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Up & In — First Game Family Tradition

I have never forgotten my first Major League Baseball game. Believe it or not I did forget some of the details about it, but not the game itself.

It was at County Stadium in Milwaukee, Wisc. Along with just over 15,000 others I watched the Brewers beat the Kansas City Royals 4-0 on June 12, 1977.

I knew it was a Sunday, but the exact date, a more than a month shy of my 13th birthday – yes, I turned 50 last week, thanks for asking – was one of the those little details I had trouble recalling, but thanks to the Internet and a napping family Sunday I was able to run it down.

I have told the story for years about how it came to be that a Cincinnati Reds fan ended up taking in his first MLB game in Wisconsin so I’ll give you the Reader’s Digest version. The family was in Dayton, Ohio visiting relatives on my mother’s side when a relative on my father’s side requested we come to Wisconsin before going home so that my father, a brick layer, could put in a fireplace. While there the fact that the biggest baseball fan in the house had never been to a game came up – I brought it up – and from there came a Sunday afternoon trip from Racine into the city.

While there I watched Jerry Augustine throw a complete game shutout. For the 37 years since then I have told it as a four-hit shutout, but the aforementioned search informed me it was actually seven hits the Royals got that day, not four.

Looking at the names involved in the game I wonder why I always fixated on Sal Bando and Augustine’s performances, that later which was brilliant. Robin Yount started at shortstop that day. One of my all time favorite names, Sixto Lexcano and Cecil Cooper were also in Brewer blue, or whatever that color actually was.

While we’re namedropping, in the other dugout were George Brett, Freddy Patek, Hal McRae and Frank White.

The third basemen that day, Bando and Brett, were hitless. Von Joshua, Cooper, Don Money and pinch-hitting Tim Johnson drove in the runs that day.

I had the opportunity last week to share the MLB experience with my own children last week, fittingly I thought, in Kansas City. Why I had not done so before I’m uncertain but a check of the Royal schedule told the wife and me we could add an MLB game to an already planned trip to Branson, Mo., so we jumped at the chance.

No, they didn’t stat the game as I did way back then – still cannot believe I remembered the hit count incorrectly – but finding the data, should they ever decided to do so, will not be nearly so difficult, that is if they cannot locate the scorecard I completed live.

As was the case when I went to my first game, Carlee, 11, and Sarai, who is the same 12 years old I was, saw Kansas City lose. Perhaps that is fitting, too.

Going into it I figured with James Shields pitching the girls had a chance to see a well thrown game and they did. It was just that Shields labored through six innings of allowing just one earned run while Kyle Gibson was much better, allowing two hits in seven shutout innings.

It was Minnesota’s Josh Willingham getting a run home on a sacrifice fly and Brian Dozier driving in one run with a single. Eric Hosmer got the Royal RBI in the bottom of the ninth, but there would be no walkoff rally as Hosmer was stranded, still at first.

What impression the game left on my girls is hard to say. Oh they watched the game, but they also spent time on their electronic devices, going to the girl’s room and the other things folks do while at the ballpark these days.

I don’t blame them, I guess, the ballpark experience is quite different than it was in 1977. Our photo was taken on the way into the game, and I just may drop the ridiculous amount of cash for a print of it. The girls were given certificates for attending their first MLB game – the wife even conned them into one for me in recognition of my 50th birthday on KC’s off day on Monday.

I’m not sure either child will develop a love of the game like I did, but if they do, I know they will remember their first game. I would stop short of saying I have a new favorite team, but if my kids decided to take their my grandkids to a game, I hope they go to see the Royals play.

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