In 1968 I attended the University of Houston. It was an eventful year for me. As a student, I got to attend the regular season basketball game between the University of Houston and UCLA, which was held at the Astrodome. It was billed as “The Game of the Century” by the press, and 52,963 fans (including me) watched as the Cougars behind Elvin Hayes’ 39 points beat the Bruins and Lou Alcindor 71-69. Alcindor, whose eye was patched because of an injury, would avenge the defeat later in the year during the NCAA Tournament. It was not, however, my most memorable event at the Astrodome that year.
In April of 1968, I decided to hitch-hike from the Houston campus to the Astrodome to see my first ever MLB game between the Astros and the Cincinnati Reds. I sat in the left field bleachers, close to the playing field. Before the game started, Pete Rose was out in left field shagging balls. I finally got up the courage to talk to him.
“Pete why are you in left field? You won Rookie of the Year at second base in 1964.”
“Good question”, he answered. “What’s your name?”
“Harvey”, I answered.
“Well Harvey. Let me answer this way. I have never put on catcher’s gear in my life, but if they told me that the only way I could be in the starting line-up was to catch, I would be behind the plate right now. Get it?”
I got it. Pete talked to me between innings the entire game. He hit a double to drive in two runs and the Reds won 2-1.
At the game’s end Pete asked, “Well what do you think Harvey?”
I told Pete that, if the Astros had to lose, I was glad that it was him who beat us.
Pete smiled and asked what my last name was. I told him.
“We are coming back in June for a weekend series against you guys. I will leave four tickets for you at will-call for the Saturday game. I hope that you can come.”
June finally did come and I told a friend about the incident with Pete. My friend really did not believe me, but we took a couple of girls with us to make four. I assured my friend (since he was driving) that I would pay for the tickets if they were not at will-call.
The tickets were there at will-call for me, just as Pete had said. On the envelope was a message from Rose. “Glad you could make it Harvey. I have bad news. We are going to beat your team again! ---Pete”
My only excuse for not saving that note was how was I to know that He would one day be the all-time hits leader?
With an introduction to MLB baseball like that, no wonder it is my favorite sport!
Randy Johnson, The Big Unit, was as intense a baseball player as ever stood on the pitcher’s mound. Hardly anyone remembers that he actually played for the Houston Astros for half a season in 1998. He pitched in 11 games and had a 10-1 record. His ERA was 1.28 and he stuck out 116 batters in 84 innings. The Astros won their division that year but lost in the first round of the playoffs. Randy pitched and lost two games, giving up just three runs while his team supported him with only one run.
Randy has mellowed considerably since he has retired, as evidenced by the photo above taken at the Phoenix Open Pro-Am on Wednesday. It seems like Randy had a stalker who followed him for the entire match. Security came and they did not know which Randy Johnson to eject, so they left them both alone.
Tim Tebow won the closest to the hole contest on # 16. The guy is a pretty good golfer, as is Randy Johnson. Being 6’10” you would guess that Randy would have a hard time keeping it all together. You would be wrong. His golf swing is nice. It helps to explain how he finally got his act together in MLB.
114,000 came out for the Thursday starting day of The Phoenix Open, a new record for the first day of any golf tournament. It is supposed to rain Friday and Saturday. It may affect the size of the crowds but not their spirit. A fun time is had by all. Be sure to watch. The par 3 16th hole is like a mini Fenway Park. Don’t believe me? Watch and see.
It has also been said the Randy does not like to talk about the pigeon episode when he demolished a bird in mid-flight. This is not true, as evidenced by his business card as Randy Johnson-Photographer.
So much stuff is going on here in Phoenix in regards to the Super Bowl, that it is hard to follow it all. The golf tournament rocks every night at its Bird’s Nest venue, Kid Rock and Darius Rucker are just two acts playing this weekend. Downtown Phoenix is abuzz with free stuff to do at the NFL Experience. Scottsdale has all those parties for the Jet-setters, and Glendale has concerts like Los Lobos for free. Katy Perry is already there practicing with a bunch of high school kids (Shhh…it’s a secret). ESPN is broadcasting from Scottsdale every day and Camelback Mountain is in the background. Nobody cares about deflate-gate and that’s the way it should be.
THE CONVEX COINS
I saw these coins were going to be minted at the U.S. Mint and my jaw dropped. I thought, wow these are going to be neat. Then I learned that they were already released last year and the proceeds went to Baseball’s Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, N.Y. There were gold coins, silver coins, and non-precious metal coins. It is a neat design with the baseball on the front and a baseball glove on the cupped side on the reverse. How did I ever miss this? Am I the only one who is clueless in Phoenix?
When I was younger, I took a trip by car that took me through New York City. I scheduled the drive through NY City for 6 AM on a Sunday Morning. I drove by Yankee Stadium (it was 1976) and I swear that my heart started beating hard when I saw the old building that all those famous Yankees had played at. I parked my car and walked up and touched the stadium walls. The hairs on my arms were electrified from the experience. How could they ever have torn that place down? The history of baseball was contained in its ancient walls. What a shame.
High on my bucket list is a visit to Cooperstown. I know that my health will ultimately deny me, but what a magical place it must be. All the greats of baseball are there, save a select few who should be. Pete Rose is on my list as a player who should be there, if only for the kindness he showed to a young baseball fan almost 50 years ago. He made that boy a lifetime fan of the game.
Thanks for the read. If you want, you can leave a comment or two on the way out. Please don’t forget to check out IHM, my partner in crime on Fridays--->.