The Favorite Memories of Baseball Writers, Bloggers, Analysts and Fans

For this first anniversary, I decided to write. Not just articles, though. I decided to write people- as many of the baseball writers, analysts and bloggers I could think of. I asked what seemed to be a simple question: what is your favorite baseball memory?

My reasoning for this little project was all over the place. Partly, it was because it seemed like something that would be interesting. Partly, it was because I was curious to see who would answer. And, of course, partly it was because I thought perhaps it could tell me, and all of us, a bit about baseball fans.

For that reason, it was a rather eclectic group I sent the question to, ranging from big names that everyone has probably heard of, to the proprietors of smaller or more specialized pieces of the web. I also tried to ask the fans, bloggers or writers of a variety of teams, since the fans of one team would, of course, probably have a different favorite memory than fans of another.

In the end, I received responses from less than half of the people I sent the question to. But, hey, hitting in the upper .300s is nothing to sneeze at.

So what did I learn?

First off, as probably could be expected, a lot of the memories involve fathers. Pirates blogger Pat Lackey, for example, remembered going to a doubleheader with his father and seeing new-dad Rob Mackowiak have the day of his life. Others treasure memories of playing baseball with their children or going to their first game with them.

Secondly, the favorite memories in many (but certainly not all) cases involve actually going to games. And, again, I’m not surprised by this. Baseball, perhaps more than any other sport, is one that is best when seen in person, where you can get a true feel for the crowd, take in all of the unique sights, sounds and smells, and see the shifts and strategies at work. On TV, it just isn’t the same.

Third, and connected to the second thing, a surprising amount of favorite memories had nothing to do with a team winning a championship. Oh, sure, there are some, but for many, it was comparatively small things like scrambling to get tickets to see Rick Ankiel make his position-player debut, like Daniel Moore of Viva El Birdos did, or hearing that your their favorite childhood player had just hit their first (and only) big league home run, as Joe Posnanski remembered.

But lastly, what’s great is that everybody’s favorite baseball memory is unique and personal. It’s not like a bunch of people all had the same memory (although there were a few that were close), no, everybody had something unique, with a special meaning to them. For some cases, it was because it made them fall in love with the game. For others, it was seeing or experiencing something they never had before. And still for others, it was just something special, something that can’t be duplicated and will forever stick in their minds.

In other words… they were all reasons why we love to watch baseball.

So, after all of that, want to see the responses I got? Go below the jump:

(The replies below are done in a semi-random order to ensure that longer responses aren’t right next to each other and to have a bit of variety and are only edited in some cases of misspelling, grammar or removing unrelated things from the e-mails such as hellos and goodbyes)

David Pinto (Baseball Musings):

I went to a double header at Yankee Stadium, I believe it was July 2, 1978.  They played the Tigers that day.  In the second game, the pitcher for the Tigers threw a brush back pitch at Graig Nettles.  Nettles fell over getting out of the way. I had seen this happen before, and knew how Nettles would react.  Sure enough, Graig hit the next pitch for a home run.  It’s much better than charging the mound.

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Joe Posnanski (Joe Blogs, columnist for NBC Sports):

My favorite baseball memory? Hmm. Impossible. But, even though I was not there, I’ll go with the day that Duane Kuiper hit the only home run of his career. I was 10 years old, and Duane Kuiper was my favorite player.
 
He hit the home run on August 29, 1977 — it was in his 1,532nd plate appearance. He pulled it to right field in what I recall was a mammoth windstorm, and he hit it off Steve Stone, who was from my hometown of South Euclid, Ohio. I remember listening to it on the radio and jumping up and down like the Indians had won the pennant, something they never came close to doing during my childhood.
 
I’ve obviously had many really cool adult baseball memories — the Jeter home run in Yankee Stadium less than two months after 9/11 might be the most emotional thing I’ve ever been around in sports. But I’ll never feel quite the way I did after Kuiper’s homer.
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Daniel Moore (Viva El Birdos):

That’s an incredibly tough question! Thanks for asking it. Right now, I think it’s this:
 
Hearing Rick Ankiel would be called up to the Cardinals as an outfielder the afternoon of his first game, digging up some tickets, and driving two hours into St. Louis just in time to see him hit a home run with 40,000 other nervous fans.
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Gary Cieradowski (Infinite Baseball Card Set):

The first time I went to Shea Stadium by myself. I remember buying a ticket with a pocket full of quarters and dimes and taking the endless elevator up to the upper deck that seemed like an eternity. It was a day game and I had skipped school. There was that smell of hotdogs and cigar smoke and then emerging from the concourse and stopping to look out on the great field. The parking lot beyond the outfield wall with the hundreds of busses. The big Marlboro sign. Finally being pushed into reality by the men who wanted to get to their seats and had no time for a kid daydreaming. Carefully filling out the starting lineup on the scorecard with a broken pencil. Pat Zachery for the Mets. Lee Mazzilli and Joel Youngblood. Elliott Maddox. My God, Elliott Maddox – he wore my number 21 back then.

