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columnist Mark Green
mark green / 09 September 2022 / 0 Comment

I Was There

When you sit around and tell your grandchildren about all the significant events in life that you saw live (even if only live on television), what would be on the list? “I was there when” is a brag that the kiddies can never take away from old men. Even if you count only sports moments, here are a few that I can claim.   

I got to see Hank Aaron hit home run #535, which at that time moved him between Jimmie Foxx and Mickey Mantle on the all-time list. And I saw that in person, in the very first major league game I ever attended. You cannot imagine what that meant to a kid who grew up memorizing every baseball statistic in sight, and who collected trading cards off the backs of cereal boxes.  

I was listening on the radio in 1974 when Lou Brock stole base #105 to move past Maury Wills on the single season list. That was a unique moment, because as soon as he got to #104, everyone knew that every time Brock got on base, he probably was going to be running (unless someone was stupid enough to drive him in before he got the chance).   

I listened to the entirety of Fernando Valenzuela’s no-hitter against the Cardinals in 1990. I was rooting for the Cards, but there comes a point when you start rooting for the opposing player (if he isn’t a jerk) to make it. The last three outs in any no-hitter are great drama.   

I also was listening on April 23, 1999 when Cardinal Fernando Tatis became the only player in history to hit two grand-slams in the same inning, and in doing so set the major league record for RBIs in one inning.   

Of course, there is also the agony that goes with the ecstasy. Back in the 1980s, I saw my only game at legendary Wrigley Field in Chicago. That in itself is an experience. It is like stepping back three generations in time. The Cubs were playing the Phillies, and in this particular game, Hall of Fame third baseman Mike Schmidt was being made to play first base for some reason, and it was obvious that he did not like it. In fact, he disliked it so much that he flubbed a routine infield pop fly, much to the delight of the Cubs faithful.  

Getting away from baseball, I was watching on television during the Mexico City Olympics when Bob Beamon became the first man to long jump over 29 feet. In fact, at the same time he became the first man to jump 28 feet, since he added nearly two feet to the record.  

I also watched the entire game of the NCAA Basketball Finals in 1973 when UCLA defeated Memphis State. In that game, the legendary Bill Walton scored 44 points, shooting 21 of 22 from the field. That's right, folks, he missed ONE shot all night. For good measure, he added 13 rebounds, 7 blocks and two assists. All in a day’s work. And I was there (well, virtually so)


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