At my very first Major League Baseball game, way back in 1987 at Baltimore’s Memorial Stadium, I, a then-16-year old Yankees fan from rural Virginia, watched Willie Randolph send a ball screaming over the right field wall.
“Get out of here,” I urged the ball, in my mind, as I stood in enemy territory wearing a navy blue T-shirt with Yankees interlocking NY on the chest.
That old ballpark had no chance of holding Willie’s mighty blast.
There I sat, ecstatic, just beyond the left field foul pole, amidst about 26,000-plus Orioles’ fans, three of whom were cursing and spilling beer on my parents and me from the next seat back. Memorial Stadium wasn’t exactly a green cathedral to my Dad, a Baptist minister. It was more a deep shade of blue.
But let’s get back to the home run.
I’ve been talking about Willie’s home run for years to anyone and everyone who would listen.
Recently, after a little digging into my baseball fandom past, I began hoping no one had ever been listening because… well, it didn’t happen.
Nope. At least not the way I remembered.
Willie Randolph did not hit a home run in the Yankees 7-3 win over the Orioles that day, June 22, 1987. It was Claudell Washington, his fourth of the season, off O’s ace Mike Boddicker.
Willie had hit a double in that game.
Somewhere in memory over the last 28 years, my mind confused Willie for Claudell.
I was reminded of my confusion last week when I got around to reading David Simon’s Sports Illustrated article about misremembering a home run hit by his childhood hero, former Washington Senator Mike Epstein.
Simon, creator of the HBO series The Wire, writes about his memory of Epstein launching a home run into the right field seats – same as Willie’s, I mean, Claudel’s shot, at RFK Stadium – about 40 miles from my misremembrance – on Opening Day in 1971. Years later, when Simon met his boyhood idol, Epstein corrected Simon’s memory.
“Never happened,” Epstein told Simon over the phone.
You know what would have been just terrific? If Willie Randolph could have personally corrected me. Sadly, I learned of my memory failure through a box score one day while sitting in my office.
No cool story, bro, to write for SI.
The article is applicable to The Rainout Blog only because of a paragraph in Simon’s story about bringing Epstein to Nationals Park, where Epstein was to be recognized. The two waited and waited through a long rain delay only to have the ceremony nixed and the game postponed to the next day.
From Sports Illustrated:
“God,” Epstein said to me, staring at the infield tarp, “is really angry at you.”
It’s an hour past the game’s scheduled start, and Epstein, having done all his interviews for local radio and pregame broadcasts, stands with a team escort at his side. In the escort’s hand are a Nationals jersey with Epstein’s name and number 6 adorning it, and a red ballcap with NATIONALS spelled out phonetically in Hebrew letters. But the rain is unrelenting, and there will be no pregame honorifics for Epstein or anyone else. In the end, a little after 9 p.m., this Monday game between the Nats and the Orioles – yes, my plan was to exorcise the demons from both franchises at once – is called for weather. It will be rescheduled as part of a Thursday doubleheader, a day which will find Epstein back in Colorado.