Driving with Dad down Memory Lane - BaltimoreBaseball.com

Dan Connolly

Driving with Dad down Memory Lane

Photo credit: Dan Connolly

Wednesday started as a bad day.

In the morning, I received news that the scrape on the side of my car was going to cost thousands to repair.

Then, on my way to Baltimore to take my dad to lunch, I was stuck in an ugly traffic jam on Interstate 83. It took me about an hour to go five miles in a steady drizzle before the congestion mercifully subsided.

I called my father periodically to give him updates while I inched along I-83. He told me to turn back, that we’d do lunch some other time. But I didn’t want to make the day worse. I wanted to accomplish something. And I didn’t know when I’d have another free afternoon in the near future to hang out with him.

So, I sucked it up, tried to be patient and kept driving. Ultimately, we ended up at our destination, Koco’s Pub, in Lauraville, a northeast Baltimore neighborhood.

We went there for the crabcakes, which I had been told were better than Pappas Restaurant’s – and those are fighting words for a kid that grew up near Parkville.

I certainly wasn’t disappointed by Koco’s; the outstanding crabcake was about the size of my clenched fist, maybe slightly bigger.

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Years from now, though, I won’t remember Wednesday for the food. I’ll remember it for what happened when my 86-year-old father and I left the restaurant.

**

Over the years, whether it was while I was working at The Baltimore Sun or now, in running my own site, I’ve never been afraid to share glimpses of my personal life with my readers, assuming it had some connection to sports.

I’ve written about the death of my mother back in 2011, and her influence on my desire to become a sportswriter. I’ve written about attending sporting events with my son. And, yes, I’ve written about being an obnoxious drunk at a baseball game in my early 20s.

Today is one of those days – to write from the heart, not to drink myself into obnoxiousness.

It’s one of those days because of the kind of afternoon Wednesday became.

One turn of the steering wheel took me off Harford Road and onto Memory Lane. Mainly my father’s Memory Lane. And I was happily, thankfully, along for the ride.

**

As we were turning north onto Harford Road in the midst of a backfin coma courtesy of Koco’s, I asked my dad, Jerry, how far it was from where he grew up in the northeast part of the city.

A couple miles, he said.

I drove for a few seconds, and then said, “You want to go back and see it?”

I assumed he would say no; I was familiar enough with that part of Baltimore to know there’s no longer a whole lot to see. To be kind, it’s not exactly a tourist trap these days.

But my dad hesitated.

“I mean, if you want to,” he said.

That was enough for me. My soft-spoken father has never liked to impose. An “if you want to,” was a clear opening to drive him back 70 years.

I turned the car around and headed south on Harford. And we drove around, past Clifton Park and the area where Pop once haunted. We drove by his old elementary school – now an apartment building — and his old junior high, which is still a school.

My grandfather was the caretaker of a cemetery, and my dad grew up in the 1940s on the cemetery grounds. It was redeveloped decades ago; a church and a school and some other buildings are there now. We sat in the school parking lot for a few minutes and stared at an open grass field as Dad pointed out the boundaries of the departed cemetery.

We drove to where my uncle’s dry-cleaning store once was and we swung by the spot that used to be an old neighborhood bar where my dad, as a young boy, and his father had watched a World Series game on a then-dazzling, black-and-white TV.

That long-since-closed establishment was owned by a Greek family named Angelos; a son, Peter, tended bar there while working his way through college and law school.

It was one of two baseball connections during the this-is-your-life tour with my dad. We were wrapping up with a drive to Baltimore City College High School, where my dad went, when I asked if we could make one more stop – since it was close.

We went to 33rd Street. Got out of the car and walked to the turf baseball field (pictured above) nestled between senior living apartments and a YMCA.

The Little League diamond, called Memorial Field at the Y, was built in 2010 by the Cal Ripken Sr. Foundation on the site of Memorial Stadium, the place where the Orioles and the Baltimore Colts created so many historic moments.

I spent a lot of time at old Memorial, often in the bleachers, often alongside my dad.

And there we were Wednesday, father and son together outside of Memorial again. So different, yet it strangely felt right, too.

After a few minutes, we returned to the car and cruised up Loch Raven Boulevard – the same path as the old No. 3 bus that would take us back and forth to games — toward my childhood home, which we sold a few years back.

We didn’t stop in my old neighborhood; this was my dad’s impromptu Memory Lane stroll, not mine.

We got on the beltway – past the rubble of the old Bel-Loc Diner which will soon be (gulp) a Starbucks – and I took my dad to his apartment.

I dropped him off. Got on I-83, and headed back to my life.

The previous traffic jam, the car bill and even the Koco’s crabcake were in the rearview mirror, seemingly much further away then they appeared.

Instead, my dad’s childhood, our times together, and an unforgettable Wednesday afternoon were in front of me as I drove on.

40 Comments

40 Comments

  1. Schwarzstop

    October 13, 2017 at 7:32 am

    Nice… Hugs to you and your Dad!

