Saturday, June 4, 2011

Six Baseball Games, 48 Hours

Ben Oglivie hit three homers in a game,
helping to make my baseball weekend a success.
A Harvard student has used a computer to plan the fastest possible way to visit all 30 major league ballparks. His itinerary takes him 34 days and three hours to complete the entire Junior and Senior Circuits.

I think every fan has given thought to visiting all the stadiums. Some have done it to great fanfare over one, extended trip. Others have checked them off their mental list as the years passed by. I have been to 17, although some were replacements in cities that got new ballparks, like Milwaukee and Minnesota.

I'm sorry I never made it Tiger Stadium. I did see games between the Yankees and Mets in Shea and Yankee Stadiums on the same day. I imagine at least several hundred fans did that, though. And I once saw the Brewers play an afternoon game in Milwaukee and the White Sox in Comiskey Park at night.

I did manage a feat, almost by dumb luck, which I don't think anyone will ever top. I saw six major league games in a 48-hour span. Thank god games were routinely played in under 2 1/2 hours. I don't think I'd make it today.

It was July 1979, the summer after my sophomore year in college. I was home working at a weekly newspaper and seeing as many Brewers games as I could. After years of watching them lose, the Crew was finally blossoming into a contender and I didn't want to miss it.

My baseball odyssey started on Friday, July 6 at Milwaukee County Stadium. Back then, rainouts were routinely rescheduled as part of twi-night doubleheaders. My Dad had bought tickets for the scheduled Friday night single game. My Mom wasn't big on sitting through two games, so when the game was changed into a double-dip, I went early and my parents came to the park later on.

The weekend did not start well. The Detroit Tigers took both games by scores of 7-4 and 5-4. Things were going to get improve.

On Saturday I had planned a trip to Chicago to see the Cubs with Janice Sato, a college friend who lived there. David Belknapp, a diehard Cubs fan to this day, was coming along to Wrigley Field. Oddly enough, we realized on Friday that the Cubs' single game with the Houston Astros was now a doubleheader.

The Cubs won both, 6-0 on a three-hit shutout by Ken Holtzman, and 8-3. Amazingly, Dennis Lamp also pitched a complete game. The Cubs used just two pitchers for the twin bill. But my biggest memory of Wrigley was the fans booing when the Astros finally scored in the seventh inning. Winning isn't good enough in the Second City.

As the Marx Brothers once said, Sunday "was a doubleheader, nobody show up." Well, actually, I did show up. I was on the fence, but David insisted I couldn't miss the chance to complete the trifecta.

I went. Alone. And it was worth it. Not only did the Brewers sweep, but Ben Oglivie smashed three homes runs in the first game in a 5-4 win, and the nightcap ended 3-1.

I am quite sure I'll never have the chance to duplicate my fantasy baseball weekend. Doubleheaders are rare these days, and finding three played on the same weekend in cities nears to each other seems inconceivable. It's given me a great story to tell over the years and a memory I'll always cherish.

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