by the numbers

i grew up on the texas coast. it was not a very far trip to go into houston for anything; gasoline was about 80 cents a gallon and the roads did not seem as congested as the last time i was in houston a couple of weeks ago. during the summers we played baseball, and worked. my friends and i had pretty flexible schedules. a season pass to astroworld (the amusement park that has long since been demolished to make way for a car dealership) was 40 dollars. so we would go it seems like now twice a week, but it was probably just every other week. on some days the astros would be in town.

you could leave astroworld and get your hand stamped so that you could re enter the park, and we would leave and walk over to the dome and for 4 dollars we could get bleacher seats in the outfield. we could see batting practice – i think once or twice we even got a bp home run ball. we would catch the game then head back over to the amusement park for a couple of final rides then head home.

i was in a restaurant last night watching the mariners and rangers broadcast. on the tv they of course have the ubiquitous crawler scrolling the news and scoring from the world of sports. i started thinking about how little that i have to know about, and how little i do know about baseball these days, because if i do not know something it will scroll by me again in about 8 minutes.

i will not say that i burned out on baseball, but like every sport i get tired of seeing millionaires argue with billionaires over how to split up money. obscene amounts of money. i know that it has always been this way. i remember reading a quotation that said something along the lines of – this is no longer a game, but a business – only it was said by john montgomery ward – in 1889. i used to be a much bigger sports fan, first basketball dropped off for me, baseball and hockey went about the same time. i still hold out on football, because of fantasy football that keeps me in contact with some friends, but for the most part my fandom is just not there.

i also wonder if that some of it has to do with information overload and too much espn. anyway i am getting lost on the way to my point here. the astrodome had the big scoreboard with all the flashing lights and things, until the oilers owner bud adams wanted more seats for football. didnt really affect baseball just the loss of the scoreboard. but they still put up the other games around the baseball world that day. back then i had 6 television channels. i got to see an american league game roughly once every two weeks, either if it was on nbc’s game of the week, or if it was on abc’s monday night baseball. the nbc games were a treasure, the primary game was called by vin scully (who is still the voice of the dodgers) and joe garagiola.

the thing was that while a few players changed teams, in general players stayed with one team for a while, and it was easy to remember jersey numbers. they would put up say 16 CAL 46 NYY and i knew immediately that mark langston was pitching against john candaleria. i might see 47 ATL 31 CHC and know that tom glavine was pitching against greg maddux.

now days they still have the scoreboards, but if i dont have my smartphone with me i dont know who is pitching at whom.

the season that the astros opened up what was then known as ‘enron field’ my brother and i bought season tickets. i have to say it was neat to be in the stadium all the time, neat to be around friends and make new friends. it was great to have all the fancy bells and whistles and see all the fancy scoreboards, but the thing i always liked the best was looking over in front of the crawford boxes and seeing the out of town games and seeing the pitching matchups.