How I Became A Junkie
By Bob Fine
It’s Saturday, July 16th, 2016. It’s hot. It’s humid, but it’s bearable, today. But i’m happy to be enjoying a nice weekend at home in DC during the summer. As part of my Saturday morning weekend ritual, I’m enjoying my coffee, reading the paper, and simply relaxing with my lovely wife, and our two cats.
I came across a wonderful article written by Richard Babcock, titled: “The First Shudder of a Familiar Cubs Feeling.” And it’s a story that evokes one of my best childhood memories with my mother. Babcock is recalling his own childhood memory, being 9 years old, and listening to a late night ballgame on his radio while his parents are out to dinner, the baby sitter is downstairs, and he’s supposed to be fast asleep.
60 years ago this year, on July 25th, 1956, Babcock was listening to Cubs announcer Jack Quinlan, call a ball game between his beloved Cubs coming from behind to lead the Pirates in the bottom of the ninth, 8-5. Roberto Clemente, with the bases loaded, hit an in the park grand slam for a walk off win for the Pirates that night. Babcock was crushed listening to his Cubbies lose that night with such an improbable feat.
I learned from Babcock’s article that that grand slam winning hit by Clemente has only been achieved 28 times in the history of baseball, out of over 200,000 games. A 0.0001% chance. Reading his story brought back one of the strongest, most positive memories of my own childhood.
On April 13th, 1983, it was my twelfth birthday and I was in sixth grade. I was already a die hard baseball fan, avid baseball card collector, and in love with my local Philadelphia Phillies. Pete Rose, Mike Schmidt, Bob Boone, Larry Bowa, Tug McGraw, and Steve Carlton, just to name a few. My mom took me to the game that night for my birthday. What better way for a young baseball fan to celebrate their birthday than to go see a major league game? This must be why, still today, I’d rather go to a ballgame on my birthday than do almost anything else.
That night, with the Phillies trailing the Mets 9-5 in the bottom of the ninth, the bases loaded and two outs, Bo Diaz became one of those 28 rarities in baseball. With his grand slam, the Phillies beat the Mets 10-9. I was on cloud nine, and from that point forward, it solidified that the game of baseball would always be one my greatest passions in life.
It was nice to be reminded of this memory today, and to learn that what I had witnessed 33 years ago was much more rare and unique than I realized at the time and since.
Below at the very beginning of this recording, you can hear the Phillies play-by-play announcer Harry Kalas call that game winning hit:
The earliest memory I can recall watching baseball is four years earlier during the 1979 World Series between the Orioles and the Pirates. I was eight. I can’t remember what game of the series I was watching, or who was winning. All I can remember is I was in the bedroom that my older brothers Michael and Andrew shared, and I was sitting on Andrew’s bed. They had a small TV on the dresser. My parents may have been fighting that night, and I was hiding out. I don’t clearly remember, but baseball was there, and that I remember.
There’s something about sports writers that always evoke the strongest memories and emotions in me. Nine years ago, local sports writer Mike Wise got me so charged up about the issue of steroids in baseball that it got me off the couch, and I started a one man crusade against major league baseball. I didn’t make much of an impact, but I did end with this interview with CBC Radio:
I’ve searched high and low, and I can’t find a video clip of Bo Diaz’s grand slam that night in 1983, or an audio or video clip of Roberto Clemente’s grand slam back in 1956. Please email me if you have or find a link for either of them. I’d love to include them in this piece.
Was there a particular game or memory that greatly impacted your love, or hate, for the game? If so, please share it with us in the comments below.
I want to thank my wife Theresa for encouraging me to write and share my memories today.