A love affair with baseball

Slider with grandsons by Bruce Stambaugh

When Slider, the Indians maskot, hammed it up with our two grandsons, the score of the game became insignificant.

By Bruce Stambaugh

Baseball and I go way back.

I can’t remember exactly when I saw my first major league baseball game. But I do recall attending several as a youngster, often with my family.

I also recollect one of my first Little League games as a player. I was 7 years old, the youngest and smallest kid on the team. The coach put me at second base, possibly thinking that was the safest spot on the field for me. It didn’t work out that way.

Grandsons by Bruce Stambaugh

Our grandsons share my enthusiasm for baseball.


Those were the days when real baseball rules were followed no matter how young you were. The pitcher pitched, not the coach. The batters batted. T-ball was unheard of.

One hallmark of baseball is its pithy clichés. One axiom says put an inexperienced player on the field and “the ball will find him.” Well, it did me that day.

A batter lashed a one hopper right at me. The hardball jumped off the compacted all dirt infield and smashed right into my mouth. I walked to the bench with loose front teeth, bleeding gums, a fat lip and a bruised adolescent ego.

That should have been an omen. As much as I loved the game, I really wasn’t a very good player. Maybe that’s why I focused so much on my favorite team, the Cleveland Indians. I got my baseball fix by dreaming of playing third base for the Tribe.

In those days, before our home had a television, I listened to the games on the radio. I loved the cadence and opinionated passion that Jimmy Dudley, the Indians play-by-play announcer, put into calling the games. Each play came alive in my mind.

In the 1950s, the Indians were consistently good with great, inspiring players. Some made the Baseball Hall of Fame. Paige, Doby, Lemon, Wynn, Feller, Minoso, Score, and Colavito were just some of my idols.

Because we lived 60 miles south of Cleveland, we could only go to a couple of games each year. It was just too far and too expensive.

Grady at bat by Bruce Stambaugh

Excellent players like Grady Sizemore continue to be the exception rather than the rule for the Cleveland Indians.


But because he loved baseball, too, Dad made every effort to take us to a game or two when time and cash allowed. To get his money’s worth, we often went to doubleheader games. Dad reveled at seeing two games for one price. Those were the days when doubleheaders were played 20 minutes apart, not as two separately ticketed games like they are today.

You could take coolers and thermoses into the ballpark then, too. We must have been quite the sight with five children in tow carrying a big, red, metal cooler into the stadium. Dad wasn’t about to pay for food and drink when you could take your own.

Just as I was entering my formative years, a life-changing event occurred for the Indians and me. They traded my favorite player, Rocky Colavito, the previous year’s homerun champ, for Harvey Kuenn, the previous year’s batting champ.

The team’s fortunes soured after that. The players’ names changed, too. Tasby, Latman, Mahoney, Phillips, Klimchock and Kirkland were the regulars to root for, although there really wasn’t much to cheer about. The teams often started out well, but usually faded by late summer.

Baseball friends by Bruce Stambaugh

Enjoying a baseball game with friends is always a treat.


I still love our national pastime and attend as many games as I think I can afford. Despite my nostalgic affection for baseball and the cost of ballpark food, I am glad for one 21st century policy. Big red coolers are prohibited.

51 Comments

Filed under column, family, photography

51 responses to “A love affair with baseball

  1. Robin H

    Wonderful piece, as always, Bruce. My mother casually mentioned going to the stadium for the ’48 season, and thereafter, a witness to history. I love the sport and believe the Indians will always be better served to be the way they are, rather than mighty champs, God forgive me for putting it in writing.

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  2. Baseball games are a fun time. We attended the Cubs game not to long ago. Seems like I remember baseball taking a big spiral in the mid-90s, because that’s when my Dad stopped watching it. And now I’ve been told I am the sole heiress of a large quantity of baseball cards.

    Like

    • Thanks for leaving your comment. Your father must have suspected that something was up with baseball. The 90s were the peak in the steroid era. Get those baseball cards appraised by a reputable dealer so you know what you have. Thanks for reading my post. All the best, Bruce

      Like

  3. Mr. Stambaugh,

    I did not grow up with baseball. Other than a few minorleague outings (the Indianapolis Indians) I knew nothing of the game or cared to. It was, at best, little moments on tv; the earthquake during the World Series, the homerun race between Sosa and McGuire, the Yankees losing the post 9-11 World Series and not many more.

    It wasn’t until the early 2000’s and I moved to the Tampa Bay area that I started to understand what a major league club was and how enjoyable it was to go to a game. I didn’t become a Rays fan immediately but I eventually got there and now that I live about 90 minutes south of the stadium I can’t go as much as I used to and saddens me. I used to live, literally, 15 minutes from Tropicana Field.

