“Kids we are going to have fun; today we are going to a baseball game”. Lauren, Teddy, and John, giggled in unison.
Yes, we were going to have fun this bright sunny day in May. The field was the old fair grounds. The famous old Mudhens from Toledo playing in neighboring Maumee, Ohio.
What a hoot from a coot. A Mudhen is actually an ancient bird called a coot. The large ugly bird use to rest and peck in the outfield during the games. The opposing teams called them Mudhens and the name stuck.
Somehow I ended up with my 3 children on a Saturday for an adventure in American leisure. I didn’t think twice about my responsibility, it was part of my culture. I remembered my first game back in the 50’s at the old Swain Field on the corner of Monroe and Detroit on the edge of the Old West End.
My only recollection was green … walking into a green palace. The smell of hot dogs and popcorn and that’s all I remember. Can’t remember who was in charge? who bought the tickets? who won? … just the color green, and a grandstand, and a crowd, and noise, but that’s all.
My first Major League game was in Forbes field in old Pittsburgh with my Grampa. He was a metallurgist for US Steel and worked in the steel mill. I don’t remember much about that summer day. Who won? I remember the color green and large walls. My grampa bought me my first and cherished baseball. The neighbor kids lost it the next day down one of the giant ravines at the end of the road. The field was slanting down the hill and there was only one direction that gravity was taking my new prized possession. I wanted to share my ball and down it went and I felt sad.
Balls just disappear down ravines, street gutters, and construction holes. We were lucky that the only thing we lost was our balls.
Back in Maumee at Ned Skeldon Field, I bought cheap general admission tickets as I was frugal and the old grandstand built for the old Maumee Downs race track was shaded and filled with old folks and farts.
With General Admission we could sit anywhere down the first base sideline. Shinny aluminum seats that rose 12 or 15 rows. We were in the sun and our chances for catching a foul ball were better than in the smelly old grandstand.
Lauren yelled loud enough to embarrass me “we will never catch a ball here”. Ted had no clue and John just sat with a smile on his face. The game had already started as we walked past the team’s dugout.
We walked down the tops of the aluminum seats checking out the field and the biggish score board and the outfield walls filled with silly billboards.
Teddy chimed in with Lauren “we aren’t gonna catch a ball here” even though he was too young to know the advanced laws of practical physics. John was eating popcorn and the batter swung late on the fastball. He batted from the right and we were on the right field line. Up it flew into the sun and I quickly calculated that the ball was coming our way. Lauren was reiterating in her loud little voice “we aren’t going to catch a ball out here”. The ball had eyes and it focused on my little family in the aluminum bleachers down the right field line. Within a count of two the pop up smashed on the aluminum bench with a clank and it one hopped into my hand. I hope the kids remember that I snagged it and immediately handed it to Lauren. “Now are you happy?” I said with a smile on my face that rivaled my children’s astonishment.