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What makes up a memory?
2006-08-10 07:00
by Bob Timmermann

Although it doesn't seem like it was a long time ago to me, back in October of 1977, I experienced a bitter disappointment. The Dodgers had made it to the World Series. I was excited beyond belief. Even though the Dodgers had been in the World Series in 1974, for some reason, I really wanted to go to this one in person.

The tickets were going to be sold through one of the predecessors of Ticketmaster, an outlet called Ticketron. People wanting tickets had to go line up outside a Ticketron facility on a Sunday and then come back the next day to purchase the seats. I'm not quite sure how the whole process was supposed to work, but I always figured that there was a healthy amount of graft involved. One of my mom's friends drove my brother Tom and I down to a May Company store at the Topanga Plaza mall, where we got in to a queue of sorts and wrote down our names to put us on a waiting list. Except that I wasn't going to be there on Monday to buy the tickets since I had to go to school, but I had arranged people to get them for me the next day.

After school that Monday, I tore home to find out which tickets had been purchased for me. But as it turned out, there were no tickets to be had. All the available seats for the three scheduled games were sold out before our names were called.

I was beside myself. I wanted to go to the World Series so badly. Why was it so hard to get a ticket? Why did the Dodgers make it nearly impossible to get a seat? These questions weren't easy to answer for an 11-year old.

My mom took me aside and told me a story that night. It was about her World Series experience. It was 33 years earlier.

Back in 1944, my mother, living in St. Louis, didn't care that the best players in baseball were off serving in the military. She was excited that the two St. Louis teams, the Cardinals and the Browns, had won their respective leagues and would meet in the World Series. It would be the "Streetcar Series" although you didn't need to travel anywhere between games as both teams shared the stadium, Sportsman's Park, located at the corner of Grand and Dodier.

The map below shows the locations where Mom grew up (mark in SE corner) and where Sportsman's Park was (mark in NW corner)

While I grew up in a nice middle class neighborhood in the suburbs with both parents around, my mom grew up nearly all of her life with just one parent: her mother. Her father, whose alcoholism was likely the least of his problems, died when Mom was three in a suspicious speakeasy accident. My mom spent much of her life living in a home that she, her older sister, and her mother (who was a very nice woman, but had to work long hours to support her children during the Great Depression) had to share with her grandparents and her aunts and uncles. And one of her uncles was a jazz musician, who would invite his friends over late at night and play music into the wee hours of the morning. This assured that no one ever got any sleep.

Mom around age 1 or 2

My great-grandmother, a Croatian immigrant, was not an easy woman to live with. She butted into everyone's lives. She detested her daughters and granddaughters and only showed any affection for her male children. Mom didn't like to stay around that house too much and would often go visit her other grandparents (the ones from her father's side). In addition to being a happier place, these grandparents and her aunts and uncles on this side of the family truly liked her, although they were an odd bunch in their own way. Regular employment was not one of their trademarks.

But, as a bonus, they lived near Sportsman's Park. So my mom would take the streetcar or bus to visit her other set of grandparents and then walk to Sportsman's Park. The Cardinals and Browns both had "Knothole Gang" programs. Kids would be allowed free entrance into the bleachers for nearly every game. Boys would sit in one pavilion and girls in another. And, since this was St. Louis in the 1940s, black fans had yet another entrance. She made it a point to remind me of what St. Louis was like when she was a kid.

Mom grew up loving the Cardinals. It helped that they were one of the best teams in the National League much of this time. The Cardinals won the pennant and World Series in 1942 and lost in the World Series in 1943. In 1944, the Cardinals blew away the rest of the National League, winning 105 games. The Browns, thanks to the leveling of the playing field by the war, won their first ever AL pennant with just 89 wins.

Mom (on the right) with her sister and my grandmother in the late 1930s, outside their home in St. Louis

Although this World Series was not exactly a big deal to the rest of the United States, it was a matter of great importance to the people of St. Louis. And when tickets went on sale, they sold out quickly. My mom hoped that her Uncle Roy would come through with tickets to one of the games, but it was not to be. Just like me, she was shut out and she cried over the disappointment.

Mom's 15th birthday was October 8. In 1944, it was a Sunday. And it was also the day of Game Five of the World Series, with the series tied at 2-2.

There were some birthday presents for her to open up, but nothing special. One present was a large box. And it had another box inside of it. And then another. And then more and more newspaper. Mom tore through it looking hoping that it wasn't some gag played on her by the many relatives living with her. But finally, underneath the newspapers, were a pair of tickets to Game Five. Uncle Roy, who worked in a tavern, made a deal with someone and got a pair of seats. Roy, who never married or had children, liked my mom because she was fun to go to ballgames with. And it was likely that Mom kept reports of Uncle Roy's gambling losses to herself.

The Cardinals would win that game 2-0 behind a shutout from Mort Cooper and homers by Ray Sanders and Danny Litwhiler. It featured a then World Series record 22 strikeouts.