    Regardless, I wanted to say that its taken me awhile to understand and learn the game and now that I’m a decade or so into it I can say its a beautiful thing and I regret not having it sooner in my life. With all the recent rule changes to the NFL I can see why baseball is reluctant to change and I’m not sure it really should.

    I’m rambling. But it was a good piece and it resonated with me. Sizemore and Haffner routinely kill the Rays. They suck.
    B

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    • Trevor,
      Thanks for sharing. I’m glad you enjoyed my post. I’ve never been to Tropicana Field, but I’ve watched games on TV there. It looks like a funky stadium, with its catwalk rules and fake grass. But I like your manager.

      Thanks, again.

      Bruce

      Like

  4. i must admitt. my love affair is not so much with the baseball…more with the beer, and getting a nice view of the catchers *ss. 🙂

    Like

    • Dear “Eva,”

      I’m glad I checked out your blog. I now have a better perspective on your perspective of the catcher’s *ss. I signed up for your blog so I won’t miss that, if and when you ever write about it.

      Take care.

      Bruce

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  5. Really enjoyed reading this piece…I too am a lifelong baseball fan whose family loved the game (Red Sox, in my case.) I think the Indians are due for one, although not sure when…remember “Major League?” Also got a real kick out of the photos. Congrats on being FP!

    Like

    • Howlin’,

      Glad you enjoyed the post. I especially appreciated your gracious understanding of me being an Indians fan, especially since you are a Red Sox fan. Beat those Yankees! And thanks for letting me know about the FP. I hadn’t a clue until you mentioned it, other than the fact that I was getting some any comments.

      I visited your blog and enjoyed your post on your trip to SD, CA.

      Take care,

      Bruce

      Like

  6. Freshly Pressed again?!?! Well deserved, my blogging friend!

    Our local baseball team has a mascot that looks like a giant tonsil. I kid you not. My children are more afraid of it than anything — they certainly don’t look happy like your grandchildren when the humongous tonsil makes an appearance!

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    • Yep, Mikalee, I got FPed again. I couldn’t believe it either. I’m very honored. I’m still waiting on an agent to call though.

      An over-sized tonsil? What were they thinking? What is it supposed to be?

      Blessings,

      Bruce

      Like

  7. Pirates fans here, and we feel just the same about baseball. In fact, we’re wondering what our 15-year-old daughter will do when the season’s over…she so eagerly anticipates the evening games on TV. And we’ve made the pilgrimage to Pittsburgh a bunch of times this summer! Wishing you fun, baseball and lots of well-deserved hits! Congratulations on landing on WordPress’ home page!

    Like

    • Julie,

      Yep. I’ve been following your summer of baseball, plus about 1,000 other things, all wonderful of course. I need to get to Heinz Field myself.

      Thanks for your nice comments. I’ll look forward to seeing you at Lakeside.

      Bruce

      Like

  8. Bruce, I agree, You can’t go wrong with a day/evening spent at a major or minor league baseball game.

    Congrats on Being Freshly Safe At Home…ooops, I mean Freshly Pressed.

    Brickster

    Like

  9. Congrats on the WordPress feature article! Love how this is sentimental. I’m from the Cleveland area and an Indians fan- I grew up going to games. I only really went to games and enjoyed them to hear my dad tell baseball stories. Great memories.

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  10. Your story resonates with me, and I’m 16. I was playing shortstop in a 2nd grade little league game, and guarding a runner on 2nd. The batter hit a line drive straight at me, the ones that I could never get a hang of, which nailed me in the face. It was a little painful but nothing like getting hit in the teeth. I sort of realized then that sports involving balls weren’t for me, and that’s why I swim. But I’m lucky to have grown up in a good baseball town like St. Louis, and the Cardinals have been and still are a way of life in my family.

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    • Justin,

      I’m glad you enjoyed the story, and discovered swimming. Good for you. And I like the Cardinals, too, right behind the Phillies. I checked your blog, and it seems to me that you have already learned an important lesson in life. The title of your blog says it all: Learning to be wrong.

      Thanks, again, for commenting.

      Bruce

      Like

  11. My dad is a big Indians fan too. I remember going to that huge cavern they called Municipal Stadium for doubleheaders as a child. Those were the dark days for the tribe and coupled with being a Reds fan I was more excited to see the opposing teams’ players.

    Like

    • Mike,

      Thanks for visiting my blog and for sharing. Yes, the days of Municipal Stadium were mostly sad if you were an Indians fan in the 60s, 70s, 80s and early 90s. It’s OK to be a Reds fan, too. I noticed on your blog that you went to Marblehead. My wife and I will be up there and at Lakeside this weekend. It, too, is one of my favorite places to be in OH. I wrote a column titled “Ohio’s million dollar view,” which should be in my blog archive.

