I Gave Up the Major League Life at Forty

You can observe a lot just by watching. – Yogi Berra     

Say. Hey. I’m not a sports person. Given a choice, I’ll take tickets to a Broadway musical. But baseball has been the soundtrack of my life since I was a child.  The voice of Jack Brickhouse, broadcasting the Cubs on WGN, often crackled from my Dad’s Arvin box radio on our concrete patio. Dad might play catch with my brother and me while Ernie Banks ran around inside Wrigley’s Field’s hallowed brick and ivy walls. 

And He’s Out. We attended games on summer trips, often to Chicago or other places. If you want to get my Dad and brother going, ask them about seeing Denny McClain pitch in old Tiger Stadium. Sometimes Mom and I relaxed in the Holiday Inn pool, as we did after our family went to Disneyland. My father and brother went to Anaheim Stadium, where they saw Nolan Ryan pitch 16 strike-outs against Oakland, including four against Reggie Jackson. 

It’s a Whole New Ballgame. When I became engaged to a Cincinnati Reds fan, my father said, “At least he doesn’t support the American League.” So I learned to listen to Marty Brennaman instead of the legendary Harry Caray, who succeeded Brickhouse. Nevertheless, we still made it to Wrigley, seated under Harry’s cage, where we sang “Take Me Out to the Ballgame.” Harry started singing , then threw his mic and cord out, letting it pick up the crowd sounds. 

Hit Out of the Park. Our son was born on Opening Day in 1990. While our family vacationed in Florida in October, the Reds won the World Series. We put our eight-month-old baby, dressed in a tiny Reds uniform, on Clearwater Beach like a fat baby seal, and took a celebratory picture. My husband and son await another championship as diligently as my father waited on the Cubs’ Series win in 2016.  Anybody can have a bad century.

Baby Elephant Walk. While we’ve attended several Opening Days, none sticks in my mind, like Opening Day 1993 at old Riverfront. Our three seats were on the top row, on an aisle. Our son was three years old and wouldn’t gain his rapt devotion to the Redlegs for a few more years. I saw none of the game because I was terrified my toddler would tumble down the long concrete steps. However, Marge Schott still owned the team and hosted a parade featuring an elephant, which did what elephants do right on the field. 

There’s No Joy in Mudville. My extended family went to a 1997 Reds home game against the Cubs. I ordered a Hudepohl Tall Boy to celebrate my 40th birthday. Our great seats were along the third-base line. Unfortunately, even one Tall Boy was too much under the hot sun for this rookie. So the family gave up our seats to move to a shaded area over the outfield. I worshipped the porcelain gods most of the day. Unable to drive home because of my need for frequent stops, we spent the night in a roadside motel in Pee Wee Valley, Kentucky. My lifetime baseball attendance stats are a solid 400. I’ve visited Chicago parks multiple times, Kansas City, Atlanta’s old Fulton County Stadium, Detroit, San Francisco, and even a Toledo Mud Hens game. But I admit I’ve only been to one game since the Incident (Boston Red Sox in Boston) and had one beer (In Belgium, the home of beer). My streak is over.

Eye on the Ball. The baseball trips continue for the men in my life. Though a lifelong Reds fan, our son lives in D.C.  and attends Nats games. Before the pandemic, he annually flew to Cincinnati for his father’s birthday and a few games. I skip the games (see above).  Still, there is baseball all around me, children in the hotel elevator with their first mitts, the roar and lights of Great American Ball Park across the Ohio River, and the celebratory fireworks of a Reds win. 

There’s Always Next Year.  Joy seems to flow in spring training. My husband and son visited Arizona in March several years ago to watch multiple Reds games. Our nephew attended a Grapefruit League game last week to watch his beloved Cubs. So when my husband mentioned to me this morning that the opening day for the Reds is Thursday, I asked, “At what point do you think you will be in complete despair?”  He estimated about the end of April.

Amy Abbott is a reformed Cubs fan and current Reds fan. Find her online at https://authory.com/AmyAbbott

Share this Post: