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Growing Up Baseball: Introducing Ken Baumgardt

One of the great Baseball stadiums, Shibe Park 1913

Like many youths, I grew up loving the game of baseball. This is my story.

I was blessed to have been born in northern Delaware and situated nearly dead smack between two great baseball stadiums in Baltimore and Philadelphia. They were both my favorites growing up, although I certainly admired the stars from all of the teams.

Being a chubby, slow running little kid, I figured out at a pretty young age the possibility of me ever becoming a player was nonexistent. I did, however, develop an interest in collecting baseball memorabilia. First cards, then the inserts, and then the “Slurpee” cups that became fashionable about the time I got my first job of delivering weekly newspapers.

Most of my earnings were “invested” in my collection.

A color photo of Shibe Park during the first game of a doubleheader in August 1960.
A color photo of Shibe Park during the first game of a doubleheader in August 1960. Photo courtesy of xnedski

My father worked for a chemical company, and they gave him a family pack of tickets for each team, every year. Because of this, the first baseball game we ever went to was at the old Shibe Park, then known as Connie Mack Stadium, in West Philadelphia.

It was probably around 1969, when I was 9.

I don’t remember who was playing the Phillies, but I do remember having to drive across the old bridge, past a smelly refinery, by an automotive junkyard. We would pass dozens of people selling hot pretzels out of the trunks of their cars.

There were no concerns of the health standards of car exhaust in those “good old days,”

In both Philadelphia and Baltimore, there were no parking lots, so you just had to find an empty spot in front of someone’s house, park your car, and walk through blocks of urban housing to the stadium.

Hundreds of others were walking the same way, so at least there were safety in numbers.

When we got into the stadium, it felt ancient to me. I can still remember the hard wooden benches, soaked in decades of beer. My first whiff of a cigar was at that game, which was still permissible, and I haven’t liked the smell of a stogie ever since.

The Phillies at the time, and for most of my youth, had a firm control of the cellar. I suppose like my mother (who grew up watching the Brooklyn Dodgers when they were just ‘da bums’), I developed a care and concern for the underdogs in life, and I still do.

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