      I hope all is well. Thanks, again.

      Bruce

      Like

  12. I noticed in the picture that your grandson was wearing a Phillies shirt. Being from Philadelphia, I needed to comment. Go Phightin’ Phils!
    Oh, and I absolutely love baseball, too! I’ve played softball since I was seven, and decided to keep my softball career going by playing Division I in college. It really is a “love affair” as you so eloquently put it!

    Like

    • Thanks for commenting on my blog. I’m glad you like baseball, and that you are a Phillies fan, too. You were sharp to pick up the P on my grandson’s shirt. They cheer for the Indians to please their Poppy and for the Phillies to please their Phillie Phantic father, a lifelong Phillies fan. And actually, the shirt he is wearing with Slider teasing him is a Cliff Lee T-shirt after the Indians traded him to Philadelphia. I’m glad he’s back with them, and hope they win it all. I’m afraid we’ll have to wait until next year for the Tribe. They’re not out of it, but it’s not looking good.

      I hope your studies at Cornell go well.

      Thanks, again.

      Bruce

      Like

  13. I’ve been a New York Mets fan since before I can remember and, despite the fact that they’re terrible more often than not, I still love them and can’t even imagine wanting to root for the Evil Empire. Rooting for the team that always wins is easy. It requires no heart, no soul and no intestinal fortitude.

    Baseball is the greatest game on the face of the Earth. Bar none.

    Like

  14. Ryan

    Funny – the more things change, the more they stay the same. For you, it was the 50’s era Tribe. For me, I grew up with the letters on the backs of jerseys spelling “Charboneau”, “Franco”, “Carter”, “Jacoby” and “Hardgrove”. The 80’s weren’t kind to the Tribe and it’s fans. I remember sitting with my college friends in the winter of ’93 and declaring that the Tribe would win a pennant by the time we graduate (’97). I even bet all of them at the table $50 a piece! They never did pay up after the ’95 season!

    Go Tribe!

    Like

    • Ryan,

      Thanks for sharing. Diehard Indians fan that I am, I remember those names, too. I once said, “I just wanted the Indians to make the World Series before I die.” Like your reneging friends, I never thought they would do that so quickly. Now I want them to be World Series champs. The dream must live on.

      Go Tribe, indeed!

      Bruce

      Like

  15. I love the immediacy of your descriptions – I felt like I was there with you. I don’t love baseball the way you do, but I have wonderful memories of my great-uncle taking us to see the Cubs when my sister and I were little. Those memories were so precious and reading your article reminded me of him and how much he loved us. My link here was the article about him, but I don’t mention the baseball as affectionately as you did.

    Congratulations on being Freshly Pressed!

    Nancy
    http://dogear6.com/2011/04/07/waving/

    Like

    • Nancy,

      Thank you so much for your kind words. I read your piece on your great uncle, and the love and appreciation that you had for him shown through. Thanks for sharing that with me. I’m glad my post brought back good memories for you.

      Blessings,

      Bruce

      Like

  16. What a wonderful nostalgic piece you wrote here … here’s to baseball, family, and America!

    ~Fleckenstein

    Like

  17. I love baseball too – can’t stand the mascots, though.

    Like

    • Jamie,

      Thanks for checking in. It’s always nice to hear from other lovers of baseball, even if they are Yankee fans. 🙂

      I kind of agree with you on the mascots. Do the Yankees even have one?

      Take care.

      Bruce

      Like

  18. sweet little boys – precious

    -grace

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  19. I love baseball too! I love the patience it requires, the physical abilities of hand/eye coordination and peripheral vision. And most of all, I love how family oriented it can be. And who doesn’t love a minor league game….they are so much fun. We travel quite a bit and I try to catch one everywhere we go. But yes, my young son is the unfortunate product of modified rules, “everyone gets a trophy” mentality and tantrums…and that’s just the parents! I couldn’t believe it one time when a parent complained when her son was crying because not enough balls were coming his way to catch. I told her that there is “no crying in baseball” and that IS baseball…the unpredictability so use the opportunity to teach her son a great lesson. Let’s just say that I wasn’t the type of “team mom” that are most:)

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  20. I feel the same way about cricket. I have my late father to thank for that.

    Marie Marshall
    writer/poet/editor/blogger
    Scotland
    http://mairibheag.com
    http://kvennarad.wordpress.com

    Like

  21. I came first time on your blog, it was really good one, because you have written it in a very simple manner, I liked it. about baseball, I dont know about this game, I love Cricket which is my favorite game.

    Like

  22. gaycarboys

    oh bless! I’ll go to a concert in a stadium but I don’t think I could sit still long enough for a sporting fixture. I admire your fortitude. Of course we don’t play much baseball here but we know how much you Americans love it. I’ll put it on my bucket list!

    Like

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