The Los Angeles Times ran a feature over the weekend on former Major League pitcher Dennis Lamp, who, despite making more than $4.5 million during his career, currently works the seafood counter at a Bristol Farms supermarket in Newport Beach.
Over his 16 years of big league baseball, Lamp had several brushes with fame, including:
- giving up Willie McCovey’s 513th home run ( second most for left-handed batters at the time);
- giving up Lou Brock’s 3,000th hit; and
- giving up the first of Cal Ripken’s 3,184 hits.
Anyone else notice a pattern there?
But for me, the most memorable moment of Dennis Lamp’s career came in 1985 when 5 year old Dustin Parkes attended his first Major League Baseball game at Exhibition Stadium.
Growing up, my personality was the complete opposite of my father’s. He was an extroverted salesman who was shameless in approaching anyone. I was an introverted loner who felt ashamed about everything. Yet, somehow, we found common ground in baseball, which likely accounted for about 85% of our interaction.
We arrived early for my first game, and as usual, I was unable to express my excitement through any other means that quickly darting my eyes all over the baseball field as the players stretched and warmed up. My dad talked our way down to the unoccupied field level seats on the third base side where a tall pitcher with an enormous mustache was casually throwing a ball harder than I’d ever seen before.
As we watched, other kids came to where we were standing and began bothering Dennis Lamp for a baseball. The idea that you could just ask this guy for a ball seemed so foreign to me, like walking up to a construction worker and asking for a hammer, but before I knew it, my dad too joined in with the chorus of pleas. Of course, I stood there silently, not wanting to even verge on seeming inappropriate.
Finally, Lamp gave in, and tossed a ball he was warming up with to a kid right beside me, but just as the ball was about to reach its intended target I saw a big glove reach from behind my shoulder and snag the ball out of the air. I looked back to find that it was my father who caught the ball. Ignoring Lamp’s indignant stare he handed me the baseball while explaining to the little kid he had stolen it from that the pitcher would throw him another. The unimpressed Lamp eventually fired off another baseball to the cheated kid as we hurriedly left the section.
Embarrassed, deeply ashamed, yet delightfully pleased, I have a hard time remembering any other moment from my first Major League Baseball game other than stopping my dad from getting the ball signed by BJ Birdie because it was “only for players,” not for mascots.
Those type of mixed emotions I felt for my dad in my Dennis Lamp moment, perfectly describes a lot of other moments too. Unfortunately, later, in the autumn of that same year, our father-son relationship was irrevocably harmed when my dad did the unthinkable: after somehow getting tickets to Game One of the ALCS, he took one of his friends instead of me. Our interactions were never the same after that.