Valentine Day Redraft
This was originally written over ten years ago on TrueBlueLa but since we are headed for our 29th wedding anniversary I thought I’d drop it in here and try to fix the numerous grammatical mistakes from the original.
Twenty-odd years ago I was flailing in life having failed in my first marriage, as I headed into my late 20’s I had everything going for me but someone to love. All that changed in 1986 when a cute, perky, 5-foot Mexican-American dynamo took a temp job at my company. A fellow worker had fallen for her but wasn’t sure about her age and asked me to check her out for him. It was a huge mistake on his part. It was easy to engage her in conversation since I had no interest at that point but was merely acting as the point man. I never found out her age but I knew that she was too old for Rueben but perfect for me. Our first get together was a group sojourn to Hollywood Park on Kentucky Derby day. We bet on Ferdinand and then watched Bill Shoemaker and Ferdinand put on the greatest stretch run of any horse I’d ever seen. While celebrating our victory I tossed my dynamo into the air but neglected to catch her correctly and her back landed hard against the chair rail. Instead of reading me the riot act in front of our friends, she simply whispered into my ear that her back was hurt and that we needed to leave. The back was hurt enough that it required physical therapy and still bothers her to this day. For whatever reason, she continued to see me for the next year and a half. As 1987 rolled into 1988 neither of us were sure if the relationship had a future but we kept at it.
A baseball game could be the perfect place for a date if you have the right person. You can’t talk during a movie, you can only small talk while your eating dinner and clubs are death for conversation. But a ballgame is made for conversation. The key is that you have to be with someone who you enjoy conversing with, and who enjoys the game of baseball, otherwise it will be a long 3 hours. Luckily for us, we found Dodger Stadium to be our perfect date. We watched the Dodgers grow as a team around Orel and Gibby and found ourselves visiting Dodger Stadium more and more. As Gibby put on a performance for the ages, we both become transfixed with how he played the game. While we had both been watching Dodger baseball since 1969, neither of us had ever watched a player quite like Kirk Gibson. I was more intrigued with the capable ferociousness that he played with, while she was mesmerized with his animal magnetism.
We were unlikely partners, as she was an artist who had been performing in the public eye since she was 6. While growing up in San Antonio she had performed the Flamenco on River Walk in front of raucous crowds. When she moved back home to Hollywood she strived to become an actress after graduating from Hollywood High. She was currently working two jobs to pay her mortgage after her 1st marriage had ended. Her night job was a waitress at Callenders near the Tar Pits and all the waiter/waitresses were hopeful that someday, Hollywood would shine its light on them. Much to her and her co-workers surprise the one who did hit it big several years later was not someone any of them would have bet on. I was a cultural zero who could tell you anything about the Dodgers, Lakers, or Rams but little else. We needed this time at the Dodger games to bridge the gap between us. We also needed the Dodgers to be good because I’m not sure how it would have ended if they hadn’t won most of the time we went. Back then winning was much too important to me and it was helpful that we went home in a euphoric winning mood instead of a somber losing mood.
As many have noted before, every game seemed to be decided by Gibby doing something tangible to the victory. Sometimes something great happens at a game and many people will claim to have been there or just from reading about it, they start to believe they had been there. The greatest game of 1988 besides what Orel was doing was when Gibby scored from 2nd base on a wild pitch to win the game. We were there and I have no doubt that when other people claim to have been there, they are telling the truth because only if you were there would you remember the incredible feeling of that game. If you had not been there it was just another game that the Dodgers won in the 9th inning. But if you were at the game, it was the kind of game that stayed with you forever.
The playoffs started and we got to enjoy the greatest playoff series ever in Los Angeles. The Mets were heavily favored and rightly so. They still had the core of the 1986 World Championship team. She was a huge Mets fan and had even been in NY during the ticker tape parade in 1986. It was a tough choice for her but Gibson was the tiebreaker and we settled in to watch this series in solidarity, rooting for the Dodgers. Mike Scioscia’s home run to send the 4th game into extra innings so that Gibby could win it in the 12th is the game that stands out. But if you take a look at the results there were key moments throughout the series. Somehow we won and now we were going to face the mighty A’s. I’ll be honest, heading into the postseason I had little faith that we could beat the Mets. By the time we had vanquished them, Orel had to be spent and Gibby was a physical wreck. I was positive the A’s would crush us. I was only hoping not to be embarrassed but I think most Dodger fans would admit that just getting to the World Series that year was already more then we could have hoped for. When the 1st game started I knew I wasn’t going to be able to watch the end. I had bought tickets months ago for Kenny G at Universal as a present for her not expecting to be competing with a Dodger World Series game. So when Canseco hit the grand slam I sighed and expected the onslaught to continue. Then Leary came in and shut them down. We left for the show and as we’re driving, Holton comes in and shuts them down plus we get one back when reliable Mike Scioscia comes through again. Pen then comes in and shuts them down. Everyone knows how it ended and everyone knows what they were doing when Gibby hit the home run. We were headed up the Universal hill when Gibby came up and that at-bat lasted so long we were doing what we could to stall before we had to enter the underground parking. No one wanted to enter the underground parking. It was bedlam, and then when he hit the home run the cars went crazy with horns. Hundreds of men taking their dates to see Kenny G were going crazy. Luckily for me, my girl was also going crazy. I’ll always be glad I heard the shot on the radio, it was a great call. Even after that game I still felt the A’s would win 4 straight unless Orel could get us one more. After every game we won I fully expected the A’s to win the next 4. I wasn’t comfortable with our World Series chances until Orel was pitching game 5. Only then did I feel comfortable that as improbable as it seemed, the 1988 Dodgers were going to become World Champions.
1988 was the summer we cemented our relationship and I fully believe that the Dodger team was a big reason why. We had many problems that summer but we were always able to talk through them during a game and by the end of the year we both knew what we had in the other and from that, we decided that it was enough to become life long partners. We got married in 1990 and this April will be our 18th anniversary. I’m a lucky man to be married to a woman who understands how important baseball is to me. Even now, 18 years later she understands that even if baseball is a child’s game it is dreadfully important to me.
We got our 1st season tickets in 2004 after Fox sold the team and we went to opening day as early as you could go. Hand in hand we sauntered around Dodger Stadium soaking up the atmosphere of opening day and the new beginnings it foretells. I can still remember the look she gave me and I could tell from the shine in her eyes how happy she was for me. None of it would have mattered if it hadn’t been her hand that I was holding at the time.
Fall in love at Dodger Stadium? you betcha.
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