The Burlington Hawk-Eye
The Hawk Eye
A Pair of Firsts
July 19, 1967
The trip to St. Louis last Sunday was a long-planned double-header for my son, Thomas, who is nine, and plays third base for the Bumble Bees his first plane ride, and his first major league baseball game.
As it turned out, Ozark Airlines was much more agreeable than Busch Stadium, for Tom is a devout, dedicated, uncompromising Cardinal fan, and while the plane got us there and back, this was the day the Cards dropped two to the Mets.
I don't know how Ozark would have explained the collision we narrowly avoided at Quincy; but Tom had a ready explanation for what happened to his Redbirds: "We didn't have Gibson."
In fact the day had started with foreboding, despite the bright sunshine. Bu the time I got up, Tom already had the morning papers spread out on the kitchen table and had read the bad news: Gibson sidelined with a broken leg.
"We'll go anyway," I assured him. "Everyone beats the Mets."
Mournfully, he disagreed. "They've won 32 games," he pointed out.
He fidgeted through 9:30 mass and we made it to the airport in plenty of time for the 11:05 takeoff. The sleek FH227 came screaming in, right on time, and Tom was the first one aboard, determined to get a window seat where he could watch the wheel go up and down. He was only momentarily disturbed when he found that the seat belt, even when drawn all the way, still lacked half a foot of holding him snugly.
"It doesn't matter," I assured him, recalling that I was 20 when I had my first plane ride, in an old rattletrap of a DC 5. I was scared to death and would have decided at the last minute not to go, except that we were all marched aboard by an especially terrifying sergeant.
Of course planes have changed since then; but so also have kids they're one more generation into the air age and what was for us a fantastic adventure is routine for them.
We took off to the northwest and Tom's surprise at that first realization of being airborne was only momentary. He recognized Notre Dame High, and then we were banking over the edge of the IAAP, and down across the Skunk.
The snack surprised us I hadn't expected it on this short flight and we'd eaten hurriedly at home; but Tom, who had never heard of such a thing as air sickness, devoured his salad and downed his Coke, then stuffed my coat pocket with the miniature salt and pepper shakers, the sugar packet and assorted other souvenirs.
Busch Stadium is worth a visit, even if you hate baseball. It was designed not only for the game but for the customers as well. Entry and exit is smooth and swift through a myriad of gates and ramps; there isn't a bad seat. Not being a passionate fan myself, I found more to marvel at in the architecture than in the likes of Kranepool.
Tom spent the afternoon in agony. After the Mets' first inning error there wasn't anything to cheer about until Lou Brock stole to second in the 7th and then scored. But that was too late because it came after Kranepool's homer had driven in Davis for what proved to be the winning two points.
On the way home, just before the wheels touched down at Quincy, the pilot poured the power on, jerked up the gear and aborted the landing. "Sorry about that," he said, as we climbed and banked sharply for another approach, "there was a small plane where shouldn't have been on the runway."
Even after a quarter century of flying, these things make me nervous, but it seemed routine enough to Tom. At any rate he didn't mention it later, at supper, as he defended himself against his Cub fan brothers. Rather he dwelt on what the cab driver had said, taking us away from the stadium: "That was a tough one to lose."
"We can't win," Tom quoted to his brothers, "when Cepeda isn't hitting."
I had a different memory of the cab driver. When he learned that we'd come down for Tom's first game, he thought that was a fine gesture on my part.
"He your grandson?" he asked solicitously, glancing at me in the rear view mirror.
I guess it has to come to all men, sometime. But I hadn't expected it so soon.
Return to Columns.