Every so often, if I close my eyes on a warm day when I blow off work, and the smells are right and the breeze is blowing a certain way, and a jet plane flies somewhere overhead, I think I can faintly hear Jack Franchetti reading out the days lineups…

That’s my favorite baseball memory.

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Callum Hughson (Mop-Up Duty):

My favourite baseball memory was in 1993, when I attended Game 6 of the 1993 World Series when Joe Carter hit that epic home run to clinch the Blue Jays’ second consecutive World Series.

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Pat Lackey (Where Have You Gone Andy Van Slyke? and Outside Corner):

There’s actually one game that immediately jumps out for me, so let me set the scene a bit. Also, I swear to you that all the stuff with my dad is true. It seems crazy, but this is really how the whole day played out. This is probably longer than what you’re asking for, but I just can’t do this story justice in one or two paragraphs.

 
On May 28th, 2004, my dad had seats at PNC Park for a Pirates/Cubs doubleheader (he and my uncle and a few of their friends split up a season ticket package). My cousin was graduating from high school that day and my mom wanted us to go to the ceremony, but the lure of the doubleheader was too much for us. I grew up about an 90 minutes north of PNC Park, so we hopped in the car right around the time the game was starting. We caught the tail end of the pre-game show, and heard Greg Brown (the Pirates’ play-by-play guy) mention that Rob Mackowiak‘s first son had been born early in the day, that Mrs. Mackowiak and the baby were comfortably resting at the hospital right up the street from PNC Park, and that Mackowiak would be in the lineup for at least the first half of the double header.
 
“He’s going to have a big day today,” my dad said.
 
“You’re so full of it!” I told him. “You always say things like this, but you only ever remember the times you say it and you’re right!” 
 
“Just watch.”
 
We got to the game in the fifth inning, as the Pirates were in the process of rallying for four runs and taking a 5-1 lead. We saw Michael Barrett tie the game up for the Cubs with a grand slam in the seventh inning. In the bottom of the ninth, the Pirates loaded the bases up for Mackowiak. My dad nudged me. Mackowiak hit a walk-off grand slam. 
 
PNC Park exploded, with me yelling, “I CAN’T BELIEVE THIS!” and my dad laughing and saying, “I told you!” over and over. In between games, we walked around the park with PNC buzzing in a way that it’s rarely had an opportunity to since opening in 2001. When we got back to our seats, I noted that Mackowiak wasn’t in the starting lineup for Game 2 and I wondered if he’d gone to the hospital to be with his wife and son after his dramatic walk-off. 
 
That wasn’t the case. In the seventh inning, Mackowiak entered the game as the center fielder after a double switch. My dad nudged me again when we saw him out in center in the top of the inning. 
 
“He’s not done yet.” 
 
After the Cubs scored in the top of the ninth to stretch their lead in the nightcap to 4-2. In the bottom of the ninth, Tike Redman lead off the inning with a walk. Rob Mackowiak strode to the plate as the tying run. I turned to my dad and said, “You don’t think …”
 
Before I could even get the words out of my mouth, Mackowiak crushed another homer into the right-center field seats. By this point, everyone at PNC knew about Mackowiak’s son and we all just went ballistic. Fireworks were going off, fans were leaping around and bouncing off of each other like the Pirates had just won the World Series, and my dad was laughing the whole time. 
 
Somehow, the Pirates weren’t done. In the bottom of the tenth inning, Craig Wilson hit a walk-off homer, making it the first doubleheader in some ridiculous number of years to end with walk-off home runs on both ends. 
 
