Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Baseball as it was

When we were kids, we had baseball on tv on Saturday afternoons only, until the World Series, and those games were played in the afternoons as well. I would get home from school to watch each of the games, and I enjoyed watching my baseball cards come to life on the screen.

Beloved Father and Sainted Mother would occasionally take us to watch Columbus Jets games at Jet Stadium, in the era before stadium naming rights came along. The Jets at the time were a farm team of the Pittsburgh Pirates, and I saw a few Jets who made it to the big leagues, including Roman Mejias, Johnny Powers, Steve Blass, Donn Clendennon, Willie Stargell, Al Oliver, Dave Parker, and others; but while many of my favorites played hard, they were just not quite good enough to make an impact at the top level. I am not certain if any of them ever made it up to The Show, men such as Jack Damaska, Tony Asaro, Diomedes Olivo, George Spriggs, and a whole host of now-forgotten players.

We would buy a Jet Badge, which we wore to the games for a 50-cent admission fee. We sat in the general admission seats, and I longed to see one game from close to the field in a box seat, those blue plastic ones that looked much better than the gray metal seats we sat on. It wasn't until just a few years ago that I did finally get to see a game from the box seats. Alas, no foul balls came my way.

I clearly recall the smell of cheap cigars being smoked in the stands, but, strangely, not cigarettes, even though both parents smoked at the time. The hot dogs were great, and I almost always had peanuts or Cracker Jack. Nachos were an invention far in the future back then.

I would keep score on the scorecard I bought for a dime, and another nickel for a pencil, no eraser. The games were on the radio, on AM of course, and the away games were re-created from ticker tape reports, complete with all the sounds of the park. I never knew away games weren't "live" back then. Still, Joe Hill called a good enough game to make it convincing to a youngster.

Weirdly, the memory that stands out the most is not something by a Jets player, but rather when an outfielder for the Syracuse Chiefs hit 4 consecutive home runs against the Jets one night, and flied out to the deepest part of center field on the 5th at bat, narrowly missing a fifth homer. The fans gave him a standing O for his night's work. I believe his first name was Gene, and he had played a bit of ball in the majors before that night.

The Jets were preceeded by the Columbus Buckeyes, Senators, and RedBirds, and later became the Clippers, returning to Columbus after a several-year absence in the early 70s. They were again a farm team of the Pirates until changing to the Yankees for many years, then to the Washington Nationals for two years, and now the Indians.

Fond memories of a simpler time and place.


  1. Can't believe I left out the best food treat, Jet Bars!

    An orange popsicle with ice cream in the middle. They were the best!

  2. As it was Beloved Father, with the prodding of Sainted Mother would pack treats for us. That way they wouldn't need to spend big dollars feeding us at the stadium. I always remember the red licorice. Of course the notion of hight prices back then seems quaint.