Holaaaaaaaaa! Monday afternoon, just after I scheduled my Jaymanifesto, inspiration struck! I suddenly had an idea for my next post and I was so fired up by it that I started on it immediately. Then Tuesday afternoon fate stepped in. Bob Welch, who pitched seventeen years for the Los Angeles and Oakland Athletics died.
Robert Lynn “Bob” Welch was not a Hall of Fame pitcher. He was very good and posted a nice 211 – 146 record over those seventeen seasons with the Dodgers and Athletics. In 1990 he won 27 games against only 6 defeats and won the American League Cy Young Award. Twenty-seven wins is a hell of an achievement in any league on any level. The dude could pitch!
But, none of that stuff is what inspired me when I heard of Welch’s unfortunately and way-too-early demise. What I immediately thought of was Bob Welch’s third ever start for the Los Angeles Dodgers on July 24, 1978 at Dodger Stadium against the Chicago Cubs. The reason this start was so significant to me is because I was there with my dad. It was the first Major League Baseball game I ever attended.
In 1978 dad, my stepmother, my sister Kelley and two stepsisters went to Los Angeles to see my Aunt Juanita and Uncle Bud. We were there for about two weeks. Bud and Juanita lived near the Santa Anita Race Track in Arcadia. There were also botanical gardens nearby and we could hear the peacocks screeching (or whatever you call it) at night. Their house was a cool rambling one level house with a pool in the backyard. It was all so full of California charm.
One day we were all riding in Bud’s car when he announced that he had acquired four tickets to the Dodgers vs Cubs game on Monday night. “I’m in!” my dad and I said immediately followed by my stepmother, which elicited an eye roll from me because I knew she had a burning hatred for any sporting event. Then Kelley piped up and asked how many tickets there were again. In an uncharacteristically gracious move my stepmother immediately said Kelley could have her ticket. (Of course she was playing the long game. On game day she developed a mysterious “horrible” headache that I honestly believe she thought would keep dad from going to the game. She was wrong.)
What was so special about the whole night is that it was one of the rare times in our childhood that Kelley and I actually got to do something like this without our stepmother and stepsisters around. No having to listen to their nagging, whining, bitching and arguing. I can probably count on one hand the number of times this happened. I can remember some of the stuff we did in Cali. I remember bits and pieces of Sea World in San Diego, bits and pieces of Knott’s Berry Farm, standing in line and being hot at Disneyland, the disappointment that Venice beach had all that kelp and no white sand like Pensacola and sightseeing and meeting cousins and all that fun stuff. But, even though it was almost THIRTY-SIX years ago, I remember almost every single thing about that Dodgers game!
The traffic getting to the game was not my problem so it didn’t bother me. We actually got there early because Uncle Bud enjoyed watching batting practice and team warm ups. It was a gorgeous summer evening at Chavez Ravine. The air was so light and comfortable we could wear jeans and short sleeve shirts without getting cold or sweating. Our seats were about three quarters the way up the second level almost halfway between home plate and third base. The Dodger Dogs were steamed instead of grilled. This was a bit of an outrage, but I dealt with it and the nachos ruled! We were sitting close to the isle and the people around us were cool Californians who were as chill as you would expect.
And Bob Welch was dealin’! He scattered six hits over seven innings giving up only one earned run and walking two while striking out seven. The rookie looked like he had been there before. Reggie Smith hit a two-run homerun in the top of the first for the Dodgers. Catcher Joe Ferguson got hit by a pitch and turned as if he was going to charge the mound resulting in Uncle Bud jumping to his feet while yelling “Now we’re gonna see some action!” Unfortunately Dodgers reliever Tom Forester gave up a run in the top of the ninth which tied the game at two and cost Welch the win.
Steve Garvey led off the bottom of the ninth with a double off the top of the wall in left. Eventually Davey Lopes hit a screaming two out single with Garvey on third for the game winner sending everyone home happy. Nobody was smiling bigger over the whole night than dad, Kelley and I were though. I think we all knew what a special night it had been and were all so happy we got to spend that time together. I mean, I didn’t know it would go down as one of the highlights of my childhood, but there always seemed to be this basic understanding that opportunities like that one were going to be few and far between.
Rest in Peach Bob Welch and thanks for the memories.