Getting older means remembering things from 40 years ago but forgetting what you ate for dinner the night before.
In baseball terms, it's recalling that Tom Seaver went 25-7 in 1969 (and Jerry Koosman 17-9, and so on...) but not being able to tell you what John Maine's record was in 2007. OK, some of it is priorities: As a kid, thinking and watching baseball and the other major sports took up about 90 percent of my time. There are other things now.
I've often told of the memories I have of going to baseball games as a child in the 1960s. And I'm known for having an amazing ability to clearly recall events from my childhood. I've been told that by childhood friends, grammar-school acquaintances and sports fans. If it happened in school, in the neighborhood, or in the sports world, I tend to see it as if it just happened.
Recently, I thought I'd investigate some of the games I remember attending at Shea Stadium through a fantastic Web site called baseball-reference.com, which has every major league boxscore dating to 1957.
I was spurred by a conversation I had with my son upon picking him up at the airport after his recent trip to San Diego.
He had attended a couple of Mets-Padres games (and you know how that went). I reminded him that the first game I took him to was not at Shea Stadium, but at Jack Murphy Stadium in San Diego on a California family vacation in 1987, when he was 4 years old. I told him the first home run he saw was by Benito Santiago, but that the Mets won, 9-1.
"How can you remember that?" he asked, knowing I'm not the type to go out of my way to recall such things. I just do.
Then, with Father's Day coming up, I related to him the first time my late dad took me to Shea. I thought it was 1965 and I knew it was a double-header against the Dodgers (my father's allegiance was to both the Mets and Dodgers, since he grew up a fan in Brooklyn).
I recalled Hall of Fame pitcher Don Drysdale, a solid hitter, beating the Mets in Game 1 and hitting a homer. And I recell a guy named Wally Moon also homering. Perhaps I remember that because at the time I thought it was a funny name. I recall the second game being postponed by rain after the fifth inning of a 1-1 tie.
I also reminded my son that I caught a foul ball in the loge section when I was about 12 years old. I never forgot that Dick Ellsworth pitched it and Ed Charles hit it. We used the ball in the P.S. 23 schoolyard the next day until the stitching came off (I've always regretted that).
Among others, there was another game my father took me to in June of '69 which saw Nolan Ryan beat Bob Gibson, 4-3. We sat in the front row of the mezzanine in right field, right near the foul pole. This was a year after Gibson had pitched to the tune of a 1.12 ERA.
I had recounted these games, and some others from the 60s, for years. Then I thought: "What if my memory is wrong? Maybe these things didn't happen the way I've described them."
OK, I didn't remember that Tracy Stallard -- who surrendered Roger Maris' 61st homer in '61 -- was the one who gave up the dingers. And I was off by a year. But I was not quite 8 years old, and must have looked small in the crowd of 55,000 spectators. By the way, the second game was tied by Jim Hickman's homer in the fifth. I don't recall that, either.
I was also a year off about the game in which I caught the foul ball. I had believed it was 1968, but it occurred on Aug. 23, 1967. I found one match with Ellsworth and Charles. Ellsworth, who didn't win often, was the winning pitcher for the Phillies. Charles appeared as a pinch-hitter for starter Cal Koonce (who starred as a reliever on the '69 Mets). Charles proceeded to strike out. The score was 3-2.
Sure enough, Ryan bested Gibson on June 20, 1969. At that time, we didn't know the magical ride that was to follow. Perhaps because I didn't realize the significance of such items, I didn't hold on to my ticket stubs until 1970. I have Game 7 of the '86 World Series, and Tom Seaver's near no-hitter over the Padres on July 4, 1972.