The Nationals’ opener is Thursday, which puts me in mind of the first big-league game I ever went to. Or rather, it puts me in mind of my attempt to remember the first big-league game I ever went to.
A few years ago, in a moment of idleness, I found myself thinking about my First One. I could recall that it was at Yankee Stadium. I could recall that I went with the Cub Scouts. I could recall that it was dreadfully hot in the center field bleachers – and that my Den Mother had to be treated for heat prostration. I could recall that the Yankees played the Washington Senators … and that the Yankees won. But other details were elusive.
So I went to baseball-reference.com, the handiest, dandiest database you’ll ever find. Fortunately, there were two other things about the game I could recall:
1. The Senators’ Chuck Cottier hit a triple out near the Monuments in center (back when the memorials to Ruth, Gehrig and Huggins were still on the field).
2. The Yankees’ Joe Pepitone homered to right in the late innings.
I figured I was 9 or 10 at the time, so I started going through Cottier’s game-by-game stats for 1963. Sure enough, on May 25 he tripled against the Yankees. So I clicked on the box score in question – and there it was, an eighth-inning homer by Pepitone, the last run in the Yankees’ 5-1 win. The game was even played on the weekend, a Saturday, which was when youth groups usually attended. I’d found my first major-league game.
(Just to make sure, I checked the entire 1962-to-’64 period for any other Cottier triple/Pepitone homer matches. There weren’t any.)
At this point, I began poring over the box to see if it loosened more memories. I’d forgotten that Tom Cheney was the starting pitcher for the Senators. The year before, he’d set a record by striking out 21 Orioles in an extra-inning game. On this day, though – in a solid (6.2 innings, 1 earned run) outing against a Yankees team that would win the pennant – he whiffed a modest five. I wondered if, being a kid, I was disappointed by that.
I’d also forgotten that Roger Maris, who may hold the real record for home runs in a season (61 in pre-PED 1961), didn’t play for the Yankees that afternoon – and that Hector Lopez (and Jack Reed) replaced him in right field. I knew I couldn’t have been too thrilled about that.
Perusing that box score was wonderfully a nostalgic experience, especially when I was reminded that the Senators’ cleanup hitter was a first baseman named Bobo – Bobo Osborne. (I remember Bobo’s baseball card one year; he was chomping on a huge chaw of tobacco.)
At any rate, if you’re a bit fuzzy on your own First Big-League Game, I strongly suggest you visit baseball-reference.com and see if you can dig up the box. You’ll be glad you did.
We now return to 2011.