Column: Take him out to the ballgame and listen to the memories roll out

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, May 24, 2006

Al Batt, Tales from Exit 22

I’m talkin’ baseball!

Like Reggie, Quisenberry.

Talkin’ baseball!

Carew and Gaylord Perry,

Seaver, Garvey, Schmidt and Vida Blue,

If Cooperstown is calling, it’s no fluke.

They’ll be with Willie, Mickey, and the Duke.

&160;

Terry Cashman sang it so well.

&160;I would regularly take my son to Met Stadium to see the Minnesota Twins play baseball.

&160;We rooted for the home team. If they didn’t win, it was a shame.

&160;It’s a good idea to take a kid to a baseball game. It’s quiet. You can talk to one another. Many of the other sporting events are too loud and demanding of our attention.

We’d stand reverently for the national anthem. &8220;The Star Spangled Banner&8221; sounds great at a ballgame.

&160;I’d buy us some hotdogs that set me back the price of prime rib. If we ate enough of those hotdogs, we could taste colors.&160;The reason we were given opposable thumbs was so we could eat hotdogs.

You could eat a week’s worth of meals during a ballgame.&160; You would be able to make 19 visits to the bathroom without ever missing a single pitch.&160;

We never ate any Cracker Jack.&160;I feel a little guilty about that, as the caramel-covered popcorn and peanuts has been immortalized in the words of &8220;Take Me Out to the Ballgame.&8221; &160;

&8220;Take me out to the ball game, Take me out with the crowd. Buy me some peanuts and Cracker Jack, I don’t care if I never get back. Let me root, root, root for the home team, If they don’t win it’s a shame. For it’s one, two, three strikes, you’re out, at the old ball game.&8221; &160;

Oh, Major League Baseball isn’t perfect. The shortstops are being paid what grade school teachers should be.&160;Some players have cash receipts where their hearts should be. Some, but not all. I’ve never been offered a pile of money the size of a school bus to play a game. I suspect it would be hard to turn down.&160;

Met Stadium was a delightful place even though a game was once cancelled because of snow. The park felt like baseball.

There were games when we were part of crowds so small that we knew everyone by his or her first name.

My son was able to get autographs from everyone from Chicago White Sox announcer Harry Caray to the Twins’ fan favorite, Bombo Rivera.

We took gloves.&160; The gloves came with hope. A person with a baseball glove was given the chance to dream.

Once, we got a ball tossed to us by a player.&160;The ball was taken home and played into oblivion as it was meant to be. Perhaps the best use of any souvenir.

I explained to my son that it’s human to make mistakes. I made it clear that some umpires were much more human than the average man, but we didn’t boo the men in blue. We come from a family that doesn’t believe in booing.

&160;We watched the exploits of Rod Carew (who made hitting look so easy), Jerry Koosman, Lyman Bostock, Larry Hisle, John Castino, Mike Cubbage, Ken Landreaux, Butch Wynegar (Calvin Griffith said, &8220;Love that kid.&8221;), Disco Dan Ford (a friend said, &8220;Disco Dan runs like a deer. Unfortunately, he also hits and throws like one.&8221;), Roy Smalley, Dave Goltz, Mike Marshall, Bill &8220;Soup&8221; Campbell and Geoff Zahn. Bert Blyleven was a good pitcher for the Twins, but we tried to avoid games in which he was pitching because the home team seemed to lose every game we attended when he was on the mound.

There were good teams and bad teams. There were disappointing veterans and surprising rookies.&160;We’d second-guess strategy and we appreciated good efforts. &8220;Good hustle&8221; was the highest compliment we could pay a player.

We’d watch home runs as I’d say, &8220;See you later, it’s a tater,&8221; or &8220;I’ve been on flights that haven’t been that long.&8221; I cracked me up.

I’d buy a Twins’ yearbook. I’d purchase a program. &8220;You can’t tell the players without a program,&8221; the seller would bark. We could, but we bought one anyway.

We kept score. It was important that we kept score. Some things are too important to be entrusted to memory.

We had good seats and we had bad seats. The location of our seats moved around according to the dictates of my wallet.

We watched the players spit so much that Met Stadium showed up as a scattered-shower on the weather radar.

My son would fall asleep on the way home. I would smile all the way home.

At home, my wife would ask, &8220;Who won?&8221;

I’d reply, &8220;I did.&8221;

(Hartland resident Al Batt’s columns run Wednesdays and Sundays.)