Chapter 6: Baseball punched me a ticket to see The World

March 10, 2012 | Nestor Aparicio

involved the Philadelphia Phillies.

I had full-fledged Phillies fever and was about to get “filly fever” as well once the girls caught up the fact that I’d discovered them. I was a true-powder-blue road uniform wearing, bubble P loving, Michael Jack Schmidt butt-kissing Phillies Phanatic. And I spell that with a PH, dammit!

I listened to every game that I could on WCAU from Philly. I wore that crazy Richie Ashburn red hat everywhere I went — just loved that thing in junior high. I wore it to the skating rink, to school, in every class (some teachers let me wear…some didn’t!). I was probably a bigger pain in the ass than you can ever imagine, if you can imagine that!

No one HATED my hat any more than Shonda Brewer, who would become Shonda Schilling 10 years later, wife of Phillies’ ace, Curt Schilling. I would wear it into her kitchen every morning to pick her up for school en route to the bus stop. Her mom would always be cooking something good (she was Southern too, so it was sausage, bacon, that sorta thing) and Shonda would throw my hat, pick on me or try to make me take it off.

Of course, that wasn’t the case at the 1993 World Series!

So, here was my Pop writing a blank check for the summer of 1983.

But we did have a budget for the intended trip and I had some gentle “guidelines.”

The first thing I did was finding the Phillies’ schedule and went to work on where we’d go. I researched cities everywhere in the National League. We couldn’t really do California because of the airplane expense, but if we could take the Trailways or Greyhound bus, it was acceptable.

I was trying to find doable cities that were close together, where I could see a couple of stadiums.

Again, at this point in my life ANY place outside of Abbeville, S.C. would seem exotic so the thought of another MLB stadium — and to me stadiums and arenas at that time were absolute shrines, temples of the highest architecture and homes to the biggest events and entertainers in the world — was just divine, a perfect summer vacation.

We settled on this itinerary: we would take the Greyhound bus overnight to St. Louis, where the Phillies were playing the Cardinals at Busch Stadium in a three-game weekend set. Then we’d go over to Kansas City to see them host the reigning AL-champion Milwaukee Brewers at Royals Stadium.

This served a LOT of purposes. I got to travel and stay in a real hotel, which I thought put me right there with James Bond, or better, The Fonz. I got to actually use the Rand McNally atlas that I bought two years earlier at the Waldenbooks at Eastpoint Mall when I wanted to see how far Cleveland and Pittsburgh were from Baltimore because I wanted to see the Oilers play. I got to see National League baseball. I got to see the Phillies, which was the coolest thing ever. Steve Carlton pitching, Mick Schmidt hitting, Pete Rose playing first base, the works!

I got to see two new stadiums — and a bonus — stadiums where the World Series was played in both 1980 and 1982. I got to see the Gateway Arch, which looked like the coolest thing I’d ever seen in my life on TV and in pictures (and it’s still pretty cool, when you think about it!). My Pop got to tour the Budweiser brewery and get free samples. My Mom didn’t think that sucked, either. But my Mom was most enthralled with the concept of fountains at Royals Stadium. She always watched the Royals-O’s games on Channel 2 and raved about those “pretty” fountains.

For me, going to Kansas City allowed me to exercise my “man crush” on George Brett, who was my favorite post-Lezcano player and whose batting stance I emulated because my Pop