With Opening Day of the 2013 major league baseball season just 33 hours away, it reminds me of the baseball memories of my lifetime. I was 9 years old when I remember listening to my first game on the radio during the 1954 World Series between the Cleveland Indians and the New York Giants.
Opening Day of 2013 has a special meaning for me, since I was diagnosed with Stage III duodenal cancer in October of last year. I watched the 2012 World Series from a hospital bed in the VA Hospital in Houston, Texas, after having surgery on October 16.
I am waiting to have a Catscan done on May 21 in Houston, which will reveal if the cancer has returned. If the cancer has returned I have no guarantee I will be around for the 2013 World Series.
My first time to see a major league game was in August of 1957. Hard to believe that it was 56 years ago, when my dad, my older brother and me entered Connie Mack Stadium in Philadelphia that night. I can remember men bringing in brown bags with bottles inside, in case they needed a drink during the game.
It was fun watching the players shag fly balls right in front of us in our left field seats, while they were practicing for the game.
Another thing that stood out about that night was that the Phillies fans were booing their own players, which came as a complete shock to me. The Pirates won the game the night of August 13, 1957, as Bob Friend pitched a two hit shutout in a 6-0 win over the Phillies. Future Hall of Famers led off for both the Phillies with Richie Ashburn hitting leadoff and Clemente hitting leadoff for the Pirates. It is fun going back to the boxscore of that game, which was found at baseball-reference.com.
14,129 fans attended the game that night and it last only two hours and 12 minutes. The highlight of the game for me was when Bill Mazeroski hit a home run that hit the roof over the left field bleachers. Little did we know that three years later Mazeroski would hit a home run over the left field fence, to give the Pirates a walk-off win over the New York Yankees in the 1957 World Series.
My aunt would bring me to a Boston Red Sox – Kansas City Athletics game on July 24, 1959 in Kansas City. The Athletics defeated the Red Sox 3-1. Ted Williams pinch-hitting was my most important memory of that game. He fouled out to the catcher in his only at bat. Williams was hitting .230 after the out, but would raise his average to .254 by the end of the season. That was the lowest average of his 19 year career. He had never hit lower than .316 in any of his other 18 seasons. This is the year that Williams requested a pay cut for having such a bad season. He would raise his average by 62 points the next season to .316. I can say I saw him in his next to last season, since he retired after the 1960 season.
The year 1962 was a special year in my baseball memories, when I rode the old Kansas City Southern Belle passenger train from Alexandria, Louisiana to Kansas City, Missouri. It was my first trip by myself on a train and the best part was being fortunate enough to see a doubleheader, between the Kansas City Athletics and the New York Yankees. This was the season after Roger Maris had broken Babe Ruth’s record of 60 home runs in a season, when he hit his 61st the season before, while Mickey Mantle had hit 54 that same year. They almost both broke the record but Mantle had to spend time in the hospital late in the season.
August 18, 1962 : Athletics 5 Yankees 4
Mickey Mantle hit a solo home run for the Yankees in the 4th inning, which would be his 23rd home run of the season. Roger Maris would hit his 27th in the 5th inning of the game. Yankees were ahead 4-1 after five innings. Whitey Ford the Yankee ace allowed 16 hits in the game and gave up a walk-off single to Haywood Sullivan to take the loss.
GAME TWO :
Yankees 11 Athletics 7
Maris and Mantle were 1-7 in the second game with no runs batted in. Bobby Richardson and Dale Long took up the slack though, with each player driving in three runs. Yogi Berra and Clete Boyer drove in two runs each in the contest. The Athletics took a 1-0 lead in the first inning, but the Yankees scored in the top of the second to take a 5-1 lead. The Athletics came back to score five runs of their own in the fourth inning, to take a 6-5 lead. The game was tied 7-7 after the eighth inning. The Yankees scored four more times in the top of the ninth and would win the game by a 11-7 score. Marshall Bridges 7-1, pitching in relief took the win for the Yankees.
The attendance that night was 35,147 and the game took 2 hours and 59 minutes to play.
I have seen about 11 major league games, which isn’t many in a 56 year period. I hope to see a game this year in Houston’s Minute Maid Park. Was able to see Aroldis Chapman come in to notch the save when the Reds defeated the Astros in 2012.
What to Look For in 2013 Season:
One of the biggest question marks is how the Yankees will play in April, while waiting for Mark Teixeira, Derek Jeter and Curtis Granderson to heal from injuries. In addition Alex Rodriguez could miss the entire 2013 season. It will be interesting to see which Kevin Youkilis shows up for the 2013 season, since he seems to be slowing down in the last couple of seasons. Yankees will be facing an improved Blue Jays starting rotation, which added veteran starters Mark Buehrle, R.A. Dickey and Josh Johnson and shortstop Jose Reyes should reach base in front of sluggers Jose Bautista and Edwin Encarnacion. The AL East should be up for grabs in 2013 with Yankees and Red Sox seeming to regress, instead of improve.
Astros will be a team to watch as they will be joining one of the tougher divisions. They will contend with Athletics who won the AL West last season, the wildcard Rangers and improved Angels and Mariners teams. It will be huge surprise if the Astros don’t finish last in the AL West.
Tigers and White Sox should contend all season for the AL Central title. The Indians and Royals made several offseason moves that should make them stronger in 2013. Will be interesting to see how Nick Swisher and Michael Bourn improve the Cleveland offense.
The Braves have one of the strongest outfields in the majors with the addition of B.J and Justin Upton for the 2013 season to go with Jason Heyward. Andrelton Simmons, who is one of best shortstops in baseball seems to be hitting with more power lately. When you throw Freddie Freeman into the mix it gives the Braves a powerhouse batting order and could be even better if Dan Uggla can regain his 30 home run form. Julio Teheran could be ready to have a breakout season, after a great spring allowing 7 hits in 26 innings.
Phillies should be improved with a healthy Ryan Howard and Chase Utley to start the 2013 season, plus Dominic Brown seems on the verge of having a breakout year. Ben Revere should spark the offense with his hitting and speed on the bases.
Marlins are almost sure to finish last after having another one of their patented fire sales. It will be interesting to see how many Marlins fans show up for the debacle of a season in 2013.
Nationals are in position to make another run at the NL Central title. This could be a huge breakout year for Bryce Harper who will be 20 till October.
The Reds may be the worst team in NL this spring, but this team has too much talent to not be contending in the NL Central. They made the right move to keep Aroldis Chapman out of the starting rotation. He may not have been as effective as a starter, since he can’t throw close to 100 MPH for a complete game.
Cardinals seem like the only team good enough to battle with the Reds for the NL Central title. Brewers seem to be a team in disarray with the offense and defense both near the bottom in spring statistics. Pirates and Cubs should contend for fourth place. Cubs could surprise if their starting rotation can get healthy very soon.
I can see no reason for the Giants to not finish first again in 2013 in the NL West. Dodgers seem to be a player or two short from winning it all in 2013. Yasiel Puig is in minors waiting to be called up. He was leading all spring players in batting average, when sent down to the minors. I can see why he was sent down, since he has never played above A ball. It is important that Zack Greinke pitch well for the Dodgers to contend in 2013. Diamondbacks took a hit when Adam Eaton, who was having a great spring was placed on the DL. It will be interesting to see if Padres can hit more home runs in 2013, but missing Chase Headley to start the season may be a bad omen. Rockies are a question mark, but have enough talent to contend for the AL West title.
I am excited about the 2013 season. Just hope my health is good enough for me to see the entire season unfold.