I don’t have a very good memory, but the first baseball game I attended was at County Stadium in Milwaukee; a double header against the Red Sox. Dick Drago pitched at some point for the Sox. It was 1978 or 1979. It was my birthday. My dad told me to invite some friends to the game and so I did. He handed us kids our tickets, actual tickets, ones we could hold in our palms and look at.
I didn’t know the atomic number of too many elements on the periodical table or that much about space shuttle journeys or Shakespeare lyrics, but I knew that ticket was my key into the game, a real god damn game with players I’d seen on TV and heard grown men talk about. Do they even have tickets nowadays? Or is the proof that you paid digitally recorded on a cell phone? How do you collect ticket stubs on a cell phone?
Anyway, the man standing beside the turnstile ripped my ticket into two unequal halves. I never thought much about the half he handed me or I did, but not the small print on the back. Instead, I focused on the row, aisle, seat number information. It would be my home for the next 18 innings. I was too excited about seeing Cecil Cooper in his crouched Carew-like stance to care about small print words. I had met Cooper at Cody for Kids Shoe Store at Milwaukee’s Bay Shore Mall. He signed a black and white picture of himself batting. I put it in a frame (without glass) and mounted it on my bedroom wall.
After we reached our seats in the upper grandstand, I could have set my ticket stub free, let it float like one of those helicopter leaves to become part of the beautiful mess – the empty paper beer cups and peanut shells and hard cement floor. Yeh, I could have, but I didn’t, instead I kept that stub, stuffed it in my pocket and in the front of my mind knew with sudden urgency that I would start a ticket stub collection, not knowing why, not knowing that maybe years later, I’d look at the stub and remember what had happened at the double header – maybe a Moose Haas win, a Robin Yount stolen a base and opposite field home run? Lenn Sakata? Don Money? Ben Oglivie? I just thought about the stub and how cool it would be to have lots of them, how cool it would be if my dad brought me to more games.
I don’t remember much about that double header, but for the sake of this post, I’m going to pretend that during batting practice, it started to rain and I watched other fans study their ticket stubs and so I snuck a peak too and discovered the unthinkable – that sometimes rain didn’t stop, even at a baseball game and when that happened, the game could get cancelled, even a double header and how deceived I would feel, that I’d been tricked, that life wasn’t all birthday cakes and Cooper’s stance; that things didn’t always turn out the way I wanted them too….
and in this pretend scenario, as we walked away from County Stadium, rain soaking through our jackets, making them heavy like blankets; as we stomped in puddles towards the car, I would be filled with a very promising thought – that the ticket stub I had kept was like a psalm, a promise of a batter day, that the rain would stop and there would be another game and that I would be entitled to attend that game; that one day I would finally see Cecil Cooper and the Brewers, that maybe life wasn’t completely bad.
November 2, 2022 at 8:44 am
There is so much I like about this post, Steve. For starters, the fact you got to meet Cecil Cooper at a place called Cody for Kids Shoe Store is just divine. I like the detail in your writing, with lines such as, “I could have set my ticket stub free, let it float like one of those helicopter leaves to become part of the beautiful mess”
Most of all, I was blown away by how you treasure a ticket stub, because I am the same. I have a large box with ticket stubs of games I have attended over the decades. I put the stubs in envelopes sorted by years. I’ve wondered why I do this and why I have kept these. Your post helped me understand a bit better.
November 2, 2022 at 4:41 pm
Thanks for your thoughts Mark. I was always a fan of Cooper. He made it fun to go to Brewer games and yell “Cooooooooooop.”
That’s great that you collect ticket stubs and organize them by years. I have a hard time remembering the games I have stubs for. I guess that’s part of getting old. The memory is not so good anymore, but there are some smells that hit me, that suddenly arouse a memory, one of them being the smell of bratwursts. That takes me back to not a specific game, but County Stadium in general.
November 2, 2022 at 9:40 am
“the ticket stub I had kept was like a psalm, a promise of a batter day,”
I see what you did there… and I like it!
I once gave a speech during my little sister’s wedding years ago and instead of the usual “A reading from the Book of Psalms or Corinthians, etc.,” I started with “A reading from the Book of Kyle.”
You do just the right amount of non-fiction that the names you select for these type of posts are almost as creative as the fictional names you come up with… Moose Haas, Lenny Sakata… real MLB players!
November 2, 2022 at 4:36 pm
I’m glad you liked the Psalm reference and glad you got me wondering. What’s the “Book of Kyle?”
November 2, 2022 at 3:06 pm
So much about the game, and for that fact the nuts-and-bolts of the veracity of our memories in general, are such rabbit warrens of fact and invention that it doesn’t make a damn bit of difference whether it rained or not.
November 2, 2022 at 4:47 pm
Nice to hear from you wk! It’s strange the things we remember like why did I remember that Dick Drago pitched in the doubleheader and yet, I can’t remember much more?
I wasn’t at the game between the Orioles and Brewers when it rained or maybe I was? In any case, it became famous for the Rick Dempsey show. Thank god for rain!
November 2, 2022 at 6:40 pm
“the beautiful mess” …wow, that’s perfect steve. really sums it up for me. i have so many great memories as a kid going to ball games and hockey games. and this piece really brought that back to life for me. i wish i had kept all the ticket stubs…i did, but over the years they did make it to that beautiful mess. one of my favorite memories was at a hockey game as a young kid. and the sabres where losing to the bruins 5-1 in the second period. my dad wanted to go home and beat the traffic and probably grumpy the game was a blow out. i wanted to say. i was a naive kid. and it turned out the sabres won 6-5. the game always makes it into the list of top comebacks for buffalo.
November 2, 2022 at 7:38 pm
Thanks Bob. I love that you wanted to stay despite the 1-5 deficit. There’s so much hope in that, that turning towards the positive possibility and as it turned out, they won!
November 3, 2022 at 10:57 am
Well, this certainly was a masterpiece. Highly enjoyable.
I have some recent ticket stubs but I’m not sure how/why they were obtained instead of just a cell phone ticket. One thing I really miss is the parking lot scalpers, and I went to a AAA game some years back and there was a guy standing on the bridge selling tickets. The nostalgia! I got the guy to sell me a ticket for about 80 percent less than the actual price because “the game already started…if you don’t sell to me and you eat the cost.” Yeah, I’m a prick sometimes.
November 3, 2022 at 4:50 pm
Thanks Gary. Glad you enjoyed this one and glad it sparked the memory of the AAA game you scalped a ticket at. I agree with you about parking lot scalpers, kind of a subculture like bus stations and pool halls of old.