Thursday, August 4, 2011

Birthday Baseball (and Hockey)

I’m going to tonight’s Sox-Yankees game on what would have been my father’s 94th birthday. This reminds me of a birthday celebration at Comiskey Park on Aug. 8, 1965. The Sox played the Cleveland Indians that night.
Ticket stub, Indians vs. White Sox

In those days, before everything had a price, one could get messages posted free on the Sox O Gram, MLB’s first message board installed by Bill Veeck during his first ownership run. Our mother called the Sox offices and arranged to have a surprise birthday greeting for our father on the scoreboard. With video screens still in the future, there figured to be plenty of time for the message to appear. We settled into our uncle’s seats – Box 45, Tier 6, Seats 1-4 – and hoped for a Sox victory.

Comiskey Park scoreboard, 1967
Sox O Gram is at left

In all-too-familiar fashion, the Sox fell behind early and their weak hitting – the team batting averages during the mid-1960s were .246, .230 and .225, with no .300 hitters – the prospects for a comeback looked bleak. After the Indians scored 5 runs in the 7th inning to go up 6-1, in unprecedented fashion, my father announced, “We can leave now if you want.” With the greeting still not posted, my mother, in equally unprecedented fashion, quickly replied that we’d stay. You can guess the rest: the Sox failed to mount a rally and after 3 hours and 18 minutes and a 6-4 loss, the message never appeared. It was the last time mom ever turned down an opportunity to leave a Sox game before it ended.

As for my birthday, I’ve attended a sporting event only once on the appointed day, the Montreal Canadiens vs. Boston Bruins on March 22, 2007. My friend Nate Greenberg, in his 34th and final year with the Bruins, put my birthday greeting (thankfully sans age) on the scoreboard. Shortly thereafter, his press box phone rang; it was the PR director, who I’d met during my visit to the old Garden 12 years previously in its last year, checking to see if I was Nate’s former college roommate. This certainly will be the first and last scoreboard greeting, as that one was free too.

View from the Boston Garden press level,
March 22, 2007

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