“Go Schmidty!” rang through the ears of the nearby attendees, literally ringing in their ears, possibly for hours, she had the gift of volume but not tone. It was an off-key ear splitting screech….think Edith Bunker, at volume 11, through a megaphone and an airplane engine. “She” was my grandmother, Grummie as we called her. She never once made a choir group, ever. The inspiration for her cry (wail/scream/shriek) was Michael Jack Schmidt, her favorite Philadelphia Phillie and one of the few times she would get a naughty gleam in her eye. I’m not sure her appreciation for Mike Schmidt had to do with his career batting average (.267), franchise home-run record (548), longevity (not that kind, gross. 18 years in MLB) or average with RISP. If I had to guess her appreciation had more to do with the fit of his pinstriped pants and the broad shoulders above his #20. I think one time I even heard her growl when he came to the plate. Gross, Grummie, gross.
The Phillies of the 1970’s and 1980’s were a collection of the always smiling Manny Trillo, the sweet short ‘fro of Juan Samuel, Larry Bowa, Pete “Da Gambler” Rose, Von Hayes, Steve Bedrosian, Steve Carlton, and Mike Maddux. The player feared by pitchers throughout the NL though, was Mike Schmidt. He was a humble star and like me, short on words, and my Grummie adored him. I imagine there was roll-playing at home but they never hinted at it. These were the days before the mulleted near-heroes of 1993/1994 including Dutch Daulton, a self-described non-athlete and now multi-chinned Jon Kruk, a young Curt Shilling and Lenny “Fel-lenny” Dykstra – who went bad faster than cilantro.
My paternal grandparents, Nes and Marge, had season tickets to the Phillies for many years, later abandoning the tickets and the game overall when players’ salaries inflated to what they took as an insult to the years of effort they put in to earn pennies and later day dollars. These sorts of ridiculous salaries are now commonplace and accepted by society but this wasn’t always so.
My grandparents were frugal people – a frugality common to those surviving through The Depression (the original Depression, people died, Google it). The cupboard in the stairwell to the basement stocked with non-perishables should there be a second crisis, alien invasion or a zombie apocalypse. This frugality was evident in everyday behaviors like driving across town to use a $0.10 coupon (net savings after fuel -$0.32) and an air-conditioner thermostat set at 86 degrees. An approach probably employed by my grandfather to keep us out of the house as much as to save money.
Their frugality played out in many forms but at the Phillies games we didn’t buy over-price concession food – we brought our own picnic bag fool of goodies – chips, pretzels, freshly rehdyrated dehydrated iced tea crystals. There was plenty of food but there was really only one thing my cousin and I wanted….
“Wanna hot dog?” cried the concesionaire, walking slowly, seductively, sweatily down the aisle.
“Why yes I do, I do Wanna hot dog” my cousin and I thought silently, staring at the buns full of nitrates and unidentifiable animal parts.
I should explain that I was one of those teens who grew an inch a week (at least it seemed so) and had an insatiable appetite and what my grandparents called a “hollow leg” which is where the food went. I easily reached 6’1″ and held firm at 135 pounds until I met beer. I don’t regret meeting beer, well maybe some specific instances and events, but beer changed my “composure” and in the place of a six-pack there is now a more robust 12-pack or growler – to stick with the analogy.
But those hot dogs were expensive in those days and were preceded by possibly intentional or comments from the aforementioned season-tickets holders about how “You could buy a whole pack of hot dogs for that price” or some such line. And who was I to tell them their picnic bag full of no-frills food just couldn’t compare.
Mustard, a steaming bun, the sort-of-foil wrapper, green relishy material (not the real stuff). I could’ve eaten six of them, easily, and they likely knew it – hence the resistance to opening the Pandoras box.
Alas, the concessionaire drifted by, the games went on. The hot dog still wanted – and possibly the only thing my Grandparents never did give me (it’s obviously a short list if that’s all I can write about). The remaining innings were usually punctuated by 3 more startling “GO SCHMIDTYs!” capped by Grummie’s horrid rendition of “Take Me Out to the Ballgame” at a unprecedented volume that would make a bagpipe squint – before we left early to beat the traffic.
The boy grew into a man (some would argue the point) but whenever he goes to a game, no matter the price. He gets the hot dogs (sometimes three, they’re amazing) and sings “Take Me Out to the Ball Game” at full volume. Thanks for the memories Marge and Nes, Grum and Pops, I miss you.