In the My First Game series, writers reflect back on the first game they remember attending and made them a fan of the game.
It’s a boy’s living trinity: First game. First kiss. First girl.
Yankee Stadium. Under leaden skies, as one might read in a typical Dick Young–Daily News lead. Saturday, July 29, 1961. I was nine years, one month, and several days old; it was an interminably long time for someone in Brooklyn to wait before going to a Major League game.
Satchel Paige’s actual birthday remains as mysterious as Satchel wanted it to be. Paige once said, “How old would you be if you didn’t know how old you are?” In 1948, Bill Veeck signed Paige to play for the Cleveland Indians, which happened on the day Satchel turned 42. What a nice birthday present for all baseball fans to see this legendary, almost mythical figure from the all-black leagues. But was he the real deal?
I grew up in the East Bronx. Some might opine I’m still growing up. But that’s another story.
It was a perfect Sunday mid-morning. My parents told me we were going to a movie. I asked, “What’s playing?” My father said, “You’ll see when we get there.”
I can tell you so much about the baseball games I’ve attended in my life.
As a big Braves fan who spent most of my formative years growing up near Atlanta, I can tell you that I saw Chipper Jones hit 12 home runs in person, including his first and 45th of his MVP season in 1999. I can tell you that I saw John Smoltz’s first shutout, his 100th save, and the final win of his career (No. 213) in 2009.
In his new memoir, longtime sports scribe Bob Ryan writes, “I’m not like most baseball fans. I have no idea when I saw my first big league game, or even my first minor league game. The fact is I cannot remember a time in my life when I wasn’t going to games. So I have no great story to tell about my memorable first trip to the ballpark.”
I have an idea when I saw my first big league game. That’s easy, because I was never anywhere near a Major League ballpark until I was almost 10 years old.
Memory is a perplexing combination of convergence and divergence. Somewhat related events coalesce in our brains into a single narrative that becomes more vivid each time we relate it. At the same time, even without the embellishment that is second nature to storytellers, that narrative veers further away from literal fact.
War Memorial Stadium in Buffalo, New York, was rarely mistaken for a baseball cathedral. After all, most fans called it the “Rockpile.” Yet, that’s where I saw my first baseball game (I was either 11 or 12 years old), and it’s where I first fell in love with the sport.
Like many people, I attended my first Major League Baseball game when I was a kid. It was on August 14, 1977. I would be starting the fourth grade in less than a month.
I first became a baseball fan that summer. Our family had recently moved from Detroit to one of its suburbs, and a couple of my new neighborhood friends were into baseball cards. They got me hooked on the hobby as well, and this coincided with my starting to follow the Tigers.
I’m not sure how I became a baseball fan. My mother knew nothing about the game, and my father was only mildly interested. But somehow, during the spring of 1962, I found out about baseball and by summer, it was the consuming passion of my life.