I was watching "Good Will Hunting" the other night (although I would not suggest the Bravo version; it was almost like a different movie at times), and in one of my favorite scenes, Robin Williams tells of the time he missed Game 6 of the 1975 World Series (considered by some to be the greatest of all Fall Classic contests) because he had to "see about a girl".
Now I am sure we've all had that feeling of "I wish I was there" when something spectacular happens at the ballpark, but in the case of Williams' fictional character, he actually had a ticket, and still missed the event.
And it got me thinking back to two prominent games that I missed in my lifetime, though the reasons have nothing to do with love. Call me the Anti-John; it is my brother John who twice found himself at the right place at the right time; once by process of elimination, the other by bold choice. In the first example, our tales are eerily similar, even down to the game details.
The Minnesota Twins arrived in town on September 21, 1970, just one victory from clinching their second straight American League West crown. On the mound for Oakland was 21-year old Vida Blue, a late-season call-up making his eighth big-league start. Said the southpaw:
"I made up my mind they weren't going to get it (the clinch) off me."
My uncle Dan had three tickets for the game, but at first found no takers. Finally he was able to get his sister (my Aunt Maxine) and John to go with him. And what a game they saw! Against Minnesota's formidable lineup, Blue allowed only a fourth-inning walk during a stirring no-hitter that kept the champagne on ice in the visitor's clubhouse. Several family members who declined Uncle Dan's tickets were later discovered kicking themselves.
It was déjà vu all over again, some thirteen seasons later. Only this time it was me doing the self-kicking. Tony La Russa and his Chicago White Sox came to Oakland on September 29, 1983, having wrapped up their first division title. Tonianne and her husband Michael had two extra tickets available; first deck, no less. And I passed. No special reason, except maybe I was just burnt out on baseball (did I really just type that?) Keep in mind that I went to 66 games that season; which means I only missed 15. I surely picked the wrong time to stay home; the Chisox collected exactly zero hits off of A's pitcher Mike Warren. I kid you not; I listened to the last two innings in my bedroom, begging for the Sox to get a hit, and pissed off at Bill King whose voice grew more excited with each out. The next day at school, I was hounded by classmates dying to know what it was like to witness a no-no, only to have them turn away with an "Oh, no!" To this day, twenty-five years later, my brother-in-law Michael still teases me about Mike Warren's no-hitter.
When I first pressed family members for their own stories, John pointed out that such instances would be rare, because tickets were (and still are) almost always available. True. But there were still some noteworthy games we've missed.
Sometimes a higher authority keeps us from attending. When Billy Martin managed his first game in Oakland, Mom made me stay home since I had not gone to school that day. Attempts to convince her that I had recovered from my, um, illness, fell on deaf ears. There was also the time the A's and Cleveland faced off in July 1974. Normally the World Champions would find it hard to get up for a game in July, especially against the lowly Indians, but this one carried some historical flavor: Gaylord Perry was going for his sixteenth straight victory that night, which at the time was an American League record. A heavy downpour throughout the day threatened to cancel the event- enough for Dad to convince Tonianne that the game would not be played, against her vehement objections. And of course they played, with the A's winning a thriller in ten innings, the deciding run driven in by 19-year old Claudell Washington, while Tonianne cried next to her transistor radio and cursed her father until she fell asleep.
(Six years later, Tonianne learned her lesson. When rain once again tried to intervene, my oldest sister went against Dad's orders to attend a doubleheader between Martin's upstarts and the hated Angels. In a steady drizzle, the A's won both games. Dad let his daughter's defiance slide, his heart clearly softened by the home team's sweep.)
The A's were down three-games-to-two in the 1973 World Series, but were heading home with the chance to defend the title they won the year before. Dad had two tickets to Game 6, and two more for Game 7, if it got that far. He offered first choice to John, who didn't hesitate. "I chose Game 7. There was no doubt in my mind that game would be played, and I wanted to be there for it." And he was right. Jim Hunter shut down the Mets in the sixth contest, setting up a winner-take-all finale. The A's won it 5-2, and John raced onto the field to celebrate a second straight World Series win.
Having been too young to fully appreciate the early glory years, I claimed 1988 as my own. It was my team, my time. I was there for Games 3 and 4 of the ALCS, as the A's finished off an impressive sweep of the Red Sox, and now only the Dodgers stood in the way of a return to the top. But on the eve of attending my very first World Series game, I came down with the stomach flu. Oh, I tried to fight it. I went to work in the morning, only to return home an hour later. I got in bed in hopes of sleeping it off, but finally I relented to the bug, and gave my ticket- my World Series ticket- to my oldest brother Ernie. Naturally, the A's won that night- their only victory of the Series- and it was in dramatic fashion, courtesy of Mark McGwire's walkoff homerun.
I had to laugh to keep from crying.
Instead of seeing this from my seat in Section 127, I was home in bed with the flu.
Any related moments to share, AN?
Donald (67) Marquez is an administrator at Athletics Nation and the author of the self-published "Generation A's Fans: A Family's Long Love Affair with one of Baseball's Best Teams". Available on-line or e-mail him directly at the address in his profile. $1 of each book sold goes to Ken Korach's "Winning for the Community" foundation.