McGee: My first game: Yankee Stadium 1961, Old Timers’ Day

From SABR member Bob McGee at The National Pastime Museum on November 24, 2014:

It’s a boy’s living trinity: First game. First kiss. First girl.

Yankee Stadium. Under leaden skies, as one might read in a typical Dick Young–Daily News lead. Saturday, July 29, 1961. I was nine years, one month, and several days old; it was an interminably long time for someone in Brooklyn to wait before going to a Major League game.

We lived in a postwar, six-story apartment building between 96th and 97th streets on Third Avenue. Bay Ridge. It was in the long shadow of a half-constructed tower of the slowly rising Narrows Bridge that would connect Brooklyn and Staten Island three years later. My father was a New York City fireman, working out of the old Engine Company 244 on West 15th Street in Coney Island, next to Gargiulo’s Restaurant, down the block from Steeplechase. The firehouse and Steeplechase are both gone now, as is the old man. Wonder of wonders, a baseball team, the Cyclones, now plays where the amusement park was, and where I used to frolic as a kid. It’s a sweet little ballpark of oft-changing corporate names. From your seat, you can see the boardwalk, the Parachute Jump, and the ocean, and you can feel the salty summer breeze.

Dad would be away at the firehouse on long shifts, and then he’d be home just as long. When he was, he’d take me down to the expansive park a few blocks away on Shore Road to practice. He preferred his sports as a participant rather than a spectator; he’d start me with soft toss and follow with pitching in and fungoes. The glove he used looked like it belonged to Addie Joss. If I once in awhile seemed like a less-than-enthusiastic participant, preferring to watch television or hang around with my playmates, he would remind me with a gentle but persistent persuasion that someday I would value this time I was spending with him, and, of course, he was right.

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Originally published: November 24, 2014. Last Updated: November 24, 2014.