Last week was manager Bruce Bochy’s 59th birthday, and his team honored him with what has been called a very unusual double header against the Dodgers — the games were 18 hours apart. Tuesday night’s game was a long one, ending in the bottom of the 12th with a walk-off single by Hector Sanchez at 12:15 Wednesday morning. That was a great start to the Skipper’s birthday and at the end of his big day was another win. Not a bad start to a new year!
It got me thinking about how baseball fans celebrate their birthdays. My birthday is at the end of February during No Baseball season, but growing up, all I wanted was an outdoor picnic. I didn’t understand back then that I was born in the wrong month for that kind of party, which led to a birthday disappointment I wouldn’t resolve for many years.
My childhood parties were in our garage, specially cleaned out for the occasion. There were plenty of games and activities to keep us busy, like Drop The Clothes Pin In The Milk Bottle. I’m sure kids of today can’t relate because there were no electronics involved, but the games were fun and engaging, and the decorations were unique. Two of my uncles owned grocery stores and provided life-size cut-outs of cartoon characters from cereal or snacks displays. But if those parties had been picnics, we would have played catch or workup, a great baseball game that lets everyone have a chance at various positions on the field while working up to the batters box. I’d have to be very patient to finally realize my dream.
As I got older the celebrations moved to the evenings, and included more food and drink and less games. But still, I longed for a picnic or a baseball game, and was jealous of people who got their names on the scoreboard at Candlestick Park with messages like ‘Happy Birthday Susie!’ Whenever I had tickets for a game on August 23, I let everyone sitting around me know that it was my Half Birthday. Unfortunately, people were largely unimpressed.
I had to move 8,000 miles away to Australia before I finally got my birthday picnic. Most of the parks there have coin-operated grills, so we only had to bring the bangers (sausages) and other food. Aussie hot dogs are not for human consumption. I brought two gloves, a bat and a ball, and a friend had invited some Samoan softball players. College friends Bob, Gayle and son Scott were on a 6 month work assignment outside of Melbourne, and I’d met fellow American Kim through work. That made a nice quorum of people who knew the game. We coached my Aussie friends how to NOT hold the bat like they were playing cricket, and they actually did pretty well. It was a rousing game, and I went home very content that I’d finally had my birthday baseball picnic.
More recently, my friend Julia got a very special Baseball Birthday. She shares her day with Buster Posey, although they’re at least a few years apart. I’d found some Giants baseball cards, selected one I thought she’d like, then delivered the card with a note and self-addressed, stamped envelope to the clubhouse at Spring Training. The note asked Buster to sign the card so I could give it to Julia at the Play Ball Luncheon the day after their birthdays, and the day the team returned from Arizona. I knew that there was no guarantee that I’d get the card back, but I had fingers crossed every time I went to my mailbox. The day before the luncheon, there it was! Julia was not only surprised, she was speechless, and it was worth all the effort to provide a Baseball Birthday memory she won’t forget.
I’m not sure which is the best way to celebrate a Baseball Birthday, but either a winning double header from your team, or a long-awaited picnic DownUnder with a rousing game of softball, or a card signed by your favorite player who shares your birthday would do for me. How about you?