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More firsts


This is the first record I ever owned that wasn't "for kids".

I don't remember who gave it to me or even really when I received it. I'm pretty sure it was Christmas time and judging by when this John Denver album came out, I'd guess it was Christmas 1974. I'm also guessing it could have been a gift from my mom. I do remember the John Denver album "Rocky Mountain High" in my parents' record stash when I was a kid.

Even at that time -- I was nine -- I didn't know what to do with a John Denver album. But songs from that time, say 1973-76, bring back a certain feeling when I was just beginning to notice popular music. Songs like Diana Ross' "Do You Know Where You're Going To", Glen Campbell's "Rhinestone Cowboy" and just about anything from the Captain and Tennille evoke a sense of discovery from childhood -- music on the AM radio, what a concept. This was the first time I made the connection you could hear music from that thing on the car dashboard.

"Back Home Again" is another first from my childhood. I wrote a post about those childhood "firsts" six months ago. The Chronicles of Fuji brought up that post just yesterday and that jogged my memory that I was supposed to add to that original post when I wrote it back in April.

So I'm adding to it now with more "firsts".

Many of these I've written about before, even within the last year, but like I said on that first firsts post, this is an effort to protect the memories that I have, knowing that my memory isn't what it once was and will probably get worse in the years to come. Future me can simply click on the label link "first" and get my answers.

OK, sorry if I'm repeating myself here -- that's something that's going to get worse as I get older, too. But here are some more firsts:

First glove I ever owned

I just wrote about this after Tom Seaver passed away. My first glove was a bicentennial, red-white-and-blue Tom Seaver model with Seaver's signature in the blue palm of the glove. I had the most distinctive gear on the field and it's probably why to this day that I appreciate players who use gloves that are blue or red rather than mundane brown. Seaver's 1976 Topps card came out the same year I got that glove and it's probably why this card stands out to me more than most of his other cards.

First youth league team I was on that was named after a major league team

I was a member of the Pirates. No, we didn't wear pillbox hats. In fact, our jerseys were maroon-colored. (None of the colors in the league matched, the Phillies were green, the Dodgers were orange). This league was more low-key than your typical Little League, where teams were named after insurance companies or "Jim's Refrigeration". I think my dad wasn't crazy about some of the favoritism he saw in the local LL.

Anyway, I liked playing for a team with a major league name better. My Pirates teams -- and me -- were lousy that first year. But the following year I went through a growth spurt and was one of the team's better players. My team finished third or fourth that year, too.

First MLB game I attended

I've written about this before, way, way back. The first game I saw came on July 15, 1978 in Yankee Stadium. It was a night game against the Royals. The starting pitchers were Dennis Leonard and Ed Figueroa (that Figueroa took me forever to obtain, stupid Yankee tax). The Royals won the game, 8-2, and then we drove all night to get back home. When I arrived home, I had seen my first major league game and it was my birthday.

First MLB home run I saw

None other than chin-scratchin' Pete LaCock hit the first major league home run that I witnessed. It was a three-run home run in the second inning of that 8-2 victory and gave the Royals a 5-0 lead. I have vague memories of LaCock's home run traveling over the right field wall and barely being able to see as we were in the mezzanine section on the third base side and I was short and the people in front of me were too damn big to begin with and standing up and little ol' me was quite frustrated. That's what I remember anyway.

First MLB game I saw go to extra innings

I wrote about this game recently, too. It was in Fenway Park, on Aug. 14, 1982. I remember I had just gotten my driver's license a few days prior -- no, I didn't drive all the way to Boston to celebrate. The Orioles won the game, 5-2, in 10 innings. Joe Nolan, who was a rookie catcher at the time, drove in the winning run with a sacrifice fly in the 10th. Rich Dauer followed with a two-run single.

First baseball card trade I ever made

The details are hazy with this one. I don't remember all of the cards that were part of the trade, I just know that this Gary Gentry card was one that I received. The trade happened in the spring of 1975 and I traded with my friend Mario. I know several cards traded hands in each direction, so I guess you could call it a blockbuster ... for a variety of reasons.

First friends that I knew who were fans of teams other than the Yankees

The vast majority of kids that I knew when I was growing up were either nonfans or Yankee fans. It was very difficult to find someone who stood out from the crowd. I was one of them, of course, a lonely Dodger fan. Then a new kid moved into the neighborhood named Jeff. He was from the Kansas City area and he was a Royals fan. His favorite player was Amos Otis. He LOVED Amos Otis. He thought he was the best player in the game at that time.

The Royals were just beginning to come into prominence at that time, on their way to three straight division titles, four in the next five and a World Series in 1980. Jeff was long gone by 1980 but he started my appreciation for the Royals, which has been one of my back-up rooting interests ever since.

The other baseball fan friend I had who wasn't interested in the Yankees was an A's fan. He was the type of kid who had to like only the best teams and the A's at that time -- I had known this kid since first or second grade -- were three-time defending champs. In retrospect, this kid had a lot of problems (I'm pretty sure he became a delinquent). I'm certain that if he was just a few years younger, he would have been a Yankee fan, since the Yankees won titles in 1977 and 1978.