    • Schwarzstop

      October 13, 2017 at 7:37 am

      And since we’re talking about Nationals Baseball 🙂 disappointed in their loss to the Cubbies last night. I had the Nats and Astros in the Series. What’s the availability of Tanner Roark? Nats obviously don’t want him. Good pickup for the O’s?

    • Dan Connolly

      October 13, 2017 at 8:49 am

      Thank you. And as for Roark, goes with all the other fits between the two. Can’t see Nats and Os trading. But who knows?

  2. bill-s

    October 13, 2017 at 7:42 am

    Beautiful story, Dan. Thanks for sharing. I am almost 20 years younger than your dad, and I moved out of Maryland in 1971, but my heart and part of my family is still there. In July, I was in Baltimore and decided to visit the old neighborhood (near Pimlico) for the first time in decades. I was pleased to see that it was still the same quiet working class place I remembered, with a wonderful mix of Jewish, black, and Hispanic households. I even ran into a neighbor who still lived on the block. What I did not do on my memory lane trip was stop by my alma mater – City College! – or Memorial Stadium, where I worked in the Orioles office during the 1967 season. Next time!

    • Dan Connolly

      October 13, 2017 at 8:49 am

      Thanks Bill. That’s awesome. And the castle on the hill still looks impressive.

      • weams

        October 13, 2017 at 4:40 pm

        Look into any eyes
        You find by you; you can see clear to another day
        Maybe been seen before
        Through other eyes on other days while going home
        What do you want me to do
        To do for you to see you through?
        It’s all a dream we dreamed one afternoon long ago

  3. Orial

    October 13, 2017 at 9:11 am

    Dan Excellant heartwarming story. I lived in Towson(Towson class of’69) off of Cromwell Bridge Rd(close to Loch Raven Blvd) and when you said Bel Loc Diner a memory flared. Haven’t lived there since ’72. That was a trip down memory lane for me as well. Thank you. Now right a damn book will ya?!

    • Dan Connolly

      October 13, 2017 at 10:03 am

      Well, I have written one book. … thanks Orial. I know Cromwell Bridge road well. And I loved me some tuna melt at the Bel-Loc. I’m assuming Starbucks won’t serve those.

  4. Bancells Moustache

    October 13, 2017 at 9:39 am

    Thanks Dan-o, it’s nice to feel one’s heart glow a bit at the start of the day, although I wasn’t planning on reminiscing on my own father prior to my first coffee.

    I myself am a city transplant, having grown up in that mysterious marshland on the other side of the Bay Bridge which I call the Shore and which to everyone over here may as well be Kyrgyzstan. I still smile when I drive on 895 on summer nights and see the lights of Camden Yards in the distance, because it reminds me of when we would drive into Baltimore to see the O’s. Just as you would come out of that ancient two-lane death trap of a tunnel, the lights of Memorial Stadium would be visible in the distance, and I’d be jumping up and down in the backseat with excitement. Then I’d lean up towards the windshield to find the “blue-line” , leading us directly up Erdman Ave (I think) to the Birds. Even though the Orioles now play in as glorious a baseball temple as can be found, I still miss sitting in those gold bleachers in right field which on Sundays in the summer you could fry bacon on.

    • Dan Connolly

      October 13, 2017 at 10:32 am

      It’s so funny the things we miss. I think I left 5 layers of skin on those bleachers back in the day. And they were glorious.

  5. Jaconnol

    October 13, 2017 at 9:54 am

    All I need to say is, “Thanks, Dan”.

  6. brooks.pryor

    October 13, 2017 at 11:13 am

    Great story Dan! I have a ton of great memories with my Dad at Camden. One I will cherish is hugging him with joy as we watched OPACY explode after Delmon’s double in 2014.

    • Dan Connolly

      October 13, 2017 at 11:51 am

      Loudest moment I’ve ever covered. And I’ve covered World Series. Awesome you experienced that with your father.

      • Steve Cockey

        October 13, 2017 at 3:43 pm

        I share this one with both of my parents as well. If you look close enough, you can even see the three of us in the TV clip as Hardy slides in. A great memory.

  7. Mike Shaub

    October 13, 2017 at 11:19 am

    Really nice, Dan. I appreciate the piece of Balmer you give me when I live so far away. And my Dad, who is 97 and an Iwo Jima vet, went to City College as well. Glad you are appreciating your Dad and your heritage, and sharing it with us.

    • Dan Connolly

      October 13, 2017 at 11:51 am

      Thanks Mike. And thank your dad for all of us.

  8. Teejay

    October 13, 2017 at 11:42 am

    Well if you don’t have a lump in your throat after that story you’re not human. Had a similar day with my dad (I’m guessing most fathers and sons have a day like that if there so blessed) years ago driving around York finding parts for a project car I had purchased for fun. It still is one of the best days of my life. Thanks for sharing your story Dan…and taking me back to a great memory of my own!

    • Dan Connolly

      October 13, 2017 at 11:52 am

      Thank you for reading TeeJay.

  9. Creatively_19

    October 13, 2017 at 11:52 am

    Thanks for sharing Dan

    • Dan Connolly

      October 13, 2017 at 2:08 pm

      You’re welcome 19.

