I used to love going to baseball games. For the hot dogs. Hot dogs just taste better at the ball park. Dad took us to some football games in Fairmount Park when it was safe but the first baseball game was with my 10th grade best friend. Her father took us along with her younger sisters and their friends.
As the hot dog vendor came by, he asked who would like hot dogs.
My friend Eve shouted, “I do!”
Her younger sister B shouted, “I do!”
Her youngest sister shouted, ”I do!”
My turn: I quietly answered, “I’d like two, please!”
The father Mr. H, the CEO of a department store, was outraged. Think “Oliver” – You want some MORE RERERERE!!!!!” But he did his best to not show it. He wasn’t happy – he was sure it would be wasted. Yet I had said, “Please.”
He ordered it – he didn’t know me well enough yet to yell at me or say no.
The hot dogs were passed out. As I was finishing my first one, and going onto the second, Mr. H, having finished his, looking at my second one, was already desperately trying to locate the hot dog vendor while asking us if anyone would like another one.
He gave me what was, I learned later, his typical snide approval look.
He and everyone else wanted a second one and had to wait until the vendor came around again. (I would have offered mine to him and waited but I had already eaten part of it).
I was contemplating even then asking for another as a joke but thought that would be pushing it…when Mr. H asked, “Tori?”
Between bites, I replied, “No thank you. I have to save room for ice cream.”
I think Mr. H was going to lose it. But he stayed on track with the hot dogs.
He asked if we wanted anything to drink. Soda all around.
“I suppose you want a large?” was his snide attempt at humor.
“Yes, please.” He gave me a little benefit of the doubt as I was establishing a track record.
I think we had everything – ice cream, popcorn, caramel corn, peanuts….
I don’t think I was ever invited again – too expensive!
The next game I remember was when I had met Jimmy Carter as he was running for office.
He shook hands with everyone. He was coming in and turning left. I was to the right. Easy to miss. He stopped as though he had radar of a hand to shake, turned, and shook my hand. Eyes in the back of his head. It was powerful. For about two seconds I thought about voting for him. 1976 was my first year to vote for President.
The next game was when I worked as an assistant to Chuck Howard at the 1979 World Series between Baltimore and Pittsburgh. I started out as a production assistant but I was constantly doing things ahead of when they were needed. It got Chuck Howard’s attention.
He noticed particularly before the second game of the series, I was there as a temp – from university. The weather had turned very, very cold. I had summer clothes essentially so I just put on everything I had with me whether they “matched” or not. And what covered it all was a wrap-around madras skirt. Very preppy.
Chuck Howard came out of the control room, saw me in my wild get up (which I had forgotten about – no mirrors around), looked at me dubiously, and burst out laughing.
I smiled back. He had never seen anyone dressed like that who really didn’t care what she looked like. I did say – Hey I was cold and this was all, and I do mean all, of what I had.
He put me in the control room with him and Andy Sidaris, the director. Apparently Andy behaved better when I was there – before, he was downright gross apparently.
Which must have been something because in front of me, I remember him stuffing a hot dog in – I mean the entire hot dog, roll, onions, relish, mustard, in his mouth and then saying (best I could tell) through the bread, hot dog, mustard, “Cue the nerd!” meaning Howard Cosell.
As I watched and listened, I noticed that every time Chuck Howard communicated to Howard Cosell what to say, Howard Cosell sounded brilliant.
Now and again, Howard would go out on a limb without getting the words from Chuck Howard, and he’d say something nonsensical. The whole control room would groan with a slight chuckle. “OHHHHHHH Howard!!!” was the collective response.
Once I got the hang of it, I would suggest the replay when asked. One time the associate producer set up the wrong shot. Chuck Howard reamed him – without taking a breath. Finally when he absolutely had to take a breath, the associate producer grabbed his chance and jumped in: “Sorry Chuck, I f—ked up!”
Chuck Howard stopped short, calmer, barked, “Okay. Don’t let it happen again!”
I thought wow –
Was being reamed,
End of incident.
No squirming and excusing.
But don’t do it again.
Works for me.
We drove to Pittsburgh for the next game while the big wigs flew. This series opened my eyes to baseball. The TV employees cheered for whichever team would get them to the full seven games. TV got bonuses if they did and ratings were huge.
I also found out why baseball had gotten so slow. The guy who was my first immediate boss, a full time production assistant, and a bit of a creep, when he was a production assistant, had suggested he stand at third base and when they wanted to do a commercial, let him know, he’d put on a white towel so the players would know to slow down.
Literally the players would go into slo-mo getting to the next pitch or the next inning.
The creep apparently was promoted for this one idea and it went to his head. I don’t think he got beyond that one promotion though.
At Baltimore, I was standing outside the VIP section and Joe DiMaggio walked out. I asked him for his autograph on my baseball which the Pittsburgh Pirates pitcher had already signed. I couldn’t believe I was seeing someone I had only read about and had quite a sports and social history. He smiled kindly at me and very graciously gave me his autograph. That was pretty special.
It was quite the year with the Pittsburgh Pirates coming back from a 3-1 deficit to win the series in 7 games.
The next game I attended was several years later with my Dad at Philadelphia’s Veteran’s Stadium. Chuck Howard gave us some seats for the World Series. The Phillies were losing. Badly.
