Candlestick Park, 1965. Don Drysdale vs. Juan Marichal. We sat in the upper deck, high above first base. I don't remember the score. Didn't matter. That day, I won.
Remember the first time you went to a baseball game with your father?
For a generation of Omahans, no doubt that memory happened right here in River City, down at the old yard. At the College World Series.
For many generations, baseball was the game that bonded fathers and sons, a bond for life. Certainly here, Nebraska football played that role, too. But in most places, as you and your parents grew older, baseball was your memory.
It's how many of us think of the time we had with our fathers. At a ballgame. Playing catch in the back yard. That's exactly why men are allowed to cry during “Field of Dreams.” Dad, want to have a catch?
It feels like a lost art these days. Catch. Keeping score. Spending time with parents, for that matter.
Exchanging texts with your kid is not having a catch.
Which is another reason I love the CWS.
In this world ruled by football and smartphone technology, you still see it here. Fathers and sons or daughters sitting side by side, from foul line to foul line, bleachers to upper deck, T-shirt stand to Zesto.
I saw some kid and his dad toting baseball gloves. Now that's old school.
I saw another kid and his dad sitting next to each other looking at their iPhones. I hope they were at least texting each other.
Welcome to the modern family. CWS games have brought families together for more than 60 years.
“I hope they still do,” said Kyle Peterson, an Omaha and CWS kid now working the games up in the ESPN booth.
“I was at these games with my dad all the time. That's how I grew up. I was at a ballgame with my dad all the time.
“I have so many specific memories of our times together, catching a foul ball off the press box window, the autographs, the late night games. Just spending time with him. That's how I remember my dad, through all the games we went to together.”
I can relate. I can't count the number of ballgames my dad took me to, just the highlights. Sandy Koufax's fourth no-hitter. The 1973 All-Star game in Kansas City. I was lucky.
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Years later, I now understand my good fortune had more to do with a father who took the time for his son. I now get it: That was our quality time together.
I still think of those days, and I can hear the organ and smell the popcorn and see the souvenir stands with the colorful hats and felt pennants on sticks, stuff you could buy only at a baseball game.
And I wonder about my own daughters, who are mildly interested in sports. What will they remember about their dad? What memories will they be able to always see, hear and taste?
The CWS isn't a bad place to start. I walked around Saturday, opening day, and it's always the best day. The organ was pumping and the funnel cakes were cooking. For a kid, there had to be magic in this.
Then again, as I walked around the concourse, I saw a flock of teenage girls, bumping into random people because they were walking and looking at their phones.
Does anyone still keep score? Maybe that would be a good idea for a phone app.
“My mom still keeps score,” Peterson said with a laugh. “But I know about the distractions. The kids today, they have a million other things they can do with their time. They didn't exist when I was a kid.
“Everything's changed. I don't think kids today know the game like they used to. Part of that is we're a highlight-driven society, and the highlights don't tell you the correct cutoff man or how to take the extra base.”
That used to be a father's job, his baseball duty, during that two-hour window at a game, when games used to last two hours.
But how many parents take their kids to a baseball game anymore? Who are the fans of tomorrow? Who are the CWS fans of the future?
They will be armed with smartphones. And they will go to ride the merry-go-around, like at Werner Park, or play miniature golf, like at Kauffman Stadium.
This is the world we live in. College athletic directors, as well as the honchos at the NFL, are already plotting to make their stadiums technologically friendly, to keep the young generation from just watching it at home on their phones.
What they need is a dad to take 'em to the game.
They'll no doubt be out in force today. Peterson will be among them, with 8-year-old son Teddy, sitting next to his grandpa, Monnie. Teddy doesn't have to grow up to pitch in the CWS, as his dad did. It's enough that they're at the CWS, period.
“It's the way I grew up, but you don't want to force it on him,” Kyle said. “But it's pretty neat when you see them getting autographs, trying to get batting gloves and stuff from the players, doing the stuff I used to do.”
Peterson had just finished calling the Mississippi State-Oregon State game for ESPN. He was headed downstairs to find his dad and his son and catch the Indiana-Louisville game.
See, at the CWS, every day is Father's Day.
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