Archived Story

Taking a walk down memory lane

Published 2:24pm Thursday, February 14, 2013

Back when we did not have Major League Baseball in Los Angeles, my parents indoctrinated me to baseball by taking me to some spring-training games at Wrigley Field, where the Pacific Coast L.A.
Angels played. The Angels were the AAA minor league affiliate of the Chicago Cubs.
The Dodgers and Giants did not move west until 1958, but we were 30 minutes away from Wrigley or Gilmore Stadium, where the Hollywood Stars played.  The Stars were the AAA affiliate of the Pittsburgh Pirates.
About six teams had their spring training facilities in Arizona, so they would schedule a few games at Wrigley each spring.
During my visits to the ballpark, I had the privilege of watching some of the future hall of  famers play. There was Ernie Banks, Roberto Clemente and Willie Mays, three of the greatest players to ever don a major league uniform.
There was Larry Doby of the Cleveland Indians and Monte Irvin of   the  then-New York Giants.
Doby became the first black player to participate in the American League.
Then there was Gene Mauch and George “Sparky” Anderson — both became great managers.
Steve Bilko and Sandy Koufax became my all-time favorite players. The rosters were filled with names that vary few will remember, unless ,of course, they collected baseball cards like I did.
I was an avid baseball card collector for years. Card collecting began during spring training and until 1958, it came to a screeching halt around August.
It was not uncommon to pedal my bike over two miles so I could obtain the latest series of cards.
I could never obtain a Ted Williams, no matter how hard I tried. I could never not get a Jim Delsing, no matter how hard I tried.
I traded or gave away more 1957 Mickey Mantle cards then I ever want to remember.
The worst thing that could ever happened, but fortunately did not happen to me, was that your mother found your sacred shoebox, then proceeded to throw out that shoebox containing your life’s work. There was zero chance you would ever get them back.
Baseball card collecting began in the spring, summer seemed to last about fifteen minutes and “Teddy
Baseball” was only a myth.
There are a number of other things that everybody remembers about baseball cards too, but fortunately I have managed to forget them.
Baseball today is a watered-down version of what it was before expansion. Compound this with the addition of facial hair, long hair and the improper wearing of the uniform, and well, you get the picture.
The last of the “good guys,” such as Chipper Jones and before him, Cal Ripken, Jr. ,would never have removed the band at the bottom of their pants.
Today, players look more like slacking-inmates from prison, rather than major league players who respect the game.
I feel sorry for the baseball purist of today.  He or she will never get the opportunity to see the likes of a Sandy Koufax, Duke Snider, Stan Musial or Hank Aaron play.
In the South, it is all about college football. But for the rest of the country, baseball is still the “national pastime.”
Until next time …
Meyers is a columnist for The Outlook. Follow him on Twitter at @brucemeyers11.