Photos and Finishes
In downing the Yankees on Wednesday, the Angels won their fourth AL West title in five years and became the first team in the majors to clinch a playoff spot when the Texas Rangers lost to the Seattle Mariners 8-7 in a game that concluded about an hour after Francisco Rodriguez had nailed down his 56th save of the season. Meanwhile, the Yankees are likely to miss the playoffs for the first time since 1993. New York has had one heckuva run during this period, winning four World Series championships, including three in a row from 1998-2000.
I had the good fortune of sitting in the front row behind the Angels' dugout on Tuesday evening. The adjoining photo was published on the top of the front page of the Long Beach Press-Telegram's sports section yesterday. That's me giving Ervin Santana an appreciative clap of the hands after the Angel starter exited the game in the seventh inning behind 6-1. While Santana drew the loss, the 25-year-old All-Star pitcher is enjoying a breakout season, ranking in the top half dozen in the league in ERA (3.36), WHIP (1.12), SO (197), IP (198.1), wins (15), and WPct (.714).
While the Angels were celebrating their division title, I had this epiphany and began to wonder on my drive home just how many MLB games I have attended over the course of my lifetime. Without thinking it through, my initial guess was "about a thousand." However, after putting pencil to paper, I believe the real number is somewhere in the low 600s.
OK, so how did I arrive at that estimate? Let me count the ways (or the games in this case). I've been going to the ballpark on a fairly regular basis since Dodger Stadium opened in 1962 (see linked photo, circa 1961, with brother Tom on the left, sister Janet on the right, and me standing next to her in what would later become the outfield). Roughly speaking, I would venture to say that I have averaged around 15-18 games per year for about half of those 47 years and maybe 8-10 for the other half. That works out to approximately 600. From there, I would add 10 or 20 games from the Coliseum years from 1958-1961 to come up with a grand total of around 615-620.
My peak years were from 1962-1978 and 2002-2008. The lean years were from 1979-2001. The latter was a combination of Dad's death in 1978 – reducing the number of opportunities to go for free (hey, what can I tell ya?) – and the priorities of adulthood, including family and business. I thoroughly enjoyed my time as a youth sports coach from the mid-1980s through the mid-1990s, even if it meant watching Kirk Gibson's home run in the 1988 World Series on TV rather than in person.
My love for baseball has never wavered, except for a brief period in 1994 and early 1995 when I swore off the game on the heels of the player strike that numbed me more than anything else. I had to be talked into our fantasy baseball pool that spring despite being a charter member dating back to the 1970s when I balanced playing fast-pitch softball, fantasy baseball, and APBA in the years leading up to and including the first few years of married life.
Over the years, I have watched MLB games in a dozen venues, from the Coliseum as a kid to Yankee Stadium as recently as last May when my son Joe and I took the baseball trip of a lifetime. I have also been to dozens of high school, college, minor league, and spring training facilities, and have even attended an NCAA Final Four at Tropicana Field in Tampa Bay. But there is no question that I have spent the vast majority of my time watching professional games at Dodger Stadium (left, with Tom in 1962) and Angel Stadium.
One of the things I haven't had the pleasure of enjoying is a Freeway Series. Maybe this will be the year that the Dodgers and Angels meet for all the marbles. It would only be fitting for me in what is Dad's 80th birthday, the Dodgers' 50th anniversary in L.A., the 40th anniversary since my father left the Dodger beat and went to work for the then California Angels, the 30th anniversary of his death, and the 20th anniversary of Gibson's home run.
In the meantime, the Yankees head back to New York for the final 10 games in Yankee Stadium. The end of an era in more ways than one.
How many MLB games and stadiums do you suppose you have you been to?