My brain works in a mysterious way. Yeah, I know that those of you who read this blog regularly are thinking, no kidding. That's not what I'm talking about here. It's more about how I process memories. Long term remembrances are no problem. I can tell you about events that happened fifty years ago in great detail.
When I heard about yesterdays death of baseball great Frank Robinson, it took me back almost six decades. My memory, with some help from Google, took me back to 1960.
The first time I attended a live major league baseball game was on July 2 of that year. It was at Wrigley Field, in Chicago. I was one of 14,513 fans. It seemed like a lot of people to a young boy; but the reality is the stadium was two thirds empty. That was the norm at Wrigley Field in those days. The Cincinnati Reds beat the Cubs by a score of 13-8. Nothing unusual about the score. That was also the norm in that era of Cubs baseball. The Cubs did a lot of losing. Their season record after the game was 27-41.
On this date, I had just turned eight years old. I was awe at walking into Wrigley Field for the first time. I was overwhelmed at how big the stadium seemed. The grass seemed so green. It was an amazing experience. After this day, I was hooked on baseball and never looked back.
Baseball was new to me and I was just starting my love affair with the sport. The players I got to see for the first time included Vada Pinson, Ron Santo and Ernie Banks. According to Baseball-Reference, Ernie had a huge game with a home run, two doubles and four runs batted in. But the one player who made the biggest impact on me was Frank Robinson. If you were looking to see a superstar player at your first game, it was hard to do better than him. He was in his fifth year with the Reds. Frank was a former Rookie of the Year winner. He was just one season away from winning his first Most Valuable Player award and leading his team to the World Series.
On this day, Frank didn't play a big part in the Reds victory. He had a double in three at bats. He also played first base instead his usual spot in right field. Yet, even though he wasn't a central figure in the games outcome, you could tell he was the big man on the team. Robinson had a special aura about him. It was in the way he carried himself on the field. It was in the way he stood in the batter's box and stared at the pitcher. His look said this wasn't just a game.
Even an eight year old boy at his first game could see that.
In the years to come, I saw Robinson play many times. He became a legend for the Baltimore Orioles, where he won another MVP and two World Series championships. His career totals of 586 home runs and 2,914 base hits made him a no-doubt Hall of Famer. He broke down a barrier by becoming the first African-American to manage in the major leagues.
But for me, all this is secondary to that July day in 1960.
Rest easy, Frank. Maybe today you're having one of those Field of Dreams type games with Vada, Ron and Ernie. Childhood memories are the best!
Related Post: Memories of Mr. Cub
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