Jim Siergey: Almost & Never

November 21st, 2019

I recently read a post online stating that it was the birthday of Stan Musial. Stan “The Man” Musial is a Hall of Fame Baseball player who thrilled baseball fans in the 1940s and 50s. He was a hitting machine who hit for a high average and with power. He spent his entire 22 year major league career with the St. Louis Cardinals.

He was also known for his harmonica playing.

Reading this sent me back to the summer of 1963. With a group of guys, all of us barely in our early teens, I went to Wrigley Field to watch a doubleheader between the Cubs and the Cardinals. Yes, Virginia, baseball once regularly played doubleheaders.

I even remember the scores of the games, mainly because they were so disparate. Game One was 1-0 and Game 2 was 16-15 complete with a plethora of home runs.

Willie Mays
I was kind of excited because I was going to see the great Stan Musial in the flesh. It was at the end of his career, in fact it was the final season he would play, and he wasn’t the great hitter he once was but, hey, it was Stan the Man in person!

It turned out to be one of those lessons in not setting one’s hopes too high because Stan the (Old) Man struck out three times and looked terribly overmatched with each swing. He wasn’t even able to hit a foul ball.

I shoulda known better.

A couple of years earlier, my father took me to a White Sox-Yankees game at old Comiskey Park. Once again I was excited because I would get to see the great Mickey Mantle play.

Being a Chicagoan and a Sox fan, I, of course, hated the Yankees. Unlike our hometown teams, all they did was win. However, one could not ignore some of the great players on those teams and Mickey Mantle was one of the greatest of the current crop.

Mickey Mantle
Well, he didn’t strike out three times. He didn’t even play! (He was probably hung over, grumble, grumble). I did get to see him sitting on the bench in the dugout. Big whoop.

In the late ‘60s the Giants were in town playing the Cubs in, yep, a doubleheader. I couldn’t pass up this opportunity to see the great Willie Mays so I hustled on down to Wrigley Field.

The Friendly Confines were surrounded by a throng of humanity milling about in an unsuccessful bid to enter the sold-out ball park. There seemed to be as many people outside the park as there were inside. A friend of mine lived kitty-corner from the park on Sheffield Avenue so I went over there. We turned  the TV on but kept the sound off because we opened all the windows and listened to the sounds of the ballpark and the crowd.

So close, yet so far away.  Say hey.

The moral of this story is if you’d like to go to a sporting event in order to see a star player in person, you’d best not include me. Disappointment is the name on the back of my jersey.


Editor’s note: Jim’s last post for The Third City was Food For Thought

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