Today's Leftover Personal Memory

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.

Comments (3)

  1. Was your vengeance swift and decisive?

    All I remember from my first MLB game was sitting up in the bleachers by first base at Exhibition with the Jays against Boston.

    Your story is much more interesting. Thanks for sharing your therapy session.

  2. Great story (apart from the ending – boo Parkes’ dad – unforgiveable ;) ) about my favourite baseball season ever. It included a six games in six days baseball trip (Yankees [vs Red Sox from the infamous upper deck in RF - serious vertigo] – Indians [vs Jays and we lost on a complete game by Tom freaking Waddell against Dave Stieb - Ugh] – the craptacular Pirates [vs Reds - saw Dave Parker in batting practice - gawd, he was huge] – Phillies [vs Dodgers - Mike Marshall hit a Grand Slam two seats to the right of where we were sitting and my friend's dad was in there valiantly fighting for the souvenir to no avail...Then the awesomeness that was Pedro Guerrero hit an absolute bomb for 3 runs into the deck above us at the Vet] – Mets [vs the crappy Giants - Terry freaking Leach threw a complete game three hit shutout at them - Ick] – wrapping up in Fenway [vs Twins where I caught a scorching line drive in BP, which left a mark, and got a standing O from the BP sized crowd, which turned my face beet red according to my friends – You’re not alone in your introverted lonerness ;) – before you ask, yes I was wearing a glove, but I was a kid and I probably would’ve been killed without it), the 5-1 clincher against the Yankees (I kept the dirt I scooped up from the infield for quite a while), and Game 1 of the ALCS. A bunch of us left school at about 1 pm for an 8ish pm start time. We were not going to be denied (relatively) good seats in the old grandstand. We were not going to sit 2 miles beyond the RF/CF fence damnit. Despite the World Series years, my absolute favourite baseball memories are from that year.

    As for first games, mine was in 1977 against the (then) California Angels and it was my uncle that took me. Dad was a football fan, who tolerated my baseball obsession, but I’m not sure he ever really understood it. Still it gave us something to talk about, which as you alluded to can be rather difficult between fathers and sons. He dutifully took me to games over the years and sometimes we dragged the whole family along.

    BB-Ref tells me the pitching matchup that day was Jesse Jefferson against Wayne Simpson. Jays won 6-4, with future (totally undeserving Cy Young winner) Pete Vuckovich getting the save. Other tidbits: Ron Luciano worked Home Plate and Ken Kaiser had 1B – two of the more “colourful” umpires in baseball history. Current broadcaster Alan Ashby caught and went 1 for 3. For Cali: Jerry “Rem Dawg” Remy started at 2B, Barry Bonds’ daddy was in RF, Don Baylor was still playing LF (his arm forced him to DH not long after), the great (HoFer in my book) Bobby Grich started at SS, not 2B, and future Blue Jays jailbird Willie Mays Aikens made the final out as a pinch hitter in the ninth. I don’t remember any of it, but thanks to BB-Ref, I can pretend I do. ;)

  3. [Getting Blanked], that was [Getting Blankeding] long. Sorry about that chief.

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