Doug's Diggings: Hallelujah — Baseball season begins this weekThe major league baseball season kicked off this week and it’s always an exciting time for me and other baseball fans — it’s not such an exciting time for my wife who believes I watch too much baseball on television.
By: Doug Stohlberg, Hudson Star-Observer
The major league baseball season kicked off this week and it’s always an exciting time for me and other baseball fans — it’s not such an exciting time for my wife who believes I watch too much baseball on television.
When you think about it, baseball involves quite a commitment. There are games virtually every day, 162 in all, for the regular season. Add another month of baseball with the playoffs and World Series and true fans are definitely the most committed (or crazy) in all of sports.
It is for that very reason that professional football has become so popular. Football only requires a once-a-week commitment of a few hours if a fan follows one team. Baseball could require up to three-plus hours per day, or 20-plus hours per week to faithfully follow one team. Being a true baseball fan is the equivalent of having a part time job!
The professional football season is actually quite short compared to other sports. The regular season involves basically four months (September-December). Throw in pre-season and playoffs and the total season is about six months. The regular baseball season requires six months of games (April-September). Throw in the spring training and playoffs and the total season is about eight months (with games every day!).
But, as any true baseball fan knows, the crack of the bat, the home run, the dazzling catch and the smell of hot dogs are enough to get the baseball mind racing.
As a youngster, I played as much baseball as possible while growing up in Hudson — not just organized ball, but every free moment playing pick-up games, or just throwing a ball against the front steps and working on my fielding skills. Baseball was so popular that getting a field on which to play a pick-up game was a problem many evenings. Various kids would plant themselves at the Cinder Lot or Burton Field to reserve a spot for their group of friends
My first professional game came in 1959. I was about 10-years-old and a big fan of the Milwaukee Braves (the Twins didn’t come to the area until 1961). The Braves were coming off two World Series appearances that year, and at that age I expected the Braves would continue to dominate the baseball world for the rest of my life!
I remember walking into old County Stadium and I was in awe. Our seats were in the second deck and when we walked into the open air on that Friday night it almost took my breath away. I remember thinking the rows of seats were so steep. It crossed my mind that I might roll down the aisles and fall right over the edge if I leaned too far forward!
I remember the Braves defeated the Chicago Cubs 11-1. I remember that Warren Spahn was the winning pitcher. He also hit a home run and catcher Del Crandall hit a bases loaded double. With the information explosion on the Internet, I was able to find the box score from the game I attended.
It was on Friday, June 26, 1959, and the attendance was 35,262. The Braves lineup and batting order that night was as follows: Billy Bruton (cf), Eddie Mathews (3rd), Hank Aaron (rf), Wes Covington (lf), Joe Adcock (1st), Del Crandall (c), Johnny Logan (ss), Felix Mantilla (2nd) and Warren Spahn (p). Every Brave had two or three hits that night except for Crandall, with one.
It was a treat for me to discover this box score on the web and relive some of my childhood memories. One other note about the game, the box score listed the time of the game at 2 hours and 36 minutes – an unheard time in 2010 when average games are in the 3-hour range.
Oddly enough, I don’t remember my first Twins game – it came in 1961. It wasn’t my first game, but I know I was at Met Stadium on Aug. 11, 1961, because that was the night Milwaukee Brave Warren Spahn won his 300th game, defeating the Chicago Cubs 2-1. I remember being at Met Stadium and seeing the information on the scoreboard. Ironically, the Twins beat the Tigers 2-1 that night also.
The Twins lineup and batting order was as follows: Ziolo Versalles (ss), Lenny Green (cf, lf), Harmon Killebrew (1st), Bob Allison (rf), Jim Lemon (lf), Billy Martin (2nd), Earl Battey (c), Ted Lepcio (2nd, 3rd), Bill Tuttle (3rd, cf) and Pedro Ramos (p). The attendance was 34,117 and the game time was 2 hours and 15 minutes.
I went to a lot of Twins games in the early ‘60s, even though I was Brave fan at heart. It was a crushing blow to me when the Braves left Milwaukee and moved to Atlanta for the 1966 season.
The Twins, of course, played at the old Metropolitan Stadium (home of the Mall of America today) and when I was old enough to drive, I went to even more games at the Met. We used to go early and try to catch batting practice balls out in the right field bleachers; and we would leave late, always looking for autographs of both the Twins and visiting teams.
In those days, security was not much of an issue, and we’d often get downstairs in the stadium and be in the hallways as players came out the locker rooms. I’ve probably told this story before, but one afternoon, Harmon Killebrew invited a couple of us to come into the Twins locker room. He talked to us for several minutes while giving us his autograph.
I was able to bring my two sons to many baseball games as they were growing up and we still enjoy getting together and attending games. We have had a tradition for many years of attending the Twins home opener. Now that the Twins have left the Metrodome, the tradition will be halted this year. But, we already have secured tickets for several home games, so we’ll get our chance to visit Target Field many times before the end of the season.
In the meantime, the games are on TV – as my wife knows all too well!