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Superstars aren’t the only ones we remember

September 9th, 2011 · 5 Comments · Baseball

Kevin PasleyBus Leagues Baseball was soliciting input from their readers recently on why they loved minor league baseball. One of the questions on their short survey was about the first game you remember attending. Mine wasn’t technically a minor league game, though given the level of play of the 1978 Seattle Mariners, the line there is kind of fuzzy.

Of course, so is my memory, understandable, given that we’re talking 33 years ago and I was only 9 years old at the time. We had just moved to Seattle the first week of September. I believe my uncle took me to two games in the Kingdome in the following weeks. I don’t recall anything about the first one, but I remember Kevin Pasley hitting a home run and scoring another run in the second one. Despite his heroics, the M’s came out on the short end of a 9-4 decision against the Texas Rangers.

Thanks to Baseball-Reference.com, I was able to confirm both Pasley’s production, and the score, which somehow stuck in my brain all these years. What I didn’t remember was it was the final game of the season, a dreadful one in which Seattle finished 56-104. Attendance that day was just 5,807. Undoubtedly, we had good seats. The beauty of going to Mariners games in those days was you could move as close to the field as you wanted, regardless of your tickets. I don’t remember anyone ever stopping us from moving down. They were probably just glad to have a few warm bodies around to cut down on the cavernous echo of the dome.

I also didn’t remember that the Mariners faced off against future Hall of Famer Fergie Jenkins that day. He won his 18th game of the season, but this wasn’t one for his scrapbook, as he let up 12 hits in 6.1 innings of work. Against the lowly Mariners. The Rangers had just eight hits on the day, but three of them cleared the left field fence, courtesy of Mike Jorgensen, Bobby Bonds, and Richie Zisk (a future Mariner).

The Rangers were up 9-2 by the time Pasley hit his blast in the bottom of the seventh. Two innings earlier he had doubled and scored on an error, breaking up Jenkins’ shutout. By the eighth inning, he’d earned enough respect that Rangers reliever Paul Mirabella walked him. All of these details have been culled from the box score on Baseball-Reference.com. Again, besides the score and Kevin Pasley, I remembered none of the specifics.

That anything stayed with me at all can be credited to a memory aid in the form of an autographed card from no less a superstar than Pasley himself. His big game excited me enough that I fired off a gushing letter in care of the Mariners. He sent back a small headshot, signed on the front, with a personal message on the reverse:

Note from a hero“Dear James, Thanks for writing. It’s great to know I have such a super fan in Seattle! See you next year. Kevin”

Only I didn’t see him next year. That turned out to be Pasley’s final major league game. I witnessed his only career dinger. In 132 big league at-bats, he hit .254 with seven doubles and nine RBIs. I was there for his highlight reel. He spent the next four seasons bouncing around the upper levels of the minor leagues, finally hanging up his spikes in 1982.

I don’t have an extensive autograph collection, but I have several dozen, including a few Hall of Famers. I used to send away baseball cards in the mail when I was a kid, eagerly checking the mail box every day until they came back signed (or rubber stamped in the case of Johnny Bench). I keep most of them in plastic pages in a baseball card album, and they’re fun to leaf through every once in a while. I’ve got Roger Maris, Gaylord Perry, Catfish Hunter, Vida Blue, and Reggie Jackson, or at least their ghost signers. But my Kevin Pasley means a little more than most of the others.

For some time when I was a kid I kept it tacked up on my wall. There are more than a dozen push-pin holes at the top of it, which might seem like a no-no if it held even an iota of monetary value. It doesn’t, of course. It’s just one of those scraps of my childhood I’m glad made the journey with me this far, through all the cross-country moves and one-bedroom apartments. Tucked away until called for, a memento from the infancy of my life as a baseball fan.

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5 Comments so far ↓

  • Joe Kehoskie

    Great story, James. I love stories like these.

    The first pro baseball game I attended was a 1982 Auburn Astros game in my hometown. I don’t remember anything about the game itself, but I still have the program, on which I got an autograph from Auburn catcher Jeff Datz. (Datz’s ML playing career (’89 Tigers) makes Pasley’s seem long, but he’s made up for it with a long ML coaching career.)

    Anyway, little did I know that game would be the first of thousands. I’ve always joked that baseball stadiums should have one of those cigarette-style warnings posted at the gates: “WARNING: Baseball is highly addictive. Enter at your own risk.”

  • James Bailey

    Way addictive. I was lucky my uncle wanted a buddy to take to games. I used to get tickets through my school for having good grades and sometimes I’d get them from other kids who didn’t like baseball. My uncle would take me and load me up with Dots and soft pretzels and all kinds of crap from the concession stand. I kept the programs for a long time, but I don’t think I have them anymore. Wish I still did.

    I met Datz once while covering an Appy League game in about 1999 or 2000. He was actually kind of a jerk to me. Maybe he was having an off day.

    • Joe Kehoskie

      That’s interesting re: Datz, for a couple reasons. I’ve always heard him to be in the “good guy” category, and I also didn’t think he would have been anywhere near the Appy League within the past 15 years. I had thought he went from managing Buffalo to the Indians coaching staff, but it turns out he spent 2000-01 as Cleveland’s minor league field coordinator. Learn something new every day.

  • Clyde Crawford

    James;

    The evening i remember was when the Yankees were in town, i don’t know what year, and Reggie Jackson was signing programs outside the dugout – You were peristent enought to get yours signed, and i thought that was pretty cool, and it raised my opinion of Reggie Jackson a bunch too.

  • James Bailey

    I remember seeing the Yankees with you. I wish I still had that program with the Reggie signature.

    Getting autographs was a lot different in those days. Now guys show up with notebooks full of cards, which they’re undoubtedly going to put up on eBay as soon as they get home. It has to make the players feel even less like signing, and it almost cheapens the entire autograph-hunting pursuit for the rest of the fans.