Growing Up Baseball: Introducing Ken Baumgardt

One of the great Baseball stadiums, Shibe Park 1913
Marker for the site of the pitching mound of en:Veterans Stadium in the parking lot of Citizens Bank Park in Philadelphia.
Marker for the site of the pitching mound of Veterans Stadium in the parking lot of Citizens Bank Park in Philadelphia.

In 1971, the brand-new Veterans Stadium opened in Philadelphia, and although my neighbor and best friend got to go to a game in April, I didn’t get the chance till June.

It was amazing! So clean, so pretty, the plastic seating was all color coded, and they had a jumbo-tron, which I had never even imagined could exist. Going to that game with my father was perhaps the highlight of my youth! I got a yearbook and a program, hot dogs and pretzels from the busy but sparkling concessions.

I continued in this vein as I became a stereotypical teenage dork, overweight, pimpled, with soda-bottle thick glasses. I was a genius in school, often picked on for it, but I went home to play with my collections.

I was amazed to find that I had 10,000 baseball cards!

In those years, companies also began to market items that featured old time players, from the “Slurpee” cups of Hall of Famers like Ruth and Gehrig, to the Fleer company issuing sets about the old World Series games and another about the Negro Leagues.

In those days I became interested in the older history of the game and read all I could get my hands on about the old New York Giants, the Babe, Jackie Robinson, and the rest. My high school archaeology teacher , Sylvia Green, just happened to be the wife of retired Phillies pitcher Dallas Green (before he returned as manager).

I got my teacher to take home the old Phillies yearbooks so he could autograph them for me.

As youth gave way to emergent adulthood, by the time I was 16 my attention had turned away from baseball and turned to girls (my first love was Annette Funicello), getting a real job, and getting a car.  By this time the Phillies were actually winning in their new stadium, but we were all more fascinated with following Hank Aaron in his quest to break Babe Ruth’s home run record.

I felt the need to “put childish things behind me,” and I sold my whole baseball collection to someone for $500 to buy my first car. It seemed like I good deal at the time, and I forgot about it when I started my first job in a donut shop and began my college career.

The next forty years went by as time does, with marriages found and lost, careers and ups and downs. I had a good career as a historian, archaeologist, and later as a disaster first responder. I was able to spend time all over the U.S., in Israel and Europe and Africa, and two years in the U.S. Virgin Islands.

I can’t really say I have an overwhelming amount of regrets about how my life turned out, but I wish I had been able to buy one of those smelly old benches from Connie Mack Stadium before they tore it down, and I still wish I had never sold my old baseball cards!

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