As a boy, my dad, Randy, hid between the appliances at the Coast to Coast Hardware store in Goldendale so he could watch Yankees games on CBS.
At the time, his family didn’t own a television set.
Those Saturday afternoons, watching Mickey Mantle, Yogi Berra and Whitey Ford on a grainy, black-and-white TV laid the foundation for one of the great loves of his life -- baseball.
He started going to games in the summer of 1959, when he visited family in California. In 1962, the family again went to California, and my grandfather, Donald, made sure it coincided with a Yankees-Angels game.My grandpa grew up in Wisconsin and Boise, listening to Babe Ruth and the rest of the original powerhouse Yankees in the 1920s and ’30s.
In the ’50s, my dad lay on the living room floor with his dad listening to the Dodgers and Giants on the family’s hi-fi, and later heard New York’s Bobby Richardson snare Willie McCovey’s line drive to end the 1962 World Series.
As he grew older, he started to find any means necessary to get to games, eventually including my mom, Robbie, and my brother, Mick, and sister, Olivia.
Along the way, he clipped out newspaper box scores from the games he attended, writing on the now weathered and yellow pages the names of who went with him.
On Super Bowl Sunday, I was at his home in Spokane and was thumbing through the stack of box scores, noticing how haphazard they were kept.
Considering how much he loves history and baseball, I recalled how a friend keeps track of all of the games he has been to by inputting them into a Microsoft Word document.
I decided to take all of my dad’s box scores and compile them in a Google document and present it to him as a surprise for Father’s Day.
Using Baseball-Reference.com, I typed up a paragraph about each game he went to, and wrote down stats about certain players, the teams he saw, the feats witnessed.
And did he ever see some amazing things in those 205 games, from Roger Clemens striking out 15 Mariners and nearly throwing a no-hitter during the 2000 American League Championship Series, to countless dominating performances by Randy Johnson.
On his wedding day on Sept. 29, 1973, he even found time to go to Oakland-Alameda County Coliseum to see Sal Bando hit a three-run home run as the Athletics beat the Chicago White Sox.
He saw Ken Griffey Jr. steal his first base in 1989 and Alex Rodriguez drive in his first run in 1994. He saw Derek Jeter’s major league debut in 1995 and watched Alfonso Soriano join the 30-30 club in 2002.
He attended a 15-inning game in 1987, Opening Day in 1983, playoff games in 1995 and 2000, a one-hitter by Bert Blyleven in 1973, a 15-strikeout night by Pedro Martinez, and saw Reggie Jackson hit a grand slam in 1985.
He has seen four batters record five hits in a game, including Mo Vaughn and Randy Velarde in the same contest in 1999. He has seen Edgar Martinez drive in seven runs in a playoff game, a heartbreaking defeat for his beloved Yankees. He was a part of the largest night game crowd in MLB history, one of 72,208 roaring fans at Mile High Stadium in 1993. He also was a part of a tiny crowd of 3,521 in Oakland in 1973.
He has seen 26 Hall of Famers, from Nolan Ryan to Goose Gossage to Harmon Killibrew.
He has visited 26 venues, from Yankee Stadium to Tiger Stadium to Comiskey to Wrigley and Fenway.
During his 99 games at the Kingdome, he experienced it all, from his older brother Gil, who worked at the Herald in the 1970s and ’80s, getting hit in the face with a line drive to riding out an earthquake in 1996.
There were the countless times the pirate ship in left-center fired its cannons to the times us boys tried to sneak past the crotchety old men, wearing blue Mr. Rogers cardigans, who guarded the box seats with vigor and kept the unwashed masses in the general admission outfield seats.
And there was the Plexiglas that made fans feel as though they were at a hockey rink, not a baseball game, and the Mariner Moose slamming into the outfield wall and breaking his ankle.
My dad gave Joe Torre and Don Zimmer a ride to a restaurant after a game in 1996, as there were no cabs outside the Kingdome that night.
Through it all, he brought his family along, instilling the joy of spending time together, laughing, crying, talking and witnessing history, all while watching a baseball game.
“It was our family place of connectedness,” he recently told me. “Instead of putting up a tent (while camping), we went to a stadium and shared experiences that way.
“I think it is a connection point. It is a family tradition. It creates memories and gathering points.”
Baseball was a love handed down to my dad from his father and older brother. My dad in turn gave it to my brother, sister and me, and we will pass it on to our children.
While I won’t be heading to a stadium with my father today, I plan on sitting in our normal seats in the second deck in left field at Safeco later this summer. Hopefully watching the Yankees beat the Mariners.
w Craig Craker: 582-1509; firstname.lastname@example.org