with the claw), Black Jack Mulligan, Tony Atlas and Ronnie Garvin. And last but not least, there was Hulk Hogan, who was just getting famous through his role as “Thunderlips” in Rocky III and was about to become the biggest star in the industry.
I knew about him for years and had seen him wrestle against Bob Backlund during that first Capital Centre event. But he was absolutely larger than life to me on that St. Louis side street next to the Kiel that night.
And I couldn’t WAIT to get home to show my best pal Kevin Eck the pictures!
We trudged on to Kansas City and saw Royals Stadium (my photo album has about 50 pictures of George Brett and another 50 of those lighted fountains because my Mom couldn’t stop taking pictures of them!) and ate big steaks and took that horribly long Greyhound bus ride home from Missouri.
And that whole trip really happened because of baseball and my love of baseball.
It remains to this day, the best trip I ever went on because it was the first time I’d ever really gone anywhere.
That trip launched a THOUSAND plane rides for me, more hotel rooms, delayed flights, ballgames and maps than I can count, really.
But that trip opened my eyes to the possibilities of the world, and more specifically the SPORTS world. There was indeed travel, stadiums, restaurants, hotels, baseball and a whole giant world beyond Colgate, and of course, Highlandtown. And I NEVER see a Greyhound bus that doesn’t remind me of my Mom, Pop and I rolling across the Midwest to see baseball in 1983.
And now looking back on it, it was really the first of only two “exotic” things I ever did with my folks as they were getting older.
We finally went to California in 1985, right after my son was born and I graduated from Dundalk High School. My Pop and I got to see Tony Gwynn play at Jack Murphy Stadium and he finally got to go to a Padres game with his sister, Jane, who would go on to be my all-time favorite relative.
We then went up to Los Angeles and my Pop and I sat in the right field bleachers at Dodger Stadium and watched Rick Sutcliffe of the Cubs deal on Monday Night Baseball. It was a 5:15 start in L.A. traffic. I was 16 and driving my Pop up the hill at Chavez Ravine in a big rental car (My Aunt Jane fudged the rental car agreement so I could drive up to Los Angeles). We had seats in a TOTAL Mexican section. There was one guy who brought an absolutely GIGANTIC boombox and had it under the seat booming the dulcet tones of Jaime Jarin doing Dodgers baseball in espanol.
It was like an International experience for me!
Keith Moreland hit a home run that landed a row in front of us.
We ate Dodger dogs and two-bagger peanuts and a chocolate malt with the “ahh” stick attached to it!
It was just me and my Pop at Dodger Stadium in the cheap seats. My Pop must’ve talked about the 1966 World Series a hundred times that night, recounting the memories of Koufax and Drysdale and the Orioles kicking their asses 19 years earlier.
He was so proud of that ’66 Orioles team!
They were some good times, man!
I can smell that thick, smoggy California air. I can still see the line in traffic in front me on the Interstate 5 going south back to our hotel in the ghetto of East L.A. that night. I can still see my Pop with the map on his lap telling me what freeway to take to get back to our hotel.
And it was all about baseball.
Everything in the world — including my relationship with my Pop — was made better by baseball.