I wasn’t alive in the spring of 1969 but if I was, I like to think I woulda been 17 and woulda had a big crush on a girl with olive-colored skin, black hair and dark eyes, so dark that I could see the world reflected in them except at night. Then it would be downright spooky and my crush on her would grow. She would lead me all over town in say Brooklyn. Yeh, I would be living in Brooklyn, not too far from the Greenwood cemetery. And I would know that Henry Chadwick was buried there and I would know that Chadwick created the first baseball box score and that he questioned the thinking that lots of errors equaled “bad fielder” because it might just be a case of a defender having greater range, getting to more balls = more chances = more errors. I wouldn’t be 100 percent sure of all this because I would have overheard it from a conversation a bunch of old men with hats would have been having at the local pharmacy.
I would follow my beady-eyed babe over the black wrought iron gates of Greenwood cemetery in the hopes of a kiss. It would be amazing to just clear the spiky tops of the fence, and I would make it and she would hold my hand and then let go and I would run after her and she would hold my hand again and then run away again. I would eventually get tired and pass out and when I woke up she would be gone. But I would have a brother and we would be really close, really different, but really close. He would be a weed smoker and the occasional dropper of LSD and he would go see bands and he would have a massive music collection and I would be a baseball card collector and I would like astronomy and baseball and that would be about it. I would have a lot of friends, but not many dreams other than liking it when winter was over and spring came and baseball would be starting again. I would go to a lot of Mets and Yankees games with my friends. I would like the Mets better, but I would also like to see American League teams and their players and anyway the subway and bus reached both Yankee Stadium and Shea Stadium so I would go to both. And I would like 1969 because there would be talk of men going to the moon and there would be four new teams in baseball and they would be all over North America – Montreal, Seattle, Kansas City, and San Diego. And at some point I would get wind that Jim Bouton would be pitching for the Pilots in Seattle and that he had been assigned a task – to chronicle his 1969 season and I would think that was really cool because his chronicle would be like a diary and that would be like gratitude for living, an appreciation of every day, good or bad, drunk or sober, proof of a life lived, a sort of a thank you note to God or whoever. I would want Bouton’s Pilot’s baseball card, but there would be a problem. Topps would issue its cards in spring, but they would be for the previous season so the 1969 set would be about the 1968 players. There would be no Jim Bouton Pilot’s card that year, but it was right about that time that my brother would invite me to some concert in upstate New York. He would say things like, “You gotta go and don’t worry, I know exactly how to prepare you for the event.”
He would sit me down and hand me a small piece of cardboard, much smaller than a baseball card, much much smaller, and he would tell me that it was LSD and that I should put it on my tongue. He promised that it would make me want to hear music, to go and see live music. I would be kind of innocent and gullible, but it would be my brother and I would trust him. Nothing would happen at first, but then I would start noticing things that were always there, but they would be different like the colored shapes of the floor tiles and the turquoise colored ceiling. There would be rainbow colors around the light and my brother would put on an album and it would be Canned Heat and he would tell me about the origins of the name canned heat and we would be like holy crap – “How could anyone drink that!” and I would get to thinking that maybe there was a little magic in all of this and that maybe I should go with my brother to this music concert he called Woodstock which would be the town where the concert would be and maybe it was the LSD talking, but I would wonder and then really believe that there would be a Topps baseball card maker at Woodstock and that he would be making cards from the back of his VW bus, that all the players who would be playing in that 1969 season would have cards including Jim Bouton on the Pilots!
We would hitchhike, my brother and I from Brooklyn to Woodstock and along the way we would eat some more of these LSD cardboard tabs and I would start thinking about time being made up, about it being man made and that all that mattered was the sun and moon, night and day and I would feel even more excited about there being four more teams in baseball and when we would get to Woodstock, I would meet an old man with a radio, an AM transistor, and he would tell me that the Pilots were playing the Orioles in Seattle that weekend and I would know that and he would offer to drive us to Baltimore, that he had a Dodge Dart and we would listen to the game on the radio in Baltimore in his one bedroom apartment and it wouldn’t feel that weird or creepy because it would be Woodstock and I would trust everyone. And when I would say yes, he would say, “Maybe Bouton would pitch.” And it would feel so bizarre and magical that this old man would say such Bouton things, like how would he know that I had come to Woodstock to find some Bouton baseball card magic, but it would be really happening so I would tell my brother and thank him and he would understand because he would be a great brother and he would know things and we would get to Baltimore, me and this old man, on Saturday and the magic would just be starting because Bouton would pitch in Saturday’s, August 16th game and yeh, the Pilots would lose 16-3 and yeh, Bouton would give up three earned runs in two innings, but I would have heard Bouton’s name said over and over and I would imagine what he might do later that night and how he would paint the experience with words in his soon to be book and I would be excited about one day reading it. I would not remember how I got back home to Brooklyn, but when I would get there I would be more sure than ever that I would get that dark eyed girl to kiss me and I would still not know her name.
