For many, food is a big part of life. We have favorite memories on holidays, and family recipes that are passed from year to year. Certain beverages and special treats and their connection to baseball are no exception in my mind. I think that unlike any other sport, the aura of baseball includes what we look forward to eating and drinking on game days, and helps form our memories of how baseball has affected our lives.
Granted, we all have our favorite Super Bowl meal, and we think of the comfort of hot chocolate and coffee at the cold high school football games, but baseball transcends the menu of delicacies that await us at the stadium. The American tradition of peanuts and popcorn….hot dogs…and my list extends even beyond this normal game fare.
Take beer for example. In the 1980s and ‘90s when we frequented the Reds games in Cincinnati, my husband and father-in-law had a running gag about the price of beer. My father-in-law could barely swallow his $3.50 cold one during a game, so outraged by the price. My husband, never one to avoid the chance to rub a sore wound, bought him a Reds t-shirt the next Christmas and had “Beer. $5.00 a glass” printed on it. We had a good laugh at the threat of inflation and baseball, until years later when we all realized the joke was on us after beer prices climbed to a whopping $7.00 in most stadiums! Yet despite the price, we all agreed that a cold beer at a hot summer game day was worth a million!
And then there are the fans, with no mind of the cost, agreeing to go to baseball games only for the food. My daughter, Katie was dragged her first 10 years to game after game so her older brother could either watch his heroes or try to become one. She would grimace when we told her we were headed to Riverfront, until we reminded her of the ice cones and other treats that awaited her. She’d sit through extra innings, without a fuss, as long as she had money in her pocket to stop the next vendor. We even had birthday parties for her at my son’s Knothole games. Packing the car with cupcakes, knowing the late July tournament would take the whole day and evening with no chance of a birthday party in the backyard. She’d pass out her cupcakes and the fans would sing “Happy Birthday” to Katie in between games.
I also have a great memory of when my son, Nick, played middle and high school baseball. One of our favorite fellow fans and baker, Catfish, would always contribute to the fanfare. Catfish was always at the game. His son and grandson, ex-Tiger players who had graduated years before, had moved on, yet Catfish never missed a game. He would pull up in his pick-up truck with warm Snickerdoodles he had baked that morning for both players and fans alike. We enjoyed those soft, melt-in-your-mouth cookies every home game and were amazed at Catfish’s baking talents. Even more, as team parents giving up other pastime enjoyments day after day for our kid’s love of the sport, we were amazed at this man’s loyalty to the team even though his family was no longer involved.
Unlike Catfish, my husband and I have moved on from local leagues and high school baseball. We still follow our favorite professional teams by watching them on TV while we enjoy dinner together. Or we cook out a favorite summer meal on the patio while the Reds are playing on the radio in the background. But we rarely go to a game anymore, now that our son has moved on and our daughter can hold her own birthday parties at her house. Yet, there are summer days I really miss hearing the vendor trying to sell his wares to those who came for more than a homerun. And I sometimes wish that I had to give up gardening on a sunny day because we had to pack up the car with chairs, coolers, and cupcakes for an all-day tourney.
Who knows what little baseball lovers might be coming my way in the future, helping me to create more memories of the game, the fans, and the fare? And, until then, maybe it’s my turn to make the Snickerdoodles?