Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Thirty-four Years Ago Today (or Tomorrow, but Probably Today)

It has long been a tale of family lore: Billy's first major league baseball game.

Earlier this month, I attended a wild one at Yankee Stadium (Yankees 14, Angels 9 - read about it here.)

The historical nature of the game (most likely my last one at the "old" Yankee stadium) got me a thinking, especially with my daughters in tow. So I hopped on the web and did a little research.

But before I continue, a generous cousin took Shayna and me to another wild one this past Sunday (Yankees 15, Royals 6) and we had completely awesome seats, so this past Sunday was my last game at the old Yankee Stadium (recap here).

Now, scroll back to another time: I was 7 years old and visiting my dear young dad (who would some day become The Ancient One, Blessed Be He). We had taken a break from summer in Springfield, Illinois, and were visiting my Grandma Martha Cohen in Southern California. We went to an Angels-Tigers game at "The Big A," the original stadium for the team then known as the California Angels.

Here's what I remember: it was a pitcher's duel, the stuff that excites grown-ups but bores little seven-year old boys. The game ended 1-0. The collective memory of me and my pops had the Tigers losing 1-0. Or maybe winning 1-0. I also remember a line drive foul ball coming right toward me at a million miles an hour, but somehow being miraculously diverted into the loge section above us Or we may have been in loge and it could have been an upper deck. Mickey Lolich pitched for the Tigers. Frank Tanana for the Angels. Or so we thought.

Fresh from the euphoria of the Angels loss at the hands of the Bronx Bombers, I went a digging in the cyber-archives.

Amazing what you find on line! There it is: Monday, August 19, 1974. Angels 1, Tigers 0. Winning pitcher: Frank Tanana. Losing pitcher: Fred Holdsworth? What?

And then you look at the play-by-play: a pitcher's gem indeed. The game ended in the bottom of the ninth after a lead-off single, a sacrifice, an intentional walk, a passed ball (moving both runners into scoring position, and then another intentional walk to load the bases, and then pinch runner Mickey Rivers scored on a sacrifice fly by pinch hitter Winston Llenas.

Game summary here.

But I am more impressed by who else I saw play that night...

For the Tigers, Al Kaline, Ron LeFlore, and the original third baseman named A-Rod, Aurelio Rodriguez (name the baseball player with all five vowels in his first name). Sad news, I just learned he died in 2000.

For the Angels, Denny Doyle, Bruce Bochte, Bobby Valentine and Frank Robinson.

But I had swore we saw Lolich pitch for Detroit. But I was more certain Tanana was there.

The next night, however, was more memorable. Maybe I saw that game instead?

It was Lolich. Against Nolan Ryan. Detroit won 1-0. Both pitchers went all 11 innings. And Ryan struck out 19 batters. And lost. Can you imagine?

No, it had to be the Tanana game. I would have remembered Ryan and 19 K's. Check out this box.

I called my father. He believes we saw Lolich-Ryan, but that it wasn't extra innings. I remember Tanana. But I was 7 and he was 37. Whose memory is more reliable? I can't imagine dear old dad having such a great month that both Nixon resigned and the Tigers won a game, despite fanning
nineteen times.

Of course, once he reads this, he'll remember who else was there and start making some phone calls. Or maybe he won't.

To you, Dad, I issue this challenge....tell us once and for all which game it was.....


Ben said...

What a great post! I love doing sh*t like this (there's only one way to call this type of internet ephemera, and it's "sh*t"). I do it with concerts and small shows from college.

Al Kaline and Ron LeFlore. Wow.

And a 2 pitchers going 11 innings. Unheard of nowadays.

Leon said...

Bill, thanks for waking up some good old memories even if they are fuzzy around the edges.

I'm still convinced we saw Lolich and Ryan. (How could anyone forget that match-up?) I can't even remember ever seeing Fred Holdsworth pitch. I don't remember the additional innings but the game itself left such an impression on me that I suspect I simply lost track. I do remember that it was a challenge for two 7 year old boys (Andy Max was with us) to last through a game with only one run being scored, no matter how many innings it went.

One minor correction. That was NOT your first major league game. Earlier that summer we saw the Cardinals play in St. Louis. A former student of mine had gotten the tickets. They were in (about) the 7th row directly behind home plate. But that's all I remember about that game itself; I don't even recollect the Cardinals opponent that night. I was more wrapped up in the joy of taking my son to his first Major League game.

Bill Cohen said...

Well it certainly sounds better to say I saw Lolich-Ryan, so I will defer to the wisdom of the Ancient One. As to the revelation that this was not my first major league game, again Pops is right, although the memory of the experience is blurry and overshadowed by the nightmare of June 11,1981, when we drove to Busch Stadium the day before the baseball strike and the Dodgers ace rookie Fernando Valenzuela lost to the Cards' Silvio Martinez 2-1. The box score doesn't tell the story. It says George Hendrick from the Cardinals hit a 2-run homer against L.A. in the first, one of three hits given up by Fernando. What is absent is that the home run was really a line drive to right field where it was misplayed by Pedro Guerrero, whpo let the ball go by him on a wicked astroturf single that turned into an inside-the-park home run. The name Pedro Guerrero was forever cursed in our home.The next day, the players went on strike, leaving Guerrero's blunder seared into my memory for 2 months of baseball-less summer, and permanently etched in my psyche.