I still have trouble wrapping my brain around all of the details from that day. Mackowiak was a 53rd round draft pick in 1996. By 1998, the draft had been limited to 50 rounds. He was mostly a utility player and for the most part, his career only had any length at all to it because the Pirates were such a bad team. And still, somehow, on the day that his first son was born, he hit a walk-off grand slam on one end of a double header and a game-tying homer in the bottom of the ninth in the other. Does baseball get any better than that?
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Jon Marthaler (Senior Writer at Twinkie Town):
August 22, 1991, Twins down 4-1 to the Mariners in the bottom of the ninth. But Al Newman walks and Chuck Knoblauch singles, and Randy Bush – who was 79 years old at the time, true story – homers to tie the game, while one nine-year-old kid in the center-field bleachers goes completely berserk with happiness. Scott Leius homered in the tenth to win it. It’s all seared onto my mind.
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John Manuel (Editor-In-Chief, Baseball America):
Easy for me: Doug Mientkiewicz‘s walk-off home run off South Korea in the
2000 Olympic semifinal. Set up the Cuba-US gold-medal game we all wanted.
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Simply put, it was taking my daughter, who was two at the time, to her first pro game. I used to sing Take Me Out to the Ball Game as a lullaby, and when the crowd sang it at the seventh-inning stretch, she was amazed that so many other people knew that song.
———

Michael Clair (Old Time Family Baseball)… who also shared his best-with-a-caveat and worst memory:
Best Memory: There’s a lot of them, from seeing a Big Papi game-winning homer to a fourteen inning single-A game that finished with an infielder on the mound, but my favorite has to be the week that I spent following the Road Warriors of the Atlantic League. It all started with some friendly heckling of the team’s utility infielder, Joe Nichols, while the traveling team was in Bridgeport, CT, but soon we decided to spend the end of summer vacation driving from game-to-game in beautiful cities like Camden, NJ (then only the second most dangerous city in America), York, PA, and Somerset, NJ. We met the players, accidentally staying down the hall from them in the same hotel, took pictures with their family and friends, and generally had the best week possible before heading back to school and real life.  

Best Memory Stained By Other Circumstances: In 1998, I was crazy for McGwire, covering my binders in horrible Rob Liefeld-esque overly-muscled drawings of McGwire and buying every piece of memorabilia available: the special card set, the weird, kind-of bobblehead thing, even eating a Big Mac in his honor.  And on September 8th, with my parents out for the night and my next door neighbor, Scott, making sure I didn’t set fire to the house or order a dozen pizzas, McGwire hit #62 with a laser down the left field line with Sammy Sosa on the other side of the field, leading to me screaming for a half hour and breaking a lamp in excitement.

Of course, things being what they are, that precious memory has been tarnished a little.

Worst Memory: Every moment of my final year of Little League. Added to the Fairfield Orioles, the ‘Majors’ of Little League in my town, out of pity because I’d try so hard and loved baseball so much, I went 1-for-19 and committed an error every time a ball was hit in my direction. Seriously. I never successfully recorded an out that year. I also took a ball off the throat.

We won the town champion, so I guess I went out on top? Maybe?

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John Thorn, Official Historian of Major League Baseball (Our Game):

Playing catch with my sons, in the backyard, each in their turn and then all together.

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Howard Megdal (LoHud Mets Blog, Capital New York, etc.):

My favorite baseball memory has to be watching Game 3 of the 1986 NLCS with my father. I had just discovered the game that season at age six, and I was appropriately Mets-mad. My father, a normally understated attorney, got up when Lenny Dykstra hit the game-winning home run and created an impromptu Mexican Hat Dance.
From there, we headed to the Camden County Library book sale. I was so enamored with baseball, I picked up a pile of books that reached my head.
 
Many since then. But that was the best.
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Josh Wilker (Cardboard Gods):

Going to the 2004 victory parade in Boston with my brother.

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Alex Hall (Writer for Athletics Nation):

I’ve seen Marco Scutaro hit a walk-off homer against Mariano Rivera, I witnessed Miguel Tejada‘s walk-off bomb in the 18th game of Oakland’s 20-game winning streak, I went to Game 5 of the 2012 ALDS (which Oakland sadly lost in front of a raucous crowd), and I even worked over 50 home games one season on the Athletics’ promotion crew alongside the mascot, Stomper. However, nothing compares to visiting the set of the film Moneyball.

During filming, there was an open call for folks to come sit in the Coliseum stands for the scenes which included game action. Walking into the stadium in 2010 and seeing the 2002 A’s and Royals warming up on the field was an absolute trip, even if all the actors were a foot too short and Jeremy Affeldt was throwing right-handed. I saw names on jerseys that I hadn’t thought about since high school, watched plays from a game that I’d seen live 8 years previous, and then stayed on for the next shift until the wee hours of the morning. My friends and I didn’t end up in any of the scenes in the final cut of the film, but by that time we didn’t care – the experience itself was rewarding enough.
 
