs and seeing the entire Wrigley Field outfield sprawling out in front of me with every added step … that memory is etched right in the center of my brain. I relived it hundreds – maybe thousands – of times during my Cubs days; I’d purposely go down the first-base line and walk up the stairs from the lower bowl. It’s a feeling that’s just not the same in other ballparks.
You didn’t need to buy tickets in advance in those days, and it was a decent-sized crowd that afternoon. I did have to look up the attendance, and it was over 20,000 – which was a big crowd in those days. We sat in grandstand seats behind the first base bag, and I remember sitting with my dad and my neighbors – just fascinated by everything in front of me. The live version was so much better than what I had seen on TV. The grass was greener. The Cubs’ uniforms were whiter. The crowd noise was real.
For those of you who know me, I waited until 1973 before attempting to keep score at a game. On this day, I just soaked in the atmosphere.
If I allow myself to think about it, my whole Cubs career could have been shaped by that game. What if the game had been boring? What if we had gone the day before, when only 3,400 had been in attendance? What if the Cubs had been slaughtered?
But why dwell on that? My dad was smart enough to take me to a game with a final score of Cubs 18, Mets 5. Good job, dad!
I might have been a kid, but I do remember Burt Hooton hitting a grand slam off Tom Seaver that day – and hearing how rare it was for a pitcher to hit a grand slam. I remember seeing players like Ron Santo and Billy Williams and Don Kessinger and Rick Monday – the Cubs I regularly watched on WGN. I remember feeling the excitement in the air and knowing that this was where I wanted to be.
I only wish my brain could have retained more of the specifics. It’s cool to be able to look at the old box score and see that those in attendance at Wrigley Field that day included Mets manager Yogi Berra … and Willie Mays started at first base for the Mets … and great names like Tommie Agee and John Milner and Jim Fregosi and Bud Harrelson and Jose Cardenal and Glenn Beckert and Jim Hickman and Elrod Hendricks appeared in the contest … and the umpiring crew included legends named Nick Colosi and Chris Pelekoudas … and the crowd included Henry and Chuck Wasserstrom.
Thankfully, I kept my ticket stub. It cost a whole dollar for me to get in.
Thankfully, I took some pictures – which drilled in the feeling of being slightly up the first-base line and taking the stairs up from the concourse.
Thankfully, I’ve been able to thank my dad through the years with Cubs-inspired paraphernalia.
And, most importantly, I can give him credit for the beginning of my Cubs career. Someone had to get me started on that track.
So I guess if you want to blame anyone for how I turned out, you can blame my dad. And that’s how the headline got its name.
Happy Father’s Day, Dad! Thanks for the continued support.
And for all of you dads out there, I hope your kids blame you for all of their achievements, too. Happy Father’s Day!