But Mom never remembered the details of the game. She didn't even remember where she sat. What she did remember was that she got a pair of tickets to see the World Series. At age 15, she finally got something that she truly wanted as a gift. She never mentioned any gift she received as a child either for her birthday or Christmas to me ever. Just this one.

Back in 1977, I didn't realize how this story was supposed to cheer me up though. I thought, "Yeah, but you still got to go." But Mom told me to hold out hope that maybe something would come up. She said there was still time.

The 1977 World Series opened up in New York and the Dodgers and Yankees split Games 1 and 2. The Series started on a Tuesday in 1977 and Game 3 would be on Friday, October 14. When I left school that day, my brothers Michael and Tom met me outside of school. Which I thought was odd since they didn't attend the same school as I did. They were told that they had to make sure I had to come straight home and not go to a friend's house.

My elementary school was just a few blocks away so I took the short walk wondering what was up. It wasn't like I was going to go anywhere anyway; the World Series was on that night. And this was the West Coast, so the game would start around 5 pm.

When I got home, my brothers told me to get ready to go over to Dodger Stadium. My brother Tom and I were going there with my cousin, who possessed important things, like a car and a driver's license. I asked how we got tickets. I was told me that Mom asked my Uncle John (her brother-in-law who worked at the local Anheuser-Busch plant and my cousin's father) and he had pulled some strings and made a deal and got a pair of seats. I don't know how much she had to pay for them. It may have been as high as the princely sum of $20 per seat. They had a face value of $8.

But I was going to the World Series, and one between the Dodgers and the Yankees, no less. There would be bunting hung up in the park! There would be overpriced programs and souvenirs to buy! I was going. And I went. And the Dodgers lost 5-3. But I was happy anyway. I had been to the World Series!

My mom passed away on this day 13 years ago. For someone who had such a profound effect on my life, I always seem to come back to this story when I think of my mom. Many parts of my memory of her seem so abstract. Even her appearance in old photos seems surprising to me. It's harder and harder to remember what her voice sounded like. But I suppose it's just this one deed that she did for me that remains part of my memory of her.

I could say that it is a memory of how much my mom and I both loved baseball. But maybe, it's a memory of what Mom wanted for her kids. She didn't want them to be disappointed all the time. She knew that life would be unfair and sometimes you would have to put up with that unfairness. But she also realized that sometimes, if you get the chance, you can do something extraordinary for one of your children. You might not know what that will be, but I think back in 1977, Mom knew that she had a chance to make one of her children as happy as she was 33 years earlier. A chance to experience something that may have been just a once in a lifetime event.

It's still something that I can never forget about Mom. I wish I didn't have to have nothing but memories of my mother. I'd rather have the real person. But I can't have that. But I have this memory. And I hope that I never lose it.

2006-08-10 07:16:27
1.   DXMachina
Great story.
2006-08-10 07:16:36
2.   Sam DC
Well, a lot of us have it now, so there's much less chance it'll get lost.

What a moving piece. It's funny, I now relate to stories like this in two ways - through my own experience as a child (and one who has just lost a parent), but also as a parent, wondering what it is that my kids will take away from me. I hope my wife and I give them some powerful memories, as your mom did for you.

I hope you have a peaceful day.

-- sam

2006-08-10 07:24:56
3.   Derek Smart
Just a great story, Bob. Thank you so much for sharing it.

It makes me think of my father, the 15th anniversary of whose passing will come at the end of September, and a similar sort of story.

It was June 14, 1990, and at the time I was a huge Trailblazers fan (I was born and raised in Portland). Game 5 of the NBA Finals were that night, and while things didn't look good for my team against the mighty Pistons (they were down 3 games to 1), they still had some life left and were playing at home.

Well, my father came home a little earlier than ususal, and he had a giant grin on his face. Somehow he'd gotten seats from his office - very good seats - for the game that night, and when he flashed those tickets I think, to him, the look on my face was like a full-course meal to a starving man.

The Blazers lost that night, and I had to watch the Pistons celebrate their championship in front of me, but it was still one of the most electrifying experiences of my life, and a wonderful gift. I just hope, somewhere, he knows how much I appreciated it.

2006-08-10 07:30:46
4.   mehmattski
Awesome story, thanks so very much for sharing it with us. It is stories like these that will ensure that baseball will never die as the true American pasttime. Seriously, how many stories like this are there about football or basketball games? As seen in stories like yours, and in the games played in 2001, baseball is the catharsis for a nation and its people. There is no matching it.
2006-08-10 08:34:41
5.   Stevenalpert
Great reading. She was a terrific woman.
2006-08-10 08:49:12
6.   Kels
Great stuff. Thanks for sharing.

Mothers are awesome.