Maybe it’s lame that my favorite baseball memory didn’t occur in an actual game. However, much of the appeal of baseball is the way that it connects adults to their childhoods, to the Little League games of yesteryear and the lazy summer days listening to Bill King on the radio. Sitting on the set of Moneyball was like stepping into a time machine and re-visiting my senior year of high school. Nothing can beat that feeling.
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Murray Cook (Murray Cook’s Field and Ballpark Blog, MLB Fields and Facilities Coordinator):

The 2000 USA Olympic champions having a police-escorted bus ride through the streets of NYC to game 3 of the Subway Series.  Lasorda was directing traffic inside the bus.

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Alicia Barnhart (Ballparks on a Budget):
My favorite baseball memory was at Chase Field in 2010 when we went to see the Yankees play the Diamondbacks during our little west coast trip. My sister Alex and I were standing by the field taking pictures before the game with our signs when a member of the grounds crew came over and asked if we’d like to come on the field after the game. Of course we said, “YES!”

We didn’t believe that he’d be able to let us on since he was kind of young and really, who lets people (especially away fans) on the field anyways? Sure enough after the game (9-3 Yanks!) we went down and got to hang out on the field. It was so much fun standing on the mound, where an hour before Andy Pettitte had pitched. We also got to sit in the Yankees’ dugout and were treated to some bubble gum and sunflower seeds!

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Tim Dierkes (MLB Trade Rumors):

One day in May, just before my 16th birthday, I came home from school and put on the Cubs game.  Kerry Wood was pitching for the Cubs against the Astros, only the fifth start of his career.  I tuned in around the sixth inning and I think he had around 15 strikeouts (I might be wrong on the exact numbers).  I knew he was a strikeout pitcher but I did a double-take seeing he had so many Ks with several innings left.  I was transfixed as he dominated the Astros’ lineup that day…his curveball was so nasty.  Wood ultimately tied the record with 20 Ks, and watching the one (infield) hit later by Ricky Gutierrez, I always wondered what it would have been like if Wood had struck Gutierrez out instead.  That would have been a 21-K no-hitter!

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Paul Lukas (Uni Watch):

“It gets by Buckner..!”
———
My favorite baseball memory has to be the first time I went to a game in Korea. The sights and sounds of a game in Korea are very different than in the US. Being at a stadium with around 12,000 fans (small stadium) that were so passionate was amazing. The chants, cheers, and songs led by the cheerleaders were done in sync by more than half the crowd. Add in the times when you have maybe 8,000+ fans banging on thundersticks at the same time and its a mesmerizing experience.
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Craig Robinson (Flip Flop Fly Ball):
It’s a pretty simple one, really; one that may seem quite basic to a lot of people. I sat directly behind home plate at a Mexican League game in Puebla. Staring right at the umpire’s ass, and it was the first time I really got to appreciate exactly what a pitcher does. It didn’t really matter that the pitchers in the game were “only” Mexican League pitchers, but to have a good view of the movement, and to see the difference in speed, and, in particular, to see what happens when a breaking ball doesn’t break: it got whacked into the left field bleachers. After several years learning more and more about the game, that night in Puebla, I learned more than I’d ever done before.
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What’s your favorite baseball memory? Share it below or send it to the Baseball Continuum!
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8 thoughts on “The Favorite Memories of Baseball Writers, Bloggers, Analysts and Fans

  1. I don’t know why, but the first memory to jump to mind was this unremarkable game in a very (very) unremarkable season in Reds history: http://www.baseball-reference.com/boxes/CIN/CIN200107280.shtml

    It was the day after my 13th birthday and my entire family as well my aunt, uncle, and cousins came down to Columbus to go out to dinner before the game in Kentucky and then walk across the bridge to the game.

    A solo homerun by Ken Griffey Jr.- mine and every child in my generation’s favorite player- started the scoring off in the first inning.

    That was it for either team until the 6th, when Brad Penny walked the bases loaded for Dmitri “Da Meathook” Young. My dad was infamous for trying to predict big events in sporting events right before they happened (and almost always failing). This time, with the count 0-0 and as Penny was taking the rubber, my father held up his hands in the air and declared “Dmitri Young, grand slam, this pitch”.

    Sure enough, Young blasted one and I had seen my first in-person grand slam at what I think was my last trip to Riverfront Stadium.

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  6. I’m sure 100,000 people now claim they spent a rain filled September 16, 1988 night in Cincinnati’s Riverfront stadium. By the time Tom Browning threw his last pitch after midnight to complete his perfect game against the Dodgers there was just a few hundred fans left. My parents and I were three of those who lasted till the end. Till this day I still get cold chills thinking about it.

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