Last year I was the lucky recipient of a free DVD copy of Game 5 from the 1985 NLCS. Yes, in case you’re wondering, that was the famous, “Go crazy, folks! Go crazy!” game featuring Ozzie’s historic home run. As I get ready to run out the door on my way to Florida, I thought I would simply share a few observations and thoughts from my experience as I watched that game. Enjoy!
Jack Buck was simply amazing. Being so young during the height of Buck’s career, I was never able to truly appreciate how enjoyable it was to listen to him call a game. Thankfully, the DVD has an audio selection feature that allows you to switch from the TV broadcasters to the radio broadcasters while watching the game. Don’t get me wrong…I love Mike Shannon…but Jack Buck was a different breed entirely. Listening to him call that game reminded me of why so many fans connect baseball on the radio to calm, midwestern summer nights spent on the front porch at night…or lounging on a fresh-cut lawn.
The general baseball experience seemed so different then. Almost more “child” like. Fans in the stands were so outwardly emotional – not just cheering and smiling, but looking genuinely distraught and out of their minds at times. I know modern-day FOX is fond of finding the single most depressed looking fan in the stands during the playoffs when the home team is about to be eliminated – usually a fan who is quietly and calmly crying, or a fan who has an empty look on his/her face – but watching fans in the stands of this game…it just seemed different. Less reserved. As if no one was ashamed of their fandom. No one had criticized them for living and dying by the box score. No one thought it odd at all that grown men and women would be jumping up and down like the Beatles just came to town…or weeping as if they had just been told a secret about a certain jolly fellow in a red suit. It just seemed more…open…sincere. Even in the 80s.
I am my father. Many of you have heard me tell my story as a fan (If you haven’t, CLICK HERE to read about it)…about how my father called me in one day during the All-Star Game and said, “Hey, Kevin! Come watch this guy do flips!” And lo’ a Cardinal fan was born. Perhaps one of my greatest moments watching this game from 1985 was right at the beginning…when Ozzie ran out to the field and performed his signature flips. I found myself, completely unprepared, yelling to my own children, “Come watch Ozzie do flips!” They loved it…as I did…but with less intensity. The realization and connection with my father – and my children - over a 20 – 30 year span even led me to purchase the Baseball’s Greatest Games collection on DVD for my dad at Christmas. After watching his first game – a World Series Game 7 with Mantle and Yogi – he called to tell me how much he enjoyed it…and then he shared a story. He told me about how his high school in a small Missouri town in the 60s had set up a TV in the gymnasium for Game 7. People from all over the town came to watch the Yankees in Game 7 of the World Series – on that high school gymnasium TV in the 60s. It was the biggest TV in town. You can imagine how small that TV was in comparison to now.
That school burned down not too long after that story took place, my dad said. But just hearing him tell it – and hearing the joy in his voice after watching a baseball game – made me realize just how much we need to appreciate those still among us who can share stories of baseball from generations before us.
Seek out those stories. Encourage others to tell them. They are a part of our history…and a part of us.
Okay, okay…that’ll do it. Thanks for reading!