Two months ago, I discovered a trove of old home videos, mostly from the early to mid-1990s, on half-hour-long VHS-C tapes. Anyone remember those? If not, I envy you, but anyway, I’ve been quite busy lately converting them digitally, cataloging all the highlights, and cringing at my younger self. This is relevant to ballhawking because six of the videos were filmed at major league baseball games, including this one at Fulton County Stadium — the former home of the Atlanta Braves — on the final day of the 1992 regular season. If I had the skills, I’d edit the footage into a tight little segment and post it online. Perhaps I’ll learn how to do it someday, but for now I’ve taken a bunch of grainy screen shots and pieced the day back together.
It started with a late-morning drive to the stadium:
I was 15 years old. This was the fifth stadium I’d been to, and I’d snagged a lifetime total of 145 baseballs — not bad, I suppose, but looking back on it now, I had no idea what I was doing.
I was *so* looking forward to batting practice, but of course it was drizzling:
I walked up alongside the line, and with my camera still running, I zoomed in through the gates:
Given the fact that I grew up attending games at two stadiums (Shea and old Yankee) with solid gates that prevented fans from peeking inside, I always loved doing it on the road.
I should mention that I was at this game with my dad, Stu, my half-sister, Martha, and her then-girlfriend, Sandra. Here’s a closeup of my dad holding his ticket:
Our seats were on the lower level in left field. They cost nine dollars apiece. Sigh.
Here’s what it looked like as I entered the stadium:
Less than a minute later, I headed through a tunnel for my first look at the field:
No batting practice:
But the place was beautiful! (That’s probably what I was thinking at the time, but looking back on it now, ew.)
Here’s what the stands looked like on my left:
No standing room.
Lots of dead space behind the outfield walls.
What a nightmare of a stadium.
There was very little action early on. For a while, the best I could do was hang out along the right field foul line and try to get a ball thrown to me by the Braves:
In case you couldn’t tell, that’s me up above, looking at the camera. And hey, did you notice that I wasn’t wearing any Braves gear? I was totally unprepared, and that was just the beginning. Soon after failing to get anything in that spot, I noticed a ball sitting in a gap in foul territory. It’s hard to describe, but basically there was a random patch of dead space ten feet below me. Old stadiums were weird like that. I remember there being at least a dozen fans packed against the railing, peering down at the ball, waiting for someone to wander out and retrieve it and toss it up. If I had my glove trick, I would’ve snagged the ball easily, but I didn’t invent that device until the following season.
Thankfully I had a Padres cap, and shortly before game time, I used it to get a ball thrown to me by someone you definitely haven’t heard of: Guillermo Velasquez. He was playing catch in shallow left field, and I was in foul territory, and a light mist was falling, and there wasn’t any competition. Did I ask him in Spanish for the ball? Did I even know how to ask for a ball in Spanish back then? I have no idea. All I can tell you that it was one of those old National League balls with William D. White‘s signature. This is not the actual ball I snagged that day, but the logo looked like this.
Here’s a view from my seat at game time:
Look who was warming up:
That was future Hall of Famer Tom Glavine. At the time, he was wrapping up his second of three consecutive 20-win seasons.
Here’s an awkward shot of me holding my baseball:
I was self-conscious about being fat and zitty and therefore didn’t really want to be filmed, but what could I do? My dad had briefly taken control of the camera, so he captured what he deemed important, including Martha (with the goofy grin) and Sandra (giving the peace sign):
If Martha looks familiar, that’s because I’ve blogged about her many times, most recently when we were in St. Martin last month. Remember? She was also with me for MLB’s Opening Series at the Tokyo Dome in 2012, and we’ve traveled together several other times.
Before returning the camera to me, my dad filmed this:
He always felt a special connection to Warren Spahn; way back in 1939, he was a ballboy for a minor league team that Spahn played for. How’s THAT for a random/ancient connection?
Glavine retired the Padres in order in the top of the 1st inning. Tony Fernandez led off with a routine fly ball to right field. Kurt Stillwell followed with groundout to short, and then Darrin Jackson was called out on strikes:
Before the bottom of the 1st got underway, I filmed my new favorite player — Guillermo Velasquez — warming up in left field:
After having seen fans doing the Tomahawk Chop countless times on TV, it was fun to see actual (well, foam) tomahawks in person:
In the bottom of the 1st, Otis Nixon led off with a single to left field, advanced to second on a sacrifice bunt by Jeff Blauser, and scored on Terry Pendleton’s 199th hit of the season — a single to center. David Justice followed with a two-run homer, giving the Braves a quick 3-0 lead:
I decided to take a little walk. I headed through the concourse . . .
. . . and got a glimpse of the field from the 3rd base side:
I wanted to be closer to the action, and to my surprise, it was easy. This wasn’t Shea Stadium, where all the mean old ushers, it seemed, were out to get me, or Yankee Stadium, where the robotic guards fiercely protected the dugout seats. This was Atlanta, baby! I could go wherever the hell I wanted! Check it out:
There was a cross-aisle that made it easy to move around:
In the screen shot above, that’s a vendor walking in front of me — snazzy uniform, huh?
After an inning or two, I headed back to left field and rejoined my family. We were all amused by this guy sitting nearby, who was fast asleep:
My dad did the Tomahawk Chop:
Martha showed me her hot dog:
This was my dad’s reaction:
When Pendleton came to bat in the bottom of the 5th, he was still one hit short of a milestone:
I really wanted to see him get No. 200, but he grounded out:
He batted again in the 8th inning . . . and grounded out again. One inning later, Vinny Castilla (who then had just 20 career at-bats) replaced him and ended up getting an at-bat in the 10th. Can you believe that?! Pendleton could’ve had another shot at 200 hits — a plateau he never ended up reaching in the major leagues — but missed his final chance.
Late in the game, I couldn’t help but notice this guy:
The screen shot above doesn’t capture his true essence. He was wandering into every section and hollering at the players and revving up his fellow fans. Here’s a better look at his sign:
Uncle Willy, huh? Well, guess what? It turns out he was somewhat well known and also spent a lot of time at Yankee Stadium. Check this out.
The Padres ended up winning, 4-3, in 12 innings on an RBI single by Paul Faries. Randy Myers got the win, Pedro Borbon Jr. took the loss, and the game only lasted 3 hours and 15 minutes.
Back in the car, Martha said, “Thank GOD you got a ball so we don’t have to listen to you KVETCH!!” Then she added, “Can I see it?” and snatched it out of my glove:
I love her.
My dad was a bit more dignified. Here he is tipping his cap to say goodbye:
As for me . . .
Rather than posting a screen shot that looks like all the others, I’ll show you what it looked like on my laptop as I cataloged all the highlights last night:
Now, I wonder which video I should watch next . . .