The first game that I ever took Mark, was on May 16, 1998. Birds against Tampa. The game itself as not particularly remarkable. Devil Rays won 5-2. But it was the first. I took Mark to a number of other games that season. It was last of those games that remains in Mark’s mind most vividly. And mine as well.
It was a Saturday afternoon game, September 12, with the Anaheim Angels. Steve Sparks, a knuckleball pitcher, had pretty much baffled the Orioles all day long and Anaheim had a 2-0 lead going into the bottom of the ninth. They brought in their closer Troy Percival to finish the job.
It started when Rich Becker led it off with a pinch hit single. Earlier in the season Mark and I had seen Becker have a four hit game against Minnesota, and he was one of our heroes. Shortstop Mike Bordick, normally not known for his power, then hit a homerun to left tying the game. Then with one out Brady Anderson singled and stole second base. This was followed by an Eric Davis single. Anderson rounded third base and headed home with hopefully the winning run. It was going to be close but to me it looked like the throw to catcher Phil Nevin had Brady beat. It all happened so fast and I must have blinked or something. All I remember is the umpire signaling safe and the crowd erupting with joy. I turned to Mark
“He was safe?” I asked.
“Of course – he jumped over the catcher’s glove. Didn’t you see it”, he responded.
I had to admit that “no” – it had escaped me. This gave Mark the opportunity to talk even more about the play, which he did in ever increasing detail as we headed back to the car. As the years have gone by “the play that he saw, and I missed” has become part of our father-son folklore.
Mark remains a baseball fan to this day and we have seen many ball games together. But to me that 1998 season remains very special.