2006-08-10 09:09:29
7.   Humma Kavula
Thank you, Bob, for this story.
2006-08-10 11:40:00
8.   Brendan
Beautiful story, Bob. I turned 8 years old that October. That 1977 team is the first team I can remember following every day on the radio and in the newspaper. 1st team in the history of baseball to have 4 players hit 30 homeruns. I remember listening to dusty baker hitting his 30th in his last at bat against J.R. Richard in the last game of the season. I can still see the big old "portable" radio we used to have(dodger home games were not televised unless it was The Game of the Week). Thank you again for this story. Great memories.
2006-08-10 11:46:15
9.   Linkmeister
What a wonderful tribute. Thanks for sharing it, Bob.
2006-08-10 12:00:59
10.   Xeifrank
Great story Bob. I was 10 years old during that World Series, and was an avid Reds fan at that time. What I remember about that World Series is after the Dodgers lost game one, how Yankee stadium was lit up and the "New York, New York" song was blaring. This actually upset me and I began to root for the "local" team for the first time... out of "west coast" pride. Ever since, I began liking the Dodgers and my love of the Cincinnati Reds began to slowly fade away.
vr, Xei
2006-08-10 13:06:35
11.   JMK
Not sure why, but your story was extremely touching for me. Big, big thanks.
2006-08-10 14:53:19
12.   Jacob L
Great story, Bob. As I was telling you the other day, I went to Game 4 in 1981, and though it doesn't have the kind of resonance in deep family history that you're describing, I don't ever take for granted the fact that I got to do that once in my life. I was 10 in 1981, and that's pretty much the best age for going to the Series.

On the other hand, I don't think I'd remember it quite so fondly if we'd lost. Thank you, Jay Johnstone!

2006-08-10 15:11:56
13.   Bob Timmermann
Thanks everyone who read this. I enjoyed writing it. I'm glad you were able to enjoy it as well. The surprising thing for me was how fast I found the ticket stub from the 1977 World Series and that I still had it. My mom didn't save anything from her St. Louis baseball going days except for one autographed baseball.
2006-08-10 15:26:03
14.   SCRocks
Thanks for sharing.


2006-08-10 16:04:55
15.   tjshere
Terrific stuff, Bob. A powerful and moving read to say the least. Thank you for taking the time to share it with us.
2006-08-10 16:13:21
16.   Strike4
I was also in the left field pavilion for Game 3! Got mine inside the Covina Wards store. The game was an unremarkable Dodger loss, but Linda Ronstadt's rendition of the anthem is my second favorite ever.
2006-08-10 16:16:13
17.   Bob Timmermann
I remember Linda Ronstadt's national anthem also. My brother and cousin seemed to enjoy it more, but they were older. In many ways.
2006-08-10 18:28:17
18.   Inside Baseball
Simply beautiful, thanks Bob.
2006-08-10 21:39:07
19.   MarkW
Bob, I was deeply touched by your story. Your love for baseball has a broadened context for me now.

Many thanks for sharing this beautiful story.

I suspect your mother still was relatively young when you lost her. I wish I could have met her. She raised a great son.

Mark W.

2006-08-11 00:16:35
20.   Greg Brock
Thank you for sharing that will all of us, Bob. Aldous Huxley said that every man's memory is his private literature. Thanks for making your private literature public. We're all the better for it.
2006-08-11 12:43:24
21.   Bluebleeder87
great read Bob, even though she's gone she will always be in you're heart & mind.
2006-08-11 21:32:37
22.   garth s
Thank you.
2006-08-11 23:08:33
23.   popup
What a quality composition. Thanks Bob, and though I did not know her, thanks to your Mom too. Baseball inspires the finest writing of any sport that I know of.

Stan from Tacoma

2006-08-12 13:37:10
24.   ScoobyGoo
2006-08-12 19:28:04
25.   Rich Lederer
Nice, Bob. Very nice. A wonderful tribute. Writing this story will help preserve your memory of her and these events. Good job!
2006-08-12 19:47:13
26.   scareduck
Great story, Bob. And,

She detested her daughters and granddaughters and only showed any affection for her male children.

OMG, from family descriptions of my great-grandmare, this fits her to a tee, including the bit about being recent immigrants from Europe (Germany instead of Croatia). My grandmother was a fraternal twin with my great uncle, and it seemed, while she was alive, like she was afraid of life, and just let it happen to her, unlike your mother. I wonder if this was common in the Midwest in those days.

2006-08-13 11:02:07
27.   Bob Timmermann
Officially, my great grandparents were immigrants from the Austro-Hungarian Empire. It sounds cooler.

I don't know how uniform the experience was. My mom was able to get out of her situation in part because she was pretty smart and was able to get a scholarship to go to a college. It wasn't a great college and it went out of business as soon as she graduated, but she got a degree and a decent job. She and my dad moved out to California in 1960 because my dad wanted to get away from his parents.

But that's a whole other story ...

2006-08-14 16:49:40
28.   ronceyrules
Bob -
A beautifully written story...just what I'd expect. Your mom would be proud.
2006-08-15 07:48:07
29.   Marty
I can't believe it took me this long to see this story. Great writing Bob. It reminds me that the only World Series game I've attended was with my mom who was a much bigger Dodger fan than my father.

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