I don’t have any pictures of my father to share, but I have stories. This is one I’m fond of.
In the late ‘60s, when my family still lived in Chicago, my father would often go into the office on Saturday morning as it enabled him to get stuff done without being bothered by his coworkers. Sometimes he took me with him. One Saturday when I was nine, I was about to accompany him to work and of course I was dressed like a miniature businessman in a suit and tie. My Dad was adding some polish to my “hard” shoes when he looked up and said “I don’t have anything pressing this weekend, let’s go to the ballgame instead!”
I was a big enough baseball obsessive to know that it was one of those rare weekends that neither the Cubs nor White Sox were in town, so I was perplexed and asked which ball game he had in mind. He told me that the Twins were playing the Senators and we had just enough time to get to Minneapolis to catch the game.
I thought I was pretty sharp for a nine year old, but I sure didn’t see that coming.
We went to the train station and bought tickets on a Milwaukee Road train to the Twin Cities. As a youth my Dad had ridden the trains alone frequently between Chicago where he lived and both Atlanta and Mississippi where his family was based. He learned to rely on the Pullman Porters for guidance and protection. This time he wanted to rely on them for stories. He chatted up several of the veteran porters and they regaled me with anecdotes about people I’d only heard of. Suddenly Joe Louis, Jackie Robinson, and Satchel Paige came to life in their vivid recounting (actually Satchel became larger than life). We got to Minneapolis with just enough time to check into a hotel and race off to the ballpark. The game was great. My Dad wanted to insure that I saw all of the best players in person and the Twins at the time had perennial all-stars Tony Oliva and Harmon Killebrew, but he was especially interested in the Twins young second baseman Rod Carew who was having a stellar year. Carew sat out that game, in the end we didn’t mind. Killebrew hit a massive home run and the Twins, who were a championship contender, won handily.
Sunday morning we walked around the city in the morning then got a train back to Chicago. I don’t recall the porters being as talkative, though one told us a story about Willie Mays that jibed with his image of being humble and soft spoken.
I went to dozens of ball games with my father. In fact, when I was little we lived in Lake Meadows, a housing complex not that far from Comiskey Park, I have few memories of being at home with my Dad, but several of being at a White Sox game. In fact, I may have been a budding foodie even then. As far as I was concerned, the difference between the Cubs and White Sox was that Comiskey Park had cotton candy, while Wrigley Field had individual pizzas with really good Italian sausage.
Yet none of my memories from the Chicago ballparks could top the journey to Minnesota.