April 9, 2006


Opening Day: That's what it's all about (Terry Pluto, Apr. 07, 2006, Akron Beacon Journal)

Cleveland always has been an Opening Day town, even for Indians fans who don't live anywhere near the city.

For some of us who grew up during the dark decades of Indians baseball, Opening Day was a time to dream. It was a time to walk down the West Third Street Bridge...

I have some friends from out of town who have moved to our area and are sick of stories about going to games down the West Third Street Bridge.

I understand.

That little walk is not a part of their lives, as it is to many of us.

They didn't have a father who would put them on his shoulders, like my dad did. They didn't have the joy of feeling on top of the world as I looked at the vast, never-ending sea of blue that was Lake Erie.

Or the massive old Cleveland Stadium, a baseball palace to me.

Or the old, neon Chief Wahoo sign on the roof of the ballpark. He stood on one leg, holding a bat and spinning around until he seemed ready topple over, much like the teams of our youth.

Or the first sight of the incredibly green grass as you came up the old, concrete stadium ramps and caught first sight of the infield. Remember, this was a black-and-white, three-channel TV world for many of us, which makes the colors of the ballpark so vivid in our memories.

There is no reason for people from out of town to understand this...

Yet every fan everywhere understands.

MORE (via Matt Murphy):
Only Love (and the Mets) Can Break Your Heart: …but it’s still worth every second. (Andrew C. McCarthy, April 07, 2006, National Review)

My dad was a nut for baseball, a passion he inherited from his father. He had been a big Yankee fan, but somehow their ownership made him revolt. (I never got the whole story, but dimly remember its having something to do with the trade of Bobby Richardson.) In 1962, my dad decided to start all over again, in the National League, with an expansion team: the New York Mets. This, of course, meant that was how his old eldest son, aged three, would be reared.

Dad took us to our first game at Shea Stadium in 1967. It was a sparkling new ballpark, opened in Flushing, near the site of the World’s Fair, in 1964. Even though the outside was never finished, back then it didn’t seem anything like the eyesore it appears to be when I see it today. Of course, by now, almost 40 years later, I’ve been to Yankee Stadium for a World Series game — and any honest baseball fan will tell you everything looks like an eyesore after you’ve been to the House that Ruth Built for the Fall Classic. But in 1967, I was quite sure Shea Stadium was heaven. And I still think I was right.

Three of my younger brothers and I sat in jaw-dropped wonder, watching the Cardinals beat the Mets (the first of many times we would watch the Cardinals beat the Mets). A stickler for tradition, my dad brought his dad along that day, too. It was always the great rite of Americana that the deepest lessons — the lessons for life — were passed from fathers to sons in the summer, in the daytime, in a ballpark.

Of course, I was thrilled beyond words. And hooked forever.

Posted by Orrin Judd at April 9, 2006 6:13 PM

Shea Stadium was the fourth in the line of cookie-cutter ballparks with symetrical outfield distances that took away much of the uniqueness that each different ballparks in the major leagues had. That's great if your starters are Seaver, Koosman, Gentry and Ryan -- no cheap bandbox homers down the line to mar a great pitching performance -- but not so hot if your pitching isn't that great and you're a little offensively challenged.

Like so many other bad ideas, this one originated in Washington, with RFK Stadium, which has even less charm today, other than the upper level painted seats Frank Howard hit his home runs into. And as with Stadium No. 2, Candlestick Park, Shea was plopped out facing a big body of water at its open end with the idea of eventually enclosing the stadium, leaving early and late season fans (or as I found out later, part-time ushers) to freeze for nine innings as the wind whipped in off Long Island Sound and around the stands. They can't tear it down and put up the Ebbets Field replica fast enough for me.

Posted by: John at April 9, 2006 9:48 PM

Terry Pluto is an impressive speaker and writer--I heard him give a breakfast talk on his work in the jailhouse ministry that was one of the best public speeches I've ever witnessed. He's also the author of the delightful Curse of Rocky Colavito.

Posted by: Mike Morley at April 10, 2006 6:37 AM

If you go to the Beacon Jornal they've got archives of his essays on baseball and on religion as well as podcasts he does.

Posted by: oj at April 10, 2006 6:57 AM
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