First major league player I ever met

Although I looked up to baseball players as a kid, I didn't have much of a desire to meet them. Maybe it's because I was too shy or maybe it's because I didn't really looked to them in that way. I remember going to a card show once where the guest signer was Brooks Robinson. My brother wanted to get an autograph from Brooks because he was an Orioles fan. Me? I didn't care. I didn't even bother to go to the room where Robinson was signing just to see him. I kept looking at cards.

Anyway, because of that, the first ballplayer I ever met was on the job. Working in Niagara Falls at the time, the brand new New York-Penn League baseball team was playing Welland, Ontario, in its first game. The manager of Welland was former World Series ballplayer U.L. Washington, famous for carrying a toothpick in his mouth. I interviewed Washington after the game and that was the first of many interview encounters with MLB players.

So, that's another look at some firsts. I'll probably continue to do these as I really like the idea of having a reminder set for me.

It's fairly apparent, judging by the comments on my other post as well as from Fuji's post and the comments on that one, that my memory is sharper than others, at least other card bloggers anyway. I've been thinking about that since, and perhaps my memory is sharp because I've always had an appreciation for notable moments in my life. I've been able to experience them and then something in my brain goes, "this is big" and it's in there forever. I have a strong appreciation for "moments," I guess.

I think that's why I became a journalist. I can absorb a moment and know why it is significant and can catalog that. It's a gift, I suppose. Because I thought everyone had it. But I'm being told they don't.

Anyway, I'm sure I'll be able to dig up more stuff another time.


acrackedbat said…
Sometimes I believe it's not that we don't remember but memories aren't always happy. Childhood wasn't always good for some of us. It certainly has a lot to do with why I chase the 70s, I think. I didn't have a chance to enjoy the clothes, music, games, trends, fads, hobbies etc - the pop culture most 70s kids loved so much growing up. 1974 was a marker for me. I'm still filling in the blanks and not ashamed to say, I will never grow up completely. Thanks for sharing these 'new' firsts!
night owl said…
Oh, I have plenty of bad childhood memories, too. Not blogging about those!
In the early 70's, the only music I EVER heard was from the Hee Haw t.v show or the juke box in my mom's restaurant (truckers music). Christmas 1976 I got my first radio and discovered other music. B y the time 1980 rolled around I had every KISS album, Lynrd Skynyrd, and CDB (Charlie Daniels Band). How's that for a mix. Oh yeah Molly Hatchet used to play regularly at my high school, lol.
Grant said…
I've always been impressed by your memory. I think my first pack was '89 Topps? First game was at the Metrodome at some point? I swear, at 37, I can hardly remember anything past last week.
As soon as I saw that album cover I could hear Mr. Denver singing "Hey, it's good to be back home again...". My older sister loved John Denver and I'm sure I know everything on that album, although I probably haven't heard the whole thing since 1980 or so.

I don't remember most of these categories, but I'm envious that you do. I always wonder what it's like to remember stuff.

...other than John Denver lyrics. "Sometimes this old farm feels like a long-lost friend..."
Jay said…
That John Denver album was my SECOND album, received for Christmas in 1975. My first album was "John Denver's Greatest Hits". Third album was the Beach Boys' "Endless Summer" 2xLP. All played to death by 8-year-old me.
bryan was here said…
My mum had that album. I think my son has it in his collection now.

I remember getting a little pocket Emerson transistor AM radio for my fourth birthday and having it locked on KDKA in Pittsburgh. My aunt was a DJ there for many years. So I have lots of memories of songs from 1975-76. The first 45 record I ever got was Gary Wright's Dream Weaver.

Recently while cleaning my mum's attic in prep for a yard sale, I found my old little league jersey and glove. Graig Nettles model. And the first trade I remember making was a pack of '81 Topps for "81 Fleer straight up. The cards I got (which I still have) have the kid's name written on the back.
carlsonjok said…
My big memory of my childhood was our neighbor across the street, Ed Hoak. I used to make 50 cent bets on football games with him and he always called me The Bookie. And, here's the tie in, one summer I scraped and repainted a fence around his house, all the while listening to 1180 WHAM (Jack Slattery - the world's tallest midget!) on a transistor radio.
Chris said…
My town had two little leagues, one of them had teams named after MLB teams (although years later my nephew played for the Browns, so..?) but the league I was in had those local business names. Carvel had the best team. I wanted to be on the team sponsored by my LCS but those were older kids. Instead I ended up on VFW. We had a good year, but it wasn't fun for a kid to be on the war veterans' team.

I think the reason why I lost track of so many card collecting milestones is because there weren't other kids in the neighborhood that collected as vigorously as I did until about 1990. I was kind of on my own for 3-4 years before then.
Fuji said…
I remember seeing Captain and Tennille perform on a television show when I was a kid. My mom really liked them. Can't say I know the responses to any of these topics either... but I can throw out some educated guesses:

First MLB game attended: either an A's game at the Coliseum or a Giants game at Candlestick

First baseball card trade: probably involved 1981 topps/donruss and involved my giants for my neighbor's a's (or that 81d hrabosky).

First MLB I ever met: drawing a complete blank. i can't even think of a baseball player i've met in person. i know i have, but i'm suffering from a major brain fart

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