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.