February 3, 2023 at 3:48 pm
I’d hang out with you and your brother, but we’d get into loads of trouble and do a bunch of acid and my dad would “teach me about life” by sending my ass to Vietnam. Probably make me get a goddamn haircut too. I hope to hell you guys had fun at Woodstock.
February 3, 2023 at 5:33 pm
That musta been an absolute shock to be 18 or whatever and get dropped by a helicopter into Vietnam. Apparently, a huge percentage of American soldiers got hooked on heroine. I probably woulda done the same. Or if not heroine, then booze and buds and those nights after battle, partying, musta been the best damn escape!
February 3, 2023 at 4:33 pm
I applaud you for doing your baseball research and weaving in fact to support your fiction, Steve. Your story prompted me to look up the Jim Bouton appearance against the Orioles in August 1969 and I had so much fun doing so. I could never have imagined that Bouton’s tormenter that day would be none other than Chico Salmon, or that two days later Bouton faced the Orioles again and got whacked by another lightweight hitter, Mark Belanger, who drilled a bases-clearing double.
Also, thank you for allowing me to go down memory lane with my own story of August 1969. I was 13 then and attending a basketball camp on Long Island. On the final Saturday night, the all-boys basketball campers were allowed to meet up socially with the girls from a summer camp across the road. I got a kiss that night, and for a gawky 13-year-old it was pretty damn magical, there on a warm summer night along the Long Island Sound. She was smart and pretty and I’m still smitten, more than 50 years later. The next day, when families arrived to take us basketball campers back home, some of the buddies I bonded with there were picked up by older brothers, who had just come back from Woodstock. They filled our adolescent heads with stories of the scene, and it was like being let in on a really cool secret world.
February 3, 2023 at 5:28 pm
You bet your sweet pumpkin pie, a kiss at 13 is magical! Thanks for sharing that Mark. It’s amazing how old memories stay with us. I remember my first kiss. I was 14 and it was cold outside and the girl, Sarah Anderson was wearing a jean jacket so she lent it to me and as I was walking home, I could smell her.
And thanks for delving a bit further into the games Bouton pitched on that Woodstock. weekend. I’m not familiar with Chico Salmon, but Belanger yes, a bit before my time, but wasn’t he in the era when you could be a no hit/great glove defender and still get some playing time?
February 8, 2023 at 11:45 am
Chico Salmon, famous for the ultimatum “Play me or bench me.”
February 3, 2023 at 6:44 pm
Just fantastic Steve! I’ve had several adventures on LSD. Once on a bus ride from Mexico City to Chicago. This story really hits home what it meant to young. And all the crazy things we did. I was born in 74, and so glad to have grown up without cellphones and what not. This line really sums it up for me, ” gratitude for living, an appreciation of every day, good or bad, drunk or sober, proof of a life lived, a sort of a thank you note to God or whoever.”
February 4, 2023 at 9:13 am
Mexico City to Chicago on LSD!That sounds like a story waiting to be written!!
We had those walkie talkies. Remember those? And those were for kids. Now adults use the same damn things. I agree with you – glad to not have grown up with cellphones.
I really appreciate people who keep daily journals or diaries. I’ve never been able to do it.
February 4, 2023 at 12:05 pm
I did write that story down. But I don’t think it’s very good. I’ll try working on it. I haven’t kept a journal since I was in my 20’s. And those journals have been lost. It would be interesting reading them after all these years.
February 5, 2023 at 7:10 pm
That would be great to read the story! LSD and weed and shrooms – unique in the drug family in my opinion, less prone to greed and more likely to generate sharing or at least it seems that way.
February 6, 2023 at 9:01 am
That’s my experience. I’ve rarely had a bad experience. Usually its a mind opening experience.