Kevin’s mom and dad were the prototypical Leave It To Beaver types. Mr. Ferring was a natty dressy who kept his office tie on until after dinner and like Ward Cleaver, never lost his temper or raised his hands to the kids. He’d say, “Now Kevin….” followed by an order or comment, and that was it. Mrs. Ferring only had to say, “We’ll talk to father about this later,” and Kevin and Cindy would get respectfully back into the obedience line. It was amazing.
When I stayed over at Kevin’s, Cindy hung out with us. She was a year older than I was but didn’t hold that against me like my sister Karen did. Cindy had two fascinating penny-size freckles on either side of her mouth. Kevin told me they weren’t freckles but scars from a terrible incident when Cindy was younger. I wasn’t able to find out what possessed her to do it; she didn’t like to talk about it. But she stuck her tongue into an electrical socket and the voltage blew holes through her cheeks. Still, she was very pretty and looked real fine.
Mrs. Ferring was carefully coifed. Her blond helmet hair was sprayed into place, her orange lipstick glistened on her freckled lips and her fingernails and toes were painted to match the lipstick of the day. There was a Stepford Wife quality about her. She adored her husband and waited on him hand and foot and kissed him with affection, constantly. They were always cuddling and polite to each other. I wondered if Cindy would grow up to be like her mom. That would be great.
Kevin, my brother Joe and I came up with a song, well, someone else’s song we heard on the radio, but we wrote our own lyrics. We called it: “By the Light of the Moon.”
While I was walkin’ down the street
I met a pretty girl that I’d like to meet.
Hmm by the light of the moon, Oh yea
Hmm by the light of the moon, Oh yea
She was pretty and looked real fine,
…something, something, and she’d be mine.
Chorus, repeat, repeat, and repeat until we stretched it out for a good two minutes. We practiced it over and over until we got it right. We swayed and kicked out a leg move in unison after the “Oh yeas.” Our prepubescent voices were maybe one octave lower than The Chipmunks, but better. Our first performance was in front of Cindy. She thought it was great. So did Mr. and Mrs. Ferring. Our biggest crowd was a group of ladies gathered for a Tupperware party at my house. Mom pulled us in from the backyard to sing our song. We absolutely killed; the chicks dug it! Enamored by our cuteness and the lovely melody, the women clapped with enthusiasm after our bow. We always finished with a bow.
We got caught up in the hysteria and pondered this music thing rather seriously. First, we’d have to think of a cool name. “The Horny Toads,” “Moon Monkeys,” and “The Lizard Lads,” were considered and shelved. In the meantime we better write a couple more hit songs, get an agent, and make a record. Then we could quit school and go on tour. We were on cloud nine for a good week. Our final performance was in front of Mike Harper who brought us back to earth with a resounding thud. He laughed at us, mocked our song, and said, “It was pussy.”
Kevin and I were on the same baseball team, the Pirates. I really didn’t like baseball, but it was like church, you were expected to go. I did my penance in left field for the transgressions of the sacred game I was surely guilty of. I was like a fish out of water and flopped around in the outfield when a ball was hit to left. Kids in California could play ball all year round, depending on the league you joined, so I began my short-lived baseball career with a disadvantage.
The puny skill-challenged players like myself rode the bench half the time and alternated in the outfield where we could do the least damage to the team. I wasn’t the worse outfielder ever, I don’t think, and could get under a ball with my speed, but it was a 50/50 chance I’d catch it. I had a good arm and I could whip it into the infield to throw out an aggressive runner at second or third even if I fumbled a catch. I was very good at striking out and eliciting moans from our dugout and the stands especially if it was the last out of the inning with a guy at third. But I did my best and managed to draw my share of walks, and by chance, get a hit every once and a while. I loved to run the bases and learned to slide under a throw. On the rare occasion someone hit a single or double after me, I felt the exhilarating experience of crossing home plate. I don’t know if I was a jinx but the Pirates finished in last place.
Our Dad took Joe and I to a Padres game that summer. The San Diego Padres of that era were a minor league AAA farm team of the Cincinnati Reds, playing in the Pacific Coast League. The Padres were the reining champs, having won the PCL pennant the year before. Tony Perez was the third baseman that year. In the 70’s, Perez became an important cog on the awesome “Big Red Machine.” Cincinnati won five straight division titles, three pennants and two World Series.
We had a good time that night. It was great to be out anywhere with my Dad. I can’t say I have as many father/son memories as I wished I had, but while we were in San Diego we shared a few outings that were special to us. That baseball game was one of them. We sat together high up in the bleacher seats, which provided a great view of the well-lit field. I recall wearing my baseball glove, at the ready, for the entire game, wishing for a souvenir homerun ball.
I don’t recall the final score or if the Padres were victorious, but I fondly remember the sounds of Balboa Stadium. The stadium was filled with the murmur of a thousand voices. Dad, Joe and I joined in with the collective singing the National Anthem, roared when a run scored and booed when the umps blew a call. We could hear the crack of the bat making contact with the ball and the distinct pop of a fastball hitting the catcher’s mitt. The food vendors climbed between aisles calling out: “Get your hotdogs! Peanuts — Fresh Peanuts…” and “Cotton Candy Here!”
I still love those sounds.
On the way out, gorged with hotdogs and sodas, we drove by a new stadium under construction in down town San Diego. It would be the future home of the San Diego Chargers in two years and the home of the National League San Diego Padres in 1969, when the city was awarded a major league baseball franchise.
Now that I was playing ball, I began to pay attention to big league baseball on TV. We watched the Los Angeles Dodgers, the best team in Baseball. The Dodgers also had one of the best pitchers of all time, Sandy Koufax. Against Chicago that year, he pitched a perfect game. Twenty-seven batters faced the great left-hander that day, not one of them reached first base. It was the third of four consecutive years that Koufax would throw a no-hitter. Koufax won his second Cy Young award and led them to the World Series in 1965 with 26 wins.
There was a big hullabaloo when Koufax refused to pitch the first game of the series because it fell on the Jewish Holiday, Yom Kippur. A first game loss by Don Drysdale and a Koufax letdown in the second game left the Dodgers down 2 – 0 to the Minnesota Twins. But the Dodgers came back and took the next three games including a Game 5 shutout courtesy of Koufax, in which he also knocked in the winning run. Minnesota tied the series in Game 6 and the championship went to a deciding seventh game. Unbelievably, Sandy Koufax pitched another shutout, a three-hitter, and the Dodgers clinched the World Series title. Koufax was unanimously voted the MVP of the Series.