We sat with the sun in our faces at my first major league baseball game. It seems like just yesterday. In fact it was Sunday.
And Sundays are days when parents take their kids to ballgames and kids take their parents to ballgames. It's just like watching the distant diamond on TV, but without the commentary and without closeups of the Oriole pitcher.
Not that I'd recognize him. I pointed to the program's centerfold, and asked my 13-year-old companion who it was -- a bit too loudly, as it turned out. But the kid barely winced as he whispered "Palmer."
He's learned a little patience, this kid, in introducing his parents to sports. He must've figured out we pay for the tickets.
He teaches me who the players are in all his favorite sports. He humors me when I delight in discovering by reading the program -- which I do a lot -- that the oldest player on a team is still a little older than I am. When I really want to play the role, I look at a player's photo and murmur "He's cute."
In fact, I don't understand the attraction of baseball and probably never will. It's boring. Basketball moves; football maims; baseball bores. What is the point of this baseball? Why are those nine men just standing there and why is that so interesting to the 40,000 people who paid to see them standing in person? Most of us are so far away we can't even read their numbers (22-Jim Palmer).
The Birds were way ahead. Things picked up in the second inning when a family clambered into the stands in front of us. I guess they couldn't find any place else in Baltimore for a picnic.
First, Cokes around to the toddlers. Then orange drink. The three kids are like two spiders with three heads, many arms and legs reaching and twisting and being sloshed. As the two boys, about four and five, start to fuss, they are handed tortilla chips. A man on first, one on second. As the two year old cries, she gets chips too. The father leaves for places unknown. Pop fly.
Everytime a left-handed batter comes up my son makes a mitt with his bare hands. He has alot of faith in southpaws. He explains why a ball hit that way will come this way, to left field. I make a mitt with my bare hands. (Special note to bring a mitt next time.)
Lots of action in the bleachers in left field, as scores of yellowjackets swarm around the kids, now sticky with coke and orange. Mirabile dictu, no one ever gets stung in Memorial Stadium.
The bees swarm up to the next level - mine. Strike one. Alex, the oldest of the trio, is squirreling his way up, too. He finds my discarded warm beer under my seat and takes a sip. Strike two. I suggest to him in a motherly way that he stop kicking my beer - he has dented the paper cup with his little sneaker: Spilt beer brings bees. "Is that yours?" he starts to quiz. "Don't you want it?" Rather than get involved, I feel something warm in my sandal. Alex is lying across his seat, his head hanging down, his hair getting wet.
The father comes back and takes sticky-haired Alex and brother to the little boys' room. Mom is bouncing the little girl on her knee and praising effusively when she perfectly repeats the batter's name, announced over the PA. "Yes! Sizemore!"
The baby eats peanuts shell-first. Her brothers return and everybody plays find the peanut. Watching from the row behind, I am tricked several times.
A long, flat hit. Someone thinks it's going over the fence. With her index finger, mother traces the ball's path in the air. Yes, I think I see it.
The sun shines on the mammoth electric scoreboard, illuminating every light-face so that no one can see the score. The Birds have led Boston by 10 almost the whole game, so who cares.
Every once in a while I look back at the centerfold for a close-up of a pitcher winding up. This way I feel right at home, like I'm watching the game on TV. WATCHING THE BIRDIES The Orioles will be playing in Baltimore Friday and Sturday nights at 7:30 and Sunday at 2.