I can’t write. I know I can’t write. But my wife and son keep telling me that I should, and we all know how objective a spouse and the children can be. So, I am writing just to prove a point: I can’t write. Although deep inside, I think I can, but I am really not very optimistic about this.
Should I write about my first baseball game? I can barely remember what was happening that far back. I don’t even know how old I was. Except, I do remember my dad and I stopped at the Swallow at the Hollow on the way to the game. The Hollow was the local watering hole in Govans. I had a Shirley Temple with a bright red cherry floating on top. I don’t remember what Dad had, but it did not have a cherry in it. The bartender’s name was Skeggy. I do remember that. That is probably because later in life I would swear he was the same guy who played Herman Munster on TV.
Also, I will always remember the wonderful aroma of cigars wafting through the stands. To this day the smell of a cigar still makes me think about going to sporting events with my dad. That is a good thing. Then there was Memorial Stadium.
I had never seen anything that big in my life. The magnificent structure was made of brick, concrete, metal, and wood. These are all-natural materials that God put on this earth precisely to build stadiums. I don’t think plastic or any other man-made materials had crept into our lives back then. Even the cups were paper.
When we got there, my dad took me to the front of the stadium to show me all the names of our fallen heroes from the war. Those names are now on display at Camden Yards. As for the game, the memories are vague. I do remember Gus Triandos hitting a home run. I missed part of it because of a concrete pole. I did not even know it was a home run until my father explained to me why everybody was cheering. I think the O’s won but, honestly, I’m not sure.
Next up would be watching my dad play softball. The memories of this moment are vivid and sketchy at the same time. His softball team was Christ Church. Their jerseys had the name Christ on the front, and they played on the softball field at Gilman. That part was vivid. Christ Church was in the field. I was standing on the third base side, and I was fascinated by their third baseman because he had only one arm. I was absolutely amazed by his ability to make the plays he made in the infield, and that he hit the ball as hard as he did.
The next thing I remember is the opposing batter swung, the ball went straight up in the air, and somebody yelled, heads up! I just stood there and looked up in the air. My new favorite third baseman took me out.
Here comes the sketchy part: The next thing I remember was my dad holding me in his arms as he carried me off the field. I’m not sure if everyone was applauding. If they did, I would have liked to have given them the thumbs-up just like Brother Low. I do have a vague memory of being at the hospital and the doctor speaking to me. My parents filled in the blanks later. The hospital was Union Memorial and the doctor was Dr. McDonald. My parents told me he was the team physician for the Colts and the third baseman was Ray Bevans, an exceptional baseball player and golfer. Every time Baltimore News American sports columnist John Steadman wrote a story about Mr. Bevans it would inspire me and bring a sharp pain to my right shoulder. I suffered a concussion and a broken collarbone.
There are all sorts of baseball memories. There was stickball at Govans Elementary School, the home of the walk-off home run. Especially if you had only one pinky — the ball we used. You had to hit the ball on the roof for a home run. If you hit a home run, the game was over. That is, unless the janitor, Mr. G., was at the school and you were able to get him to go up on the roof and toss down all the walk-off home run balls. Those were the days for the best-of-seven, and Mr. G. was always the MVP.
After we graduated from the Govans stickball league, it was off to Dewees Park and Little League where Dugans Esso, Jim Elliotts Shell, Plitts Seafood, Jerry’s Govans Chevrolet, and Midstate Federal Savings & Loan were the powerhouses. Then there was the Govans Optimist team. They were the next step up. Those guys even played on the larger diamond. They were the big boys. Occasionally, we would play practice games against them, and not so occasionally we would actually win. The only game-winner of my life came when the coach should have pinch-hit for me. I am not sure that I really wanted to hit because I was scared to death. But then it happened: Bang! … the game-winner! My one and only. It was something I have never forgotten, and I neglected to thank the coach. He was my dad.
I could go on, but my wish is that we had something else to talk about. Like Dylan Bundy being 4-0 for another team. Chance Sisco batting .360 with six home runs and 18 RBIs. Or Austin Hays batting leadoff with 10 stolen bases and a .420 on-base percentage. How about being ticked off at Brandon Hyde for removing Keegan Akin from a perfect game in the seventh inning because of a pitch count or hearing the chant, “Lets Go O’s!”
That would be even sweeter. That would be my wish.
Randy Mays is 68 and doesn’t look a day over 50. He grew up in Govans until he was 14 when his family moved to the Riderwood/Ruxton area. So much for city life. It was there that his wife, Judy, found him, saved his life, and married him. Of course, she would tell you it was God who saved him, and she would be right. They live in the Towson/Parkville area, where they raised their daughter Jamie and son Tyler. Randy has been an Orioles fan every day of his life.
Jack Gibbons spent 46 years in sports journalism, including a chunk of that time as sports editor of The Baltimore Sun. Now retired from full-time work, Jack serves as the lead editor and writer for BaltimoreBaseball.com’s “Calling the Pen,” a periodic feature that highlights baseball essays written by the community. If you would like to contribute to ‘Calling the Pen,” send a 750-1,200-word, original piece via email to [email protected] for consideration.