Conversations from the cheap seats are good

Published 8:53 am Wednesday, September 1, 2010

“You have a Minnesota accident.”

I think the ticket seller meant that I had a Minnesota accent. I’m not sure what a Minnesota accident is. Maybe I’d had one and didn’t know it?

Al Batt

I had left my hotel in downtown Indianapolis and hiked to Victory Field to watch the Indianapolis Indians play the Toledo Mud Hens. The Mud Hens became the team’s nickname in 1896. Due to Toledo’s Blue Laws (laws regulating commerce on Sundays), the team had to play its Sunday games at Bay View Park outside the city limits. That park was situated in a marsh heavily populated with American coots. Coots are commonly called Mud Hens. Corp. Max Klinger, played by Jamie Farr on the popular TV series “M*A*S*H,” wore a Mud Hens jersey or cap in many episodes. Both the character and actor are from Toledo.

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I purchased a ticket along the first base line — I like the activity there — and entered Victory Field. I spotted a large banner featuring the likeness of Harmon Killebrew. Suddenly, I was a Luther Leaguer at Met Stadium. Our group attended a Minnesota Twins game each year. Players met with us and gave inspiring talks — guys like Bernie Allen, Red Worthington, Vic Power, Jim Kaat, Jerry Kindall, and Bobby Richardson — he’d have been a hated Yankee if we hadn’t been Luther Leaguers. Harmon was the face of the Twins and played for the Indianapolis Indians in 1958.

I bought a hotdog for a dollar and a bag of popcorn for another buck. I acquired a scorecard. I kept score at the ballgames I attended as a Luther Leaguer. I loved how BB, K, 5-3, 2B, F-7, and the other symbols brought a degree of order to a confusing world. I had planned to keep score but didn’t. A man from Detroit seated next to me kept score. I shared his pleasure.

I listened to the national anthem. It gave me goose bumps.

Four young men seated in front of me shared a soft drink in a genuine plastic souvenir cup. It seemed odd behavior until I noticed one pull a bottle of whiskey from a pocket in his cargo pants and pour it into the cup.

One of the whiskey drinkers asked me what I did for a living. I told him that I wrote in order to put bread on the table. Hearing that, they all had stories they wanted to tell. Conversations in the cheap seats are usually interesting. I didn’t have to pry any words out of those seated near me.

One told me of a proposed law forbidding texting while driving. He added, “If that happens, I’ll stop texting and start e-mailing while I’m driving.”

A young woman behind me told me that her hobbies were shopping and texting. I had never considered either as possible hobbies.

The game was a good one. Some fans brought baseball gloves in the hopes of snagging a foul ball. A man seated on my left wore a nice suit, polished shoes and a power tie. A smartphone was welded to his ear. A pop fly was hit our direction and it was apparent that it was going to reach the stands. He watched the baseball as he said over his phone, “Hold it!” He reached up and caught the ball cleanly in his bare right hand. He resumed his telephonic conversation with, “Sorry about that. I just caught a foul ball.”

The seventh inning brought the singing of “Take Me Out to the Ballgame.” People either sang with great gusto or remained silent while watching others sing. I wanted some Cracker Jack but couldn’t find any for sale.

A man who had obtained beer to wash down the contents of the genuine plastic souvenir cup said, “I remember when what’s-his-name hit a home run off a Red Sox pitcher to win the World Series and did a fist pump around the bases.”

I remembered, too. The Los Angeles Dodgers’ Kirk Gibson hit it off Dennis Eckersley of the Oakland Athletics in 1988. The Athletics had beaten the Red Sox to get to the World Series. It was the first game, but I didn’t correct him. It sounded better if it had won the World Series. Besides, by that time, the fan had moved on to reciting lines from the movie “Dumb and Dumber.”

The game flew by. Prizes were given. I won a car wash for a car I didn’t have.

In the bottom of the ninth, the leadoff batter, Kevin Melillo, hit a home run and the Indians won 6-5. He did no fist pump.

We cheered. Not just for the home team but for baseball.

Somewhere, Harmon Killebrew smiled.

Hartland resident Al Batt’s columns appear every Wednesday and Sunday.