My Uncle, Blue Moon Odom, and The ’69 All- Star Game

unclebillandhisgals

Uncle Bill stands with my Aunt Peg and his daughters at a photo taken at my cousin John’s wedding. A wonderful woman, Aunt Peg was often a baseball widow.

News Washington will host the 2018 Major League Baseball All- Star game recalls July 1969, the last time the game was played here. My Uncle Bill, cousin Chris and I had box seats at RFK for that game, still one of my life’s great thrills.

I was 9 then and devoted to the Washington Senators. Ted Williams managed the ’69 Senators, which largely explains why they went 86-76 that season, enjoying their best record in their all-too-brief- 11 year run here.

Roughly coinciding with my first 11 years, the Senators’ run here ended September 30, 1971. When the Senators left to become the Texas Rangers, it was one of the toughest blows I endured during my childhood.

I listened to each Senators game on a transistor radio, typically nodding off somewhere around the 6th inning. The next morning I retrieved THE WASHINGTON POST from our porch and, and kneeling in our hallway, I read the recap of the previous night’s game.

Going to any Senators’ game was thrilling, but going to an All- Star game elevated my enthusiasm to another level. It was the first and so far the last time I sat in box seats. They were by far the coolest things that 9 year old ever experienced.

The game was scheduled for a Tuesday night, but it rained buckets, and all we could do was watch it rain. The game postponed, we were back Wednesday for the last All- Star game played during the day.

Sitting in those seats and watching players in the blindingly full sunshine, it felt almost as if we were in a balcony watching a movie. There was something surreal and dreamlike about the experience because watching a game from box seats was novel to me.

I recall some things: my hero from the Senators Frank Howard hit a homer and so did Johnny Bench. I remember the National League won, but I went on line to learn the final score: 9-3. One moment from watching the game stands out, however.

Uncle Bill nudged and directed me to look at the right field bullpen where Blue Moon Odom warmed. He pitched on three ‘70’s A’s championship teams, and going into the break that season, Blue Moon was 14 -3 with a 2.41 era.

You don’t want to miss him, my Uncle’s gesture said. He knew any kid wanted to be able tell their friends they saw a guy named Blue Moon, and the A’s garish green shirts, yellow pants, and white shoes would make a lasting impression. But Uncle Bill also wanted me to know about the numbers behind the colorful nickname and uniform.

I had forgotten how Blue Moon fared that day, and discovered on line he gave up 5 runs in 1/3 of an inning. Recalling that doesn’t diminish the connection I felt to my Uncle at that moment or the warm memory of it that abides.

Although I was grateful to my Uncle for taking me to the game then, I appreciate more now how special and rare and appropriate it was Uncle Bill took me to the game. He was my dad’s older brother, and spent his career with the state department. We only saw him and his family sporadically in between postings overseas.

It was especially fortuitous Uncle Bill was here that summer because he was perfect guide and companion with whom to go to any baseball game, but especially an All- Star game. In the 30’s and 40’s, Uncle Bill was an outstanding middle infielder, who was the Captain of the Georgetown Prep Varsity and played Varsity baseball at Georgetown and semi-professionally.

As a fan, he appreciated good players, teams, and plays across generations. What he saw on the ball field he recalled 30, 40, 50 years later as if in the moment. No one loved going to a ball game more than Uncle Bill.

He remained astonished at a great throw, amazing catch, disputed call and a blown chance, and grateful to be among the crowds that witnessed them. I have happily inherited these capacities from Uncle Bill.

If I’m lucky enough to be a Nats Park for the 2018 All- Star game, I’ll recall a man, who once got me the best seats in town for a once in a Blue Moon game.

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