Tuesday, May 09, 2006

Memories of a 7 yr old

When I was a really tiny, in the 1960's, we took in a few SF Giants games. My recollection was that Candlestick Park (the only name I use for that cold windy sorry excuse for a stadium) was packed full back in the days when you could load a Detroit iron station wagon with 8-10 kids sliding around in the back without those damn belts to restrict our fun.

I was oblivious to what I was watching. In those days I was more interested in going to the San Jose Bees (a farm team for the LA Angels then, now called the Giants and a farm team for the SF Giants) . At the Bee's games we would go into a service area just past the outfield fence, which was just plywood, and peer through holes to watch for home runs...all we were after was a ball. We didn't even pay attention to the score.

But I do remember the first time I walked out of one of the tunnels into the upper deck where our seats were at Candlestick and the blue sky, the sea of fans, the smells and sounds, and a pristine ball field expanded below me. It was like a real life IMAX experience. I don't even remember who the Giants were playing. My memory of the experience just didn't record it...or more likely I don't know how to access that memory location anymore. I also remember either going for a hotdog, or being in the bath room, and hearing on the PA system that Mays just hit a homer...I ran out to the nearest tunnel and out into the seats and got to see him rounding 2nd as he headed for home. Mays had an unmistakable way of running and I remember it from that very first big league game.

Willie Mays is still considered the best all around player, most importantly by the players of the day, and it was great to see him play several times. I also got to see other special Giants players; the great leg kick of Juan Marichal, the "stretch" Willie McCovey, Jesus Alou of the amazing Alou baseball family, and Barry's dad Bobby. We also did the occasional A's game over in Oakland were I watched Rollie Fingers, Catfish Hunter, Bert Campaneris and "Mr. October" Reggie Jackson.

From going to Giant's and A's games in the late '60's I got to see greats from the visiting teams, players like; Johnny Bench, Steve Carlton, Don Drysdale, Pete Rose, Tom Seaver, Rod Carew, Willie Horton, Harmon Killebrew, Mel Stottlemyre and Carl Yastrzemski.

Two additional players I got to see are relevant to the reason I wrote this post. Mickey Mantle by all estimates still holds the record for the longest home runs ever hit. Two are estimated at 565 ft. and 643 ft. And then there is the home run total champion Hank Aaron.

I guess that's how some experiences in life go. You don't know until years later how special they were. While Bond's is likely to tie Babe Ruth's home run total in tonight's game I don't think the 8 year olds at the park will be thinking about how special this is, or that there is a steroid asterisk next to a number in the record books. Things like mortgage payments, property, income and capital gains taxes, kids and the affect these things have on you over decade or more tend to make us cynical and jaded. I think we need to remind ourselves of what it's like to see events through the eyes of an 7 year old and how that memory lingers later at mid life. I'm not suggesting the steroid use is ok or that Bond's hasn't acted like an ass nearly his whole career (he has). I'm saying this will be a great memory for a bunch of kids at the ball park years down the road.

I've been to Giant's and A's games throughout the years but those experiences in the late '60's and early '70's are more impactful to me today. So if Barry's steroid use, and not his natural talent, is responsible for his move past Ruth and baring injury past Aaron I'll cut him some slack because it reminds me to be sure and create some of those memories for my kids. Besides, I suspect before I die, steroid use in sports won't be the issue...it will probably be someone claiming an athlete's parents did some bioengineering, some kind of generic alterations, on the egg or embryo that enhanced or created athletic ability.....I wonder if there will be a way to test for that?

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