It Was Passed to a New Generation
My earliest recollection about baseball was around 1970, when I was 9. Though my dad was not a sports fan, my mom did manage to get him to take her to Dodger games. Unfortunately, he (as a diabetic) had a heart attack at one of them.
My parents didn't take me to Dodger games when I was younger, but they brought back souvenirs, such as caps and player photos. One of my earliest favorite players was Jeff Torborg, who was a Dodger catcher at the time. At the time, I thought that catcher's gear was cool, and I liked how catchers were involved in every pitch.
Our family would change in 1973 when my dad left my mom. Their divorce was finalized the week before my bar mitzvah in 1975. Between my mom's bookkeeping salary and child support, we didn't have a lot of money. But my mom found Dodger games an affordable way to have family fun with my brother and me. In 1977 and 1978, when went to about eight to ten Dodger home games each season.
The late 1970s were a great time to be a Dodger fan. We had a All-Star infield with Steve Garvey, Davey Lopes, Bill Russell, and Ron Cey. Our pitching staff had Don Sutton and Tommy John. We also had a real hero in Rick Monday who saved an American flag from being burned in a 1976 game.
The heart of the team was manager Tommy Lasorda, who claimed he "bleeds Dodger blue." He would lead the Dodgers to the World Series in 1977 and 1978 and would win in 1981 and 1988.
I had the opportunity to meet ones of the Dodgers. Catcher Steve Yeager was signing autographs at a sports store in Sherman Oaks. I had my picture taken with him. Steve is now the manager of the Long Beach Armada in the Golden Baseball League, an independent minor league.
Although I loved watching baseball, I never played baseball that much. I was born with a club foot that had to be surgically corrected up until I was 5. As a result, my parents didn't have me play organized sports. I played baseball in Cub Scouts and school, and my mom got me a bounce-back net that helped me with catching. I never had any coaching, and I didn't have a dad around to teach me.
As an outlet for our desire to play the game, my brother and I made up our own fantasy league – decades before rotisserie and online fantasy leagues became popular. That experience helped my brother when he became a JV baseball coach in high school in the early 1980s. It would be helpful for me when I managed my son's Little League team decades later.
The late 1970s were mostly a happy time for our family, but the good times came to an end with my mom's stroke in 1979. The last time she would go to Dodger Stadium was in 1980, but her disability made it a difficult experience. She continued to root for Dodgers until she died in 1992. Our family's interest in baseball didn't die with her.