First Visits to the Ballpark are Always Remembered

There are some benefits to the morsels of information that are served up today, rather than the “meals” we might have been accustomed to before the USA Today and Twitter style of news distribution.

For instance, each day I am served with a few tweets from MLB Cathedrals that showcase some great vintage shots of various sports stadiums. It’s great seeing these images, from the stadiums to the players to the cars in the parking lots. And I don’t have to do any searching for these images – they come to me..

The MLB Cathedral photos and the memories of Candlestick Park in San Francisco by Martin Jacobs in the latest issue of SCD have triggered my brain to focus on one of the first memories I have from my first visit to a major league ballpark. I can’t pinpoint the year, but it would have to be the early 1980s. The location was County Stadium in Milwaukee, which has long been replaced by the edifice known as Miller Park today.

The trip to the ballpark was a big deal for me. Milwaukee was two hours away from home, and as a family, we didn’t make many long(er) trips. Going to Milwaukee, where my relatives lived, was always an adventure to me – the big city! I know many of you are chuckling at the thought of Milwaukee as “big.”

For my first visit, I went to County Stadium with my uncle, who probably had season tickets at the time. The weather was lousy, cold and drizzly, yet none of that bothered me. Of course, that was mostly due to being seated in the “heated” mezzanine section, complete with a roof over my head. I distinctly remember the source of the warmth was a strand of wire which emitted heat. The primitive method worked for me – I was comfortable.

The rest of the mezzanine section reminded me of the stainless steel found in restaurant or cafeteria kitchens. Hey, it was a place to set your food or page through the program. Seats? That would be the folded steel chair variety. No padded seatbacks and waiter service back in those days.

Old County Stadium was the best – for a youngster with little money who still wanted to watch professionals play ball. There was never a threat of a sellout, with the exception of Opening Day, and you could buy a seat in the bleachers for next-to-nothing.

I watched many games from out there. One of the most memorable was a game that delayed by fog for more than two hours. When the game got underway, few of us were left, and we had an entire outfield bleacher section to ourselves save for one man who enjoyed talking to himself.

Because of the delay, the team was offering discounts to the next day’s game, and we managed to bargain for seats right behind the home dugout, as we were staying the night to watch the following day’s game, too. I couldn’t tell you who won either game, but I can tell you my friends and I still talk about those couple of games, bringing another round of laughter and nods of remembrance.

Like a first love, baseball fans never forget their first ballpark visit and the ballparks we grew up attending. The venues change, but our memories do not.

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