Growing up in the 60’s and 70’s was different than today that’s for sure…. except some of the hairstyles seem to still be around. One big difference is there were not as many entertainment options then as there are these days. That really goes without saying, however some things haven’t changed that much either. It was around 1970 that I realized that baseball was a day in and day out event from April to October. “Pretty neat,” I thought, Nah better than pretty neat I soon understood.
There were 24 teams once I started to really notice the structure of the separate leagues and the teams on the other side of the country. Like most kids I dove into the home team, memorizing their names and numbers and never looking barely beyond the 25 guys wearing the home colors. For most it’s later in life that you realize the breadth of your sports obsessions when you know the names of the umpires and the pitching coaches, but can’t remember what the guy 2 houses down from you does for a living.
One thing about April is that off days are plentiful early in the year and it’s times like this that I really appreciate MLB Extra Innings. On the west coast I can get baseball some days from ten in the morning to ten in the evening, wall to wall games with live feeds, surely something I never thought of when I was riding my bike back in the day with my Pro Keds, Tuffskins and Hang Ten shirt flapping in the breeze, glove dangling from the handlebars, transistor dangling from the other; tracking Ernie Harwell and Ray Lane and the Tigers. The sound of that ride was often highlighted by the flickering sound of a baseball card on the spokes of your fat schwinn tire. It was those cards that gave you the first look of other teams players, the ones you might have heard mentioned, or the ones that faded before you could remember their names.
It’s on days like this that I play baseball memory games that have no meaning to anyone but myself, the one that I found myself playing today was trying to remember what player I first noticed who was on a team other than the one I loved and what uniform they were wearing as they stared at me off of that stale gum smelling card. It’s a nice little exercise, run it by your friends and you’ll get a grasp of the era they first dipped their toe into the game, the types of players they liked (or the type that MLB marketed) or what league they followed. It even highlights the dogs of the era sometimes (just look at my Dodger and Yankee entry)
Here’s my list.
Dodgers – Wes Parker
Giants – Willie Mays
Reds – Johnny Bench
Braves – Hank Aaron
Padres – Nate Colbert
Houston – Cesar Cedeno
Philadelphia – Steve Carlton
Pittsburgh – Roberto Clemente
New York Mets – Tom Seaver
Montreal Expos – Rusty Staub
Chicago Cubs – Fergusen Jenkins
St Lous Cardinals – Ted Simmons
Detroit Tigers – Al Kaline
Boston Red Sox – Rico Petrocelli
Baltimore Orioles – Brooks Robinson
New York Yankees – Horace Clarke
Cleveland Indians – Sam McDowell
Washington Senators – Frank Howard
Milwaukee Brewers – Tommy Harper
California Angels – Nolan Ryan
Oakland A’s – Reggie Jackson
Chicago White Sox – Bill Melton
Kansas City Royals – Steve Busby
Minnesota Twins – Harmon Killebrew
Brian first met the greatest game in Detroit in 1968, that team played in a league called the “American League”…. but I digress.
Later after a family move he started a dalliance with the Cincinnati Reds, who perchance were in the midst of their greatest era. It was a romance that was greater than many could hope to be.
After barely stomaching the strike of 1981 Brian headed West but never forgot the Reds, and even despite being surrounded by Giants and A’s fans who tried to entice him with things both Green and Orange he found himself wondering what was up with Kal Daniels and was that kid from Moeller ever going to make us forget Davey.
A long time member of SABR and a baseball history junkie he currently lives in Portland and can be followed at @baseballminutia