I was “sick” on April 15, 1958.
At least I convinced my mom I was. Dad left at 7 a.m. for work like he always did. Mom didn’t have to be at Northrop Aircraft until 8. I knew Dad would never give in, so on this day I made a good case with Mom. (Running hot water on my face did the trick.)
Off they went to their jobs and I went back to sleep … my alarm set for noon.
But I couldn’t sleep anymore. I read the morning Los Angeles Times. I went back over the previous day’s Mirror sports section.
Today, in San Francisco, West Coast baseball would debut with a Giants-Dodgers season-opener. If I recall, it was on KTTV (we had six channels in those days) and I’d get to hear for the first time Vin Scully and Jerry Doggett call a baseball game.
The clock moved so sloooowly …
Around 11:15, the phone rang. Gulp. I picked it up and didn’t answer. Probably a truant officer, I thought. Or worse — my father!
“Hello? Hello, Bruce?”
Whew. It was my mom checking to see if I felt better. “Heck yes! It’s only Mom,” I thought. I coughed a couple of times and faked a pitiful “I am a little better…” Just brilliant. My voice trailed off and I coughed again.
Surviving the scare, I bounced off to the kitchen for a braunschweiger sandwich. I stood static in front of the refrigerator. I never got to stand looking inside with its door open for more than 10 seconds before. Twenty seconds in, I discovered chocolate milk. Pickles came into view shortly thereafter.
“Hmmm, I wonder what’s in the freezer? Fish sticks!!!!”
Remember, this is 1958. Things like fish sticks were cutting-edge.
While in the freezer, there it stood — unbeknownst to me — ice cream cake roll. Right below were lemon Popsicles. I made a mental note while I scoured the kitchen, looking for a baking sheet and reading the fish sticks instructions.
I was officially in “Ferris Bueller’s Day Off” territory.
Cheese? Check. Mayo? Check. Lettuce? Check. The braunschweiger spread like butter. I finally figured out the oven. Fish sticks on the way.
For almost two minutes, the refrigerator door remained open. “Attica! Attica!”
I sat dutifully at the dining room table and ate a banquet. It was 10 minutes to game time. I remembered seeing root beer in the fridge, too. Back in I went, fanning the open door to not only enjoy the emanating cool, but now creating a breeze.
The trip to Valhalla almost fell apart.
I smelled something. “Oh crud! The fish sticks. The box said 10 minutes. They were in at least 20. Plus I forgot to coat the cookie sheet. Opening the oven, it was a mini-forest fire.
Smoke-filled now, I tried to air out the kitchen. No dice. The open windows blew the fumes into the living room.
I opened front and back doors and figured by 5:30, when my parents got home, all would be OK.
“Geezo! Look at the time. It’s noon. Game’s on!”
I turned on our TV and settled in, root beer in hand. I think I had potato chips, too.
Sitting in my dad’s chair! The fish sticks a distance memory, I stared at our 13-inch black-and-white Zenith.
Fuzz… Nothing but scratchy stuff as a picture. Every so often hearing a word or two:
“Ruben Gomez on the … crackle, buzz, buzz. Charlie Neal for the Dodg — zzzzzzzz, crackle.”
That’s when I rushed to the closet. A hanger (aka rabbit ears). I stuck it to the back of the television, moved it around and got a little better reception. But it wasn’t until the tin foil was applied that I finally saw Don Drysdale clearly.
The sound was still goofy, but I was in luck with the picture.
Living in Los Angeles, I was disappointed in the outcome. The Giants beat the Dodgers, 8-0. But I continued my assault on the refrigerator… more pickles, slices of American cheese, three root beers, a grape-jelly sandwich in the seventh.
Then the ice cream cake roll!
I cleaned up the kitchen pretty well. Threw all my trash in the neighbor’s cans (CSI units would have been proud). Cleaned that cookie sheet better than my mom ever did and returned to bed in time for my folks to discover that I hadn’t left my bedroom all day (shhhhhh).
My introduction to West Coast big-league baseball was memorable.
The moral of this story? Old School will never be replaced by today’s technology. It wouldn’t have been nearly as much fun watching my first major league game if I had dutifully gone to school that day, used my cell phone to check scores then got home to play the Tivo replay.
It’s hard to find Old School anywhere these days — except on the baseball diamond. And it’s my hope, as the Dodgers and Giants begin their three-game series at AT&T Park tonight, that Buster Posey, Clayton Kershaw and their brethren will savor the tradition of the Giants-Dodgers rivalry and remember what happened to the high, hard one.
Meanwhile, I’m calling in sick this weekend.
Does anybody know how to cook fish sticks properly?
— Reach Bruce Gallaudet at firstname.lastname@example.org or 530-320-4456.