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Vince Coleman and Childhood Trauma

If you’ve been following along with my twitter account, you’ve learned that I have a new obsession, and that is being able to watch vintage Cardinals games. This isn’t a newfound passion, I LOVE watching old Cardinals footage and always have, but unfortunately the Copyright Nazis over at MLB have had a long standing tradition of 1) not letting anyone else post an old game 2) Also not posting any old games from the tens of thousands they have just sitting in archives.

(Yes, they have a few “classic” games available, and no those don’t count.)

Well, I don’t know if MLB is being more lenient, or if I just happened to have hit YouTube at a golden time, but teams are now starting to have channels pop up everywhere where people have started posting their old games.

And I’m in heaven.

Said to focus on 1992-2012, there are already 100 old games on here, and they are games YOU WANT TO SEE. Gary Bennett walk off grand slam against the Cubs? Yeah, you can watch that now. And you should. The Nazis will be coming soon.

2. Stweekly

Stweekly has been posting Cardinals games from 1985-1987, AKA my formative Cardinals loving years, and BE STILL MY HEART, watching Tommie Herr play 2B again is a fantasy I thought only existed in heaven.

I hope there are more. TELL ME IF THERE ARE MORE. I love watching old games, old innings. NOT highlights. Highlights suck. We watch all of these games because of the drama, the buildup, the knowing that something special isn’t likely to happen – but it might – and we want to see it when it does. Jack Clark crushing Tom Neidenfuer is fun to watch, but it’s nothing like watching the inning unfold, and having Vin Scully read Tomy LaSorda’s lips cuss about facing Jack Clark or Andy Van Slyke – only to watch him make the wrong decision.

The more baseball you watch – the more context that you have about how amazing the highlights are. People today that never saw Ozzie Smith play shortstop cannot understand his greatness from watching the same 15 plays flash in front of their face for 3 seconds at a time while punk music plays in the background. You need to see the entire play, you need to hear the crowd gasp, you need to see the exasperated pain on the opponents when they realize they were stopped by Superman and there was nothing they could do to help it.

So yeah, this is how I’ve always been. I just love watching and reliving those old times. But before yesterday, I hadn’t tried to watch a Cardinal’s 80s game in 30 years. And I have a good reason why.

I never lived in St. Louis. I never lived especially near St. Louis. The only times I got to watch Cardinals games were when they played the Cubs, Mets, or Braves, or somehow were nationally televised. I cherished those chances, and I taped them whenever I could. There was one particular game, turns out It was this one:, and I watched it a lot. That was my 7 year old version of game 6. The Cardinals beat the Cubs 11-8, and they did so putting on a POWER DISPLAY. Look at the box score. Vince Coleman homered! Pedro Guerrero was 4-4 with a homer! The team seemed unstoppable and I loved it. I had it on a video-taped, unmarked except for the leftover residue of where a label had been torn off. Every few weeks I’d look for that ripped label, pop in the tape, and watch Vince Coleman befuddle the Cubs by dropping one into the basket. It was wonderful.

Until the last time I tried to watch it.

I was 7, and I had a babysitter. She was a teenager, and I didn’t know her well, and I was bored and wasn’t able to go outside, and so I thought I’d watch the baseball game. She was agreeable, and so into the cabinet of video tapes I went. Usually, because of my frequency of watching it, it was one of the first 5-10 tapes you’d see, but for some reason this time I had a very hard time finding it.

Finally I found that ripped off label, it didn’t quite look right to me, but it was the only tape to have the ripped off label, so it had to be the right one. I gave it to the babysitter.

“Are you sure?” she said to me. Was I sure? Who cares? If I’m wrong we take it out. But it HAD to be the tape, the label was ripped off! Only the white fuzz of the corner of the label remained where the adhesive had managed to stick to its humble roots.

“Yes.” I said.

So she pressed play, and that’s the moment that my babysitter and I started watching hardcore porn. I have a faint memory of her lunging for the VCR to stop the tape, but I have a VIVID memory of what I saw on my television screen, and that WASN’T Pedro Guerrero carrying around a giant bat.

I honestly don’t remember all that much when I was 7. I can’t even remember where my bedroom was in that house. But if I ever run into the woman that I hope was paid well to straddle a man dressed as a cowboy in the middle of a wheat field, well even with only a ten second glance, there isn’t a single part I can’t recall to perfection today.

Hours later my dad came home, and you can bet the first thing my babysitter told him. I wanted to watch a baseball game, and we put in a tape, and it was NOT the game, and my dad said without missing a beat, “that’s better than some old game!” The traumatized teen never babysat for me again.

My dad has cancer. I found this out late last week, and it’s thrown me for a loop. The wellspring of emotions that hits a person when this sort of thing comes up can’t be explained, but everyone who has been there knows exactly what I mean. My brain has been a fog, a haze, inescapable while it tries to deal with a new reality. I’ve been through this before. We’ve all been through this before, but I hoped those battles were over. I think we believe if we can only get by some of these things, life will get back to normal, and we can forget about it. But the truth about life is that these things don’t just go away. You might beat back a scare once, or twice, but time takes its toll and it ravages us all, and we find ourselves saying goodbyes we never thought we’d say when we were 7. It’s coming. The pain is coming. The regrets at time wasted are coming. The best we can do is love our families and friends as hard as we can, and hold on to the happy moments as long as we can, before the day comes when all we have left are those video tapes of memories we hold on to so that maybe we can relive a bit of those feelings, and remember how things used to be, before our realities changed.

So I called my dad, happy to have something lighthearted to talk about, and see if he remembered the story.

He remembered, and he laughed, and he laughed. And he told me a part of the story that I didn’t know.

My mom was out of town on a business trip, hence the need for a babysitter, and apparently the need for...other things. My dad grabbed a tape, the one he specifically ripped the label off of, and popped it into the VCR. Instead of a tale about the Wild Wild West, he watched Vince Coleman homer off of the Cubs.

“It still worked.”


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