This game could be the last for the series if the Phillies lost. While the score was a gazillion to one against them, there were still three innings. With only two innings left, the crowd started leaving. How rude and unsupportive. More hot dogs for us, though. And less traffic later.
Dad and I calculated how the Phillies could still win in the bottom of the ninth. It included two grand slams. Or one grand slam and one home run for extra innings…
We stayed till the very end. The Phillies lost.
The next game was in the 1990’s. I went to a game in LA with a friend. We ate everything. By then the food was far more upscale than hot dogs. But they just didn’t understand – you can’t improve on good hot dogs at a ball park!
But after the hot dogs, we had ice cream and then pizza and then….I can’t remember….but it was wonderful. And very filling.
I think the very next game was last week – 2015: the San Francisco Giants vs Milwaukee Brewers game.
I had contacted the administration. The owner very generously gave us four tickets and Larry Baer very kindly gave us two more.
So we went with four friends. Very fun. We went to the Field Club first for supper; had some….you guessed it: hot dogs.
Finding a seat was a challenge: an investor and his well turned out wife let us sit with them. Delightful people. At the table next door was just one fellow so I asked if we could use the rest of his table. He clearly was anti-social but couldn’t say no. I said – really it’s okay if you want to say no but…?
The couple next to him after about 10 minutes gave us their table and noted that the anti-social one was now sleeping. Weird. Hope it didn’t end sadly.
The regulars steered us to the right stuff but by then I was pretty full. The triple sliders looked good – pastrami.
Our new best friends, the investor, told us to get the vanilla ice cream with coffee. She was thin and probably could have used 10 of those, the decaf version.
We got plain vanilla and shared.
The investor told us to wait longer – but we sure wanted to not miss the first pitch. We went a little earlier than they did. All ready for the opening pitch, who is getting in their seats blocking our view of the first pitch……..?????
The SF Giants put us on the big screen during a break in the second inning.
It was a bit awkward. To see us on the screen I had to turn completely away from the camera. So the audience including me would see the back of my head or they would see the front of me but I wouldn’t.
Enjoying the hot dogs. Oh yeah: And the game.
As our friends said it was heartwarming to see 40,000 people standing and cheering General Chuck Yeager, an American hero.
Larry Baer showed up and introduced himself by sticking his hand out to General Yeager, very close to try to be heard and personal. We had never met him or seen a photo of him and due to the loudness could not hear what he said.
General Yeager pulled back from this stranger in his face. Remember, in World War II, General Yeager was shot down behind enemy lines, had to find friendlies in enemy territory, and not trust anyone – they might be the enemy. Once a few years before, at a July 4 party, a guy tried to hug General Yeager from behind. Boy, that guy was lucky he wasn’t on the ground with General Yeager’s foot on his throat. It was close.
I explained to General Yeager: This is Larry Baer. We are sitting in his seats – he gave them to us. That’s why he’s in the cheap seats. (He was sitting in the front row – we were in the second row). Larry looked at me, saw I was smiling, and laughed.
General Yeager immediately followed up with wonderful warm smile: “I kept it warm for you – would you like it back?”
Larry laughed again.
I asked the kids in front of me a few questions – there were some stats letters with which I was not familiar.
I mentioned to one friend how much Gen Yeager likes caramel corn. Next thing I knew the friend had peanuts and dripping caramel corn. Delicious. We sent some to our other friends and they never returned it. The caramel would have been really great on ice cream.
One friend was teed off – people were leaving. The SF Giants were not doing well this game. They had a beginning of a rally but it didn’t pan out or it panned to three outs.
We had a close view of the different stances for batters. Wow! I recall our coaches in prep school telling us there was one way to stand and we were yelled at if we tried to personalize it. We had some good athletes in my prep school class – who would have been great with the right coaches.
At one point a little girl in SF Giants uniform ran out with a bat. I turned to one friend and said, “They have a ringer.”
Larry turned to us and asked if we were Giants fans.
I replied, “I’m here for the hot dogs.” He laughed. I think he thought I was kidding
Chuck mentioned his cousin was Steve Yeager.
Larry: “Oh so you’re a Dodgers fan, then.”
Chuck replied, “Naw.”
I chimed in: “Not today!”
Larry smiled, nodded. We understood each other.
When the balls hit the dirt, the players would throw them in the stands – generally to kids – and not 57 year old kids either! Sometimes the players kept them and we felt gypped.
It was fun.
As it became clearer that the SF Giants might not make that comeback, although I wanted to tell Larry to leave his seat again – that’s when they got their two runs – Larry turned and said it’s your first time. We had a run of six wins, must be you.
I then told him that he should leave his seat and why.
General Yeager responded: “A little of that crap goes a long way!”
Everyone around was laughing – they aren’t used to people jiving Larry that way. He’s a nice guy – and clearly a bright fellow. Very successful as he inspired a great venue and a successful time with a sell-out enthusiastic crowd almost every game. Going to a SF Giants game is a fun, positive adventure and so much more than baseball.
Of course, we had the one proposal on camera. And she said……Yes. Finally! Geez. But very good theater.
After the game was over, the guy on Gen Yeager’s left noted: “That was kinda rude to blame you for the Giants loss.”
I smiled. Lemme in Coach!
Then he turned around again and said: “It’s probably because you didn’t recognize him!”
Everyone around us laughed.
A few people came around for photos with General Yeager before we left.
Quite a fun night!