  10. tpg21152

    October 13, 2017 at 3:57 pm

    Thanks for putting this out there Dan. Good stuff!

  11. geevee3

    October 13, 2017 at 6:57 pm

    Grew up in Parkville, loved old Memorial Stadium. My Dad wasn’t a baseball fan but when he realized I was one started taking me to games. Born in Baltimore but living near Philly he drove me down to a game in 1968. Moved back to Baltimore in 1969. Took me to game two of the World Series that year. In the spring took me to the premier of the World Series Video at Eastern High school. I wrote an essay about the experience for The Miracle Has Landed (SABR book on 1969 Mets). Dads are the greatest. Glad you are still building memories with yours. Thanks Dan.

    • Dan Connolly

      October 13, 2017 at 11:16 pm

      Thanks for sharing Gee. Appreciate it.

  12. 5brooks5

    October 13, 2017 at 7:11 pm

    Fathers, sons and baseball. Some bonds are passed from generation to generation. It doesn’t get any better!

    • Dan Connolly

      October 13, 2017 at 11:17 pm

      I hope we can keep it passing from generation to generation. My son is lukewarm to baseball.

  13. TxBirdFan

    October 14, 2017 at 8:54 am

    Wonderful story and beautifully written Dan! My dad grew up in Baltimore but it was my grandmother, after a long week working downtown at Hutzler’s, who took me to my first game at Memorial circa 1965. That’s when my love of the Birds started.

    Life is all about making memories – thanks for sharing yours with us.

    • Dan Connolly

      October 14, 2017 at 11:28 am

      And thanks for sharing yours Tex.

  14. Mr. Jones

    October 14, 2017 at 11:24 am

    Hi Dan, great story. I read daily but don’t usually post but this was a great story.

    • Dan Connolly

      October 14, 2017 at 11:29 am

      Thanks Jones. And thanks for posting.

  15. dmsutt87

    October 14, 2017 at 4:14 pm

    Dan-fantastic story. I had a similar day about a week or so earlier when I came back to Baltimore to see Curley v Calvert Hall play for the Reif Cup (Friars 5 Cardinals 1, yeah baby) on the new turf at Curley. Although my Dad passed to many years ago and I just lost my Mom last Feb I thought of them most of the trip. I went to the house I grew up in, past my grandparents house, Bethlehem Steel, down to Fort Howard through Greektown and Highlandtown reminiscing of days gone past that were so influential in my life. Left Curley to head to Etown to watch the Messiah game (lost in OT) and throw some marshmallows. I actually thought of you when I spoke with Morgs and said a prayer at Pete’s tribute/statue. It was an emotionally draining day but quite impactful. Thanks for again triggering those positive emotions. Kind Regards, SD

    • Dan Connolly

      October 16, 2017 at 3:38 pm

      Dennis: that’s fantastic. Didn’t know your mom had passed. My condolences. Know how tough that is. Great to hear you went to both games at places where you excelled. (Not a fan of either ending, tho). Thanks for sharing, man.

  16. Ezrine Tire Award

    October 15, 2017 at 4:50 pm

    Great story Dan. I only attended one game with my dad (who passed away two years ago). He wasn’t much of a sports fan. But it sure was a memorable experience. It was my first-ever live game and my parents took me to reward me for a good report card. They said we were going to an “underground mall” in order to surprise me. I can still remember the rush of emotion when I saw the stadium lights and realized where we were. It was July 1973 O’s vs. Rangers. I was 11. Jim Palmer was the starter that night and didn’t he take a perfect game two outs into the ninth. Earlier in the contest my non-sports fan dad muffed a foul ball and lost it to another kid. Our star-crossed night continued when journeyman catcher Mark Sanchez dribbled a single up the middle to break up Palmer’s gem. The O’s closed out a 9-0 win and 45 years later I consider that one game with my dad a seminal lifetime moment.

    • Dan Connolly

      October 16, 2017 at 3:41 pm

      That is an awesome story. And amazing you recall so much detail. We went to so many games as a kid, I don’t have that one game that I remember clearly until I was a little older — the Lowenstein stretcher moment.

  17. ZantiGM

    October 16, 2017 at 9:38 am

    What a great story.I was born and raised in Baltimore and this story brought back so many good memories for me too..so happy you had that Wednesday with your Dad.

  18. Mau

    October 16, 2017 at 7:00 pm

    Nice story Dan. I never took a drive down memory lane with my father. Can’t now. My father’s drive down memory lane would have been quick where he was born but lengthy for all the places he moved to along the way. From a small town in NC to AL and then FL. My father was a passionate O’s fan who never lived closer than Langley Park, MD to Baltimore. I am forever grateful to him for helping to create my interest in the Birds but he never took me to an O’s game. We did, however, go to Senators games while they were there. Interesting times.

  19. ComeBack2Camden

    October 17, 2017 at 3:13 pm

    Awesome. I have always been hacked off that there is no real memorial to Memorial Stadium on the site. Couldn’t they have left something from the park in its original location? Even the letters from the facade? Just the letters and the bricks on which they rested. Wouldn’t even need the whole facade. Just give me a slice.

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