- The Magic Store from The Muppet Movie
It started with a decision in the spring of 1990. He asked her if their first date should be an afternoon at the Art Institute or a double-header at Wrigley Field.
"How is that even a call?" she replied.
The sun gleamed, the grass glowed underneath the ballplayers and the magical afternoon was made more so because he thought it was probably their last date as well; neither was from Chicago.
But he was wrong. Both traveled enough to occasionally gain discounted tickets and the 1000 miles between Minneapolis and Philadelphia wasn't as isolating as they both thought it would be. Or at least not initially.
Two years later, it was. So with $1000 shoved into his pocket and all his worldly possessions crammed in an '84 Honda Prelude, he moved to Philadelphia to court her. The courtship was fun, but not especially easy. First he had to find work during a recession, then she was assigned to a project out of town. And when the business world stopped conspiring to keep them apart, the tougher questions began. "Will he ever marry me? What's he waiting for?" "Is she really the one? How do I know?" The questions were more destructive than geographic distance ever had a chance to be.
On a summer trip out west, his questions were answered in the Black Hills. And on August 13th, when they were supposed to go to a Phillies game, he showed up with flowers, acted all goofy and suggested they go for a walk. And she knew her questions were about to be answered too.
Unaccustomed to being nervous, the proposal was awkward but genuine, and the response was delayed but jubilant. Standing together in the park, their future felt too large. Neither knew what to do, where to go, who to see.
"So do you still want to go the Phillies game?", he asked.
"How is that even a call?"
It wasn't a call, because the one place in Philadelphia where they both knew there was some magic that year was at the Vet. The '93 Phils, lead by blue-collar rejects like John Kruk, "Dutch" Daulton, "Nails" Dykstra and closer Mitch "Wild Thing" Williams had somehow claimed 1st place in the NL East. They'd won games at Veteran's Stadium in every conceivable manner, including one in which Williams got the winning hit in the bottom of the 10th - at 4:30 AM. Tonight they were playing the hated Mets and it seemed like as good a place as any to look for magic.
The electricity they felt made the game a secondary concern. She'll readily admit that she spent most of the game looking at the back of her hand. But the game slowly became the focal point when the Phillies lost their early lead in the top of the eighth. They scratched in a run in the bottom half, but were still down 5-4 heading into the bottom of the ninth.
But there was a reason this hard-nosed city loved this team. They used a crucial error by the Mets to score one run and loaded the bases with two outs. Kim Batiste, a light-hitting 25-year-old utility infielder who seemed to have a special gift for striking out, came to the plate, and.......
This last weekend they went to a game, just like they have every August 13th now for 19 years. The magic started earlier, on a 3-hour car trip to Duluth. Is it magic to find out that pre-teen kids still enjoy forced time together as a family. Hell yes, it is. And it's magic to see them wondering at an awkward liftbridge, a beautiful northern coast and the edge of an American Sea. Every time we come north I wonder why we don't more often.
But of course, we weren't there for the view. With the Twins out of town, we were there for a ballgame. And to find more magic.
Duluth came through there, too. The Northwoods League consists of college kids playing summer ball, looking to catch the eye of scouts. Purer baseball is hard to find. Even more rare was the beautiful old venue, Wade Stadium, and enormous brick ballpark built in 1941 by the WPA. Add a perfect Minnesotan summer night, full of minor league silliness, with fireworks following the game.
It turns out, they began a little early. A pitcher's duel ended with a walk-off home run for the home team. The kids eye’s danced as the night's hero, Chris Manship (cousin of Twins prospect Jeff Manship), get beat up at home plate by his teammates.
Can magic become commonplace? When that ball was hit - when the stadium was poised to explode - The Voice Of Reason and I couldn't help but look at each other knowingly. Eighteen years later, how could we not? Maybe not commonplace, but expected. And that's not a bad way to live.
More to check out....
- Seth reached his Boiling Point yesterday.
- Tonight I'll be participating in the "Deckstravaganza" event at Target Field. It's a Twitter in-person meetup. If you would like to follow along, please search for the hashtag #Deckstravaganza or follow me on Twitter.