It’s strange that growing up in Seattle, two of the most memorable baseball games I ever attended were against the Red Sox. The first was May 12, 1989. My dad’s buddy that he played with in some international games, Rick Cerone, was the bullpen catcher for the Red Sox. Before the game we’re talking to Cerone and my dad asks “Hey is this Clemens the best you’ve seen in a while?” Cerone quickly responded “He’s the best pitcher ever to throw to my glove.” Roger Clemens came over to us and signed a ball that he warmed up with for me. Roger Fucking Clemens. So as the game starts, Harold Reynolds laces the first pitch off the big right field wall. He hit it so hard that it got there so fast, that even the speedy Reynolds only got a single. I looked at my dad and said “I thought you said this guy was good?” Clemens proceeded to give up one more hit the entire game and shut the M’s out 2-0. Roger Clemens was now my favorite player (and would be until he put on pinstripes).
So fast forward nearly twelve years to the day. May 1, 2001. I’m finishing up my junior year in college, and my dad had recently finished up his last bout of chemotherapy that the doctors said didn’t work. “Go home and die” I believe was how he put it. My mom had given us her pair of Diamond Club seats for the May 2nd game against Boston and it so happened the great Pedro Martinez was going to take the mound. My dad was a pitcher. I was a pitcher. And we were going to sit and watch the best pitcher of that generation from three rows directly behind home plate. He was in pain at this point. They had done an operation on some of the nodules in his legs, which was where the cancer originated. Just walking from the parking garage to the seats, he winced with every step, his black and grey and white crochet’d blanket in tow. That blanket. Everywhere.
So we get in, take our seats, I load up on food, he’s hardly eating and we start to watch the Dominican Dandy pitch. Pedro is on the mound just dealing. Mariners hitters just look pathetic against him. It was 0-0 going into the top of the sixth inning. My dad was feverishly annoyed as the kid next to us kept getting up to pee and making him adjust in his seat, which filled his legs with pain. “Hey do you fucking mind sitting still for more than an inning,” my dad, never one to hold back, said. “Sorry man, what’s your deal?” the kid replied. “I got fucking cancer all over my body and you’re making me move and it hurts,” he said. I don’t remember him playing the Cancer card ever, but man, that kid didn’t move the rest of the game.
In that sixth inning the Sox got some things going. They got a couple guys in scoring position and Manny Ramirez came up. Manny had just signed like a 160 million dollar contract in the off-season and was pretty hated by the Seattle faithful. The guy directly behind my dad screams out to Mariner pitcher John Halama “C’mon John, stick one right in his ear!” My dad turns his head a little and says to the guy “Are you kidding me? Ramirez could catch Halama’s puss fastball with his fucking teeth.” This dude looked at me, I smiled, and he quickly spoke up “I’ll bet you five bucks he gets Ramirez out!” My dad nodded his head up and down and just loudly said “You’re on!” A couple of pitches later John Halama threw a sweeping curve that came back right over the plate and Ramirez proceeded to drill it off the left field wall. Plating home the only two runs of the game. My dad, reveling in his prognostication, didn’t even turn around to look at the guy. Simply put his hand back over his shoulder and waited for this total stranger to pluck a limp five dollar bill in his hand.
I remember that game for Manny’s hit, and for Pedro absolutely making David Bell look foolish the one time the Mariner’s made a threat. I remember walking back out the car and my dad in pain. I remember getting home that night and him being sad. I walked by the bathroom and saw him leaning onto the sink counter, his head hanging beneath his arms. I still remember the maroon colored tile on that counter. I remember him telling me that night he was scared. He only told me that one other time in the 21 years I knew him, and that was when he was going into rehab to quit drinking. “I’m scared too dad.” I never got to watch another baseball game with him again, in person at least. Those 18 innings though, I watch them in my mind all the time. Go Mariners.