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My First Game: The Day Before the 1994 Strike in Baltimore

 

You always remember your first.

I remember my first ever baseball I attended live was on August 11, 1994 in Baltimore, MD at the new Oriole Park in Camden Yards. My father took the family to Baltimore on a business trip for the week. Thankfully, my mom had taken my brother and I to all the sites around the city, visiting museums, historic sites, and the beautiful Seaport.

Early in the morning on the 11th, my father brought us home McDonalds breakfast and put on the news. He noticed that the Orioles were going to be home against the Boston Red Sox. My Dad, ever the baseball junkie, decided to take a chance and wait until game time to see if he could get tickets at the will call area.

The date was significant: it was the last baseball game scheduled before the MLBPA would be going on strike from Major League Baseball. The owners and players were arguing over money and what would go where. This day was a long time coming, and although both sides had their valid points, the only ones that would be hurting would be the fans.

After the first inning began, my father pulled off the ultimate score: tickets 13 rows behind home plate. We got into the beautiful alley of Camden Yards and I was absolutely mesmerized.

The ballpark, opened in 1992, was state-of-the-art. Behind one of the massive warehouses Baltimore was famous for, Camden Yards felt wide open and new. The stadium was fresh and still gaining momentum, especially after the uber-successful 1993 All Star Game, best known for Ken Griffey Jr hitting a massive home run during the Home Run Derby, nailing the warehouse more than 500 feet away.

There are a few things I definitely remember from memory. Arthur Rhodes, a young left-hander, was on the mound. Brady Anderson was in the outfield, while Rafael Palmeiro was at first. Most importantly, the legendary Cal Ripken was at shortstop. “The Iron Man” was my most favorite player, and a mere hundred games away from breaking Lou Gehrig’s consecutive games played streak. Seeing #8 in person was an amazing feeling.

By the bottom of the third inning, Boston was up 1-0. Then, the heavens opened up.

It rained hard and heavily for almost 3 and a half hours. The Angelos family and Orioles organization tried their very best to keep the cancellation going as long as possible. However, time just ran out, and the game was rained out.

I remember walking the long few blocks to the Marriott Hotel with my old man, disappointed as Hell. I walked into our hotel room, with David Letterman on the television. I sadly went off to sleep, wondering if baseball would come back and coming to a realization that my first game didn’t officially count.

To my father, it did. Apparently, to the day he died.

25 years later in July 2019, I was on my way to Citi Field to watch the Mets and Yankees with my mother and stepdad. I made mention to my Mom about going to that infamous game in ‘94, and how I wished I had the ticket stubs. I never actually knew what happened to them.

What my Mom said next surprised me.

“They are in your father’s wallet, in the drawer near the microwave.”

For six years, those ticket stubs were in close proximity and I had no idea. The next day, I drove there and picked them up. Those stubs, as faded as they were, are now in a picture frame in my mancave, in memory of my father.

Almost two weeks ago, my friend and professional wrestler “Tough” Tim Hughes invited me to join his family to a game in Camden Yards with the first place Orioles playing the Mets.

Originally, I was very apprehensive about going. Not being in “enemy” territory, but going back to a place that I held special with my favorite person to ever exist.

I’m so glad that I did.

Unbeknownst to us, this game was the forty year anniversary celebration of the 1983 World Series champion Baltimore Orioles. We got an Eddie Murray bobblehead at the gate, and sat in our seats along the first base line to watch the surviving members of this legendary team take the field.

Al Bumbry, Tippy Martinez, and the great Ken Singleton got fantastic ovations. But the last four men received the biggest ones of all: the aforementioned Murray, Jim Palmer, World Series MVP Rick Dempsey, and the “Iron Man” himself.

When Mr. Ripken took the field, a flood of emotions hit me at once. Pride, joy, jubilation, and even a hint of sadness. Although it was for 1983, it took me back to August 11, 1994 and thinking of my old man. It was full circle.

Being thirty years older, it also allowed me to fully enjoy the atmosphere of Camden Yards. While the ballpark, as a kid, was humongous in person, as an adult, it really feels like an old school neighborhood stadium, not unlike the days of Ebbets Field in Brooklyn during the early and mid 1900s. The Alley, which hosts memorabilia and refreshment around the lower level of the stadium, was popping with fanfare and purchases. Honestly, Camden Yards might very well be the most underrated stadium in the sport.

Of course, the Mets lost to the Orioles 7-3, and Kyle Gibson got his 100th win of his career, a great milestone. But I did get to see Jeff McNeil drive in all three runs, Grant Hartwig had a decent outing out of the bullpen for two and one-third innings, and an amazing time with friends. Thanks a million personally to “Tough” Tim and his Uncles Bob and Andy for the experience. It was a blast.

But in the end, as I stayed in my room for the night, I thought about it all; every baseball memory raced through my brain. It’s nice to realize the impact that sport could have on people. It’s a generational thing.

You always remember your first though. And August 11, 1994 at Oriole Park in Camden Yards with my father will never leave my mind. Even if it officially didn’t happen, for my memories, it 100% did.

Bankie Bruce initially started writing for ACEProWrestling.com. After a few controversial columns, Bankie struck out on his own blog. In 2021, Bankie debuted on HardwayHQ.com, writing his "Bank Statement". He has now added his Hot Take to HQ, as well as bi-weekly pieces to the Independent Pro Wrestling Weekly. Recently, he started a side project blog called "GIGUERE '03", based on the incredible 2003 Stanley Cup Playoff run by Mighty Ducks goalie Jean-Sebastien Giguere. He loves obscure pro wrestling and rare forms of television. The sky is the limit for Mr. Bruce. #BANKONIT

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