Chapter 5: The Orioles and Colts weren’t the only teams that mattered

March 09, 2012 | Nestor Aparicio

even met. And their names were legendary in his neighborhood. And I had the same deal in Colgate.

And we were best friends — chased girls, listened to Rush albums, the whole nine. We went to college apart but rarely did a day pass when we didn’t chat. About life and dreams and plans and traveling and being sportswriters (we BOTH succeeded in our dreams and he even worked in the wrestling business as a magazine editor for a few years!) We went to concerts together, games together, went through life together, really! The Ocean City trips, the Vegas and California trips, the parties, every girl, every beer, the good times and the bad ones and a zillion laughs, funny pictures and zany stories.

We were best friends for almost 25 years, until we both were foolish enough to divorce each other so we could actually get married!

But you wanna know how we met?

You guessed it, baseball!

During the summer of 1979 several Orioles players signed autographs at the Games store at Eastpoint Mall. I lived right across the street and when an Oriole came to the mall, well, there’s NOWHERE else on earth you could possibly want to be. Billy Smith was signing autographs one Saturday afternoon in August from 11 to 1 (Al Bumbry, Rich Dauer and Scott McGregor were all there that summer too!). Kevin was in line to get an autograph and he was wearing a San Diego Padres hat and I’d never seen one anywhere but on This Week In Baseball and on those crazy split-personality Washington/San Diego 1974 cards with Willie McCovey and Dave Winfield and Randy Jones. They had the coolest mustard yellow and brown color pattern — either the most disgusting, or most beautiful, baseball uniform of all time, depending on your taste.

My Pop’s closest sister, my Aunt Jane, lived in San Diego, which seemed like only the most exotic place ever. I had never been, but had heard and seen how nice it was on TV. And even though I had only met my Aunt Jane once, I knew she LOVED the Padres.

We started chatting and I’m sure I was completely obnoxious in whatever I said. But three weeks later, we realized we were in the same homeroom and in virtually every class together in 7th grade — even home economics (we didn’t have middle school, we had “junior high” in Dundalk in 1979). And of course, I didn’t remember him on sight but he knew me: “Hey,” he said, “you were that obnoxious guy from the mall a few weeks ago and I was the kid with the Padres hat!”

So two years later, in the summer of 1981, we were confirmed lifelong best friends and sports, wrestling and rock music were the glue of our friendship (until girls came along, of course).

And here we were in Philadelphia actually seeing NATIONAL LEAGUE baseball for the first time. It was really kind of like losing our virginity!

We were standing at the gates to Veterans Stadium before they opened. We walked over to the Spectrum to survey a real, big-city Arena — the temple where our heroes played. AC/DC, Rush, Judas Priest, Led Zeppelin — all the big bands played there. And when they weren’t there, “Dr. J,” Julius Erving, the star of “The Fish That Saved Pittsburgh” was inside performing with “Chocolate Thunder” and the rest of the fabulous Philadelphia 76ers!

And, the Broad Street Bullies also got rowdy there on occasion (although Kevin, like most of this city, could care less about then NHL…but at least I thought it was cool). Out in front there was a statue of Rocky Balboa (really it was Sylvester Stallone, but I was 12 years old!).

We were in the center of a boys’ dream universe, circa 1981!

If could have plopped my bedroom down someplace in a dream world, it would have been at the corner of Broad and Pattison in south Philly. Everything you could possibly want — baseball, football, basketball, hockey, pro wrestling AND the world’s biggest rock bands would all be coming through at some point soon.

Again, I was a dreamer!

The Houston Astros were in town — J.R. Richard, Nolan Ryan, Jose Cruz — and we went up for a weekend series that was a grudge match from the tight and contested 1980 NLCS.

My Dad brought me autographs from Pete Rose, Mike Schmidt, Steve Carlton — all the big names on Stadium Hilton hotel pads notebook paper. I still have them!

But the biggest thing that happened was my purchase of a maroon Phillies warmup T-shirt (think about Pete Rose and what he would wear in warm-ups as a Phillie then) in the Stadium Hilton gift shop. At the game that weekend, the Phillies had a giveaway — I was presented with a “classic” Richie Ashburn “Daddy-O” cap