It was 1960. The Dodgers had recently moved to LA and the Giants followed shortly after, leaving only the Yankees in New York. The East was reorganizing, it was the last time there were only 16 teams and the last season for a 154 game schedule.
I was 10 years old and my brother was 8. Only a few people in the neighborhood had a TV, and certainly no one had a color set. The black and white TVs had a tiny screen that made it difficult to watch baseball on. Close plays were impossible to determine since there was also no instant replay. The best way to experience a game was to listen to the game on the radio and let By Saam paint a picture that you could imagine in your mind.
So when my dad asked my brother and I if we wanted to go see a game in person, you can imagine our excitement. We were going to leave South Jersey and travel over the bridge up into North Philly to actually go to Connie Mack Stadium.
On game day we were excited and ready to go. On the way, our dad talked about the stadium and seeing the Phils and A’s play and some of the players from the 40s and 50s. We found a parking spot on Girard Avenue and the neighborhood kids asked my dad if he wanted them to watch his car, which I found a little strange at the time.
As we got closer, the crowds on foot started to get bigger and the stadium loomed large over the sidewalk. When we got to the front entrance and went through the turnstiles it was like walking into another world. The crowds, the sounds, and the smell of the food were overwhelming. It was magical. We got our first ballpark hot dog, soda and scorecard (with our own little Phillies pencil) and headed to our seats.
When we got to the top of the ramp and the field came into view, I froze in place and almost dropped my hot dog. To paraphrase Rudy’s dad when he saw the Notre Dame stadium – it was the most beautiful sight my eyes had ever seen.
The size of the stadium, the number of people, the sounds of the crowd and the vendors, and most of all the colors were simply heaven. The size of the field and the green of the turf were like nothing I had ever seen. Plus all of the players on the field were more than the 9 men I pictured during the game. Radio had done no justice to the vision of this magnificent site. And to top it all off, the famous Robin Roberts was on the mound.
I don’t remember if the Phils won that night, but it really didn’t matter. I’ve been to most of the MLB stadiums, seen All Star games, World Series, no-hitters, and have met a lot of famous players. But nothing compares to that first experience and the first sight of the field at Connie Mack stadium.
Years later I had a chance to stand in the infield of the closed and dilapidated stadium, in two-foot-high weeds. But all I could see was that green field with the boys of summer playing when I first saw the field. And every time I attend a game now, that little boy’s memory flashes back to life.
Remember your first Phillies Game?
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