Tuesday, July 1, 2008
Me and Willie Mays
1997 Topps Mays
There have been a few nostalgic posts on several of the baseball card blogs lately so I thought I'd offer my own.
As a kid I wasn't much of a baseball fan, but one of my strongest memories from childhood was my first baseball game. My Uncle Joe took me to see the Phillies play the Giants in old Connie Mack Stadium in Philadelphia. I don't remember exactly when this was but I think I was about 8 years old, which would put this game in 1959. I have two great memories of this game.
One concerns Willie Mays. Most probably the only time I saw him play in person. I remember nothing about the actual game, not the score, not a single play, nothing. What I remember is that several times during the game, fans ran out onto the field to shake Willie's hand in center field. Was this a common occurrence when he was a player? I have no idea. Anyway, as a child, I thought this was terrible. Willie Mays was on the other team. He was the enemy. Later in the game someone ran out to shake Johnny Callison's hand. Johnny was the Phillies' center fielder. That made me feel better.
The other memory, even stronger, is of walking into the stadium. Up until this time, I had only seen baseball on a black and white television set. Those of you out there who are less than 40, probably don't have too many memories of b/w TV. I had certainly seen enough things on TV and later saw them in real life, in full color, without much comment. But walking through the shadowy Connie Mack Stadium tunnel to the field, the greenness of the grass was stunning to me. I don't think I have ever seen anything so green as the grass of that baseball field. In my memory it's like the rest of the scene is in black and white so over powering is the green of the grass.
Going to that game didn't make me any more of a baseball fan than I was before the game. That would come later. My next baseball game was probably when I was about 16, and Connie Mack was a shabby old place soon to be replaced by the sterile Veteran's Stadium. But I've been a big fan for most of my adult life and I cherish that childhood memory.