Alas, my first game — or at least the original version of it – is lost in the mists of our family lore, which is not generally of the record-keeping variety. My memory is that it was a June 1977 game against the San Diego Padres, and Tom Seaver was on the mound. But this is based on a few pretty shaky things. Seeing how I was eight, of course I assumed Tom Seaver would be pitching — what team would be foolish enough to send out Jackson Todd or Bob Myrick instead of Tom Terrific, particularly with me in the house? And my recollection that it was the Padres may be tangled up with the fact that as a child I thought Padres was pronounced “Parodies,” which led to a lot of adult guffawing and invitations to say what I'd just said again.
A little detective work reveals that the Mets played the Parodies on May 11, 1977, three days after my eighth birthday. And lo and behold, Tom Seaver did start, against Bob Shirley. Score one for youthful memory — except May 11 was a Wednesday doubleheader, and my parents viewed a trip to New York City like a combination of Gallipoli and the Iditarod — we went once or twice a year after weeks of preparation, final calls to loved ones, and so forth. (When I started dating Emily again and found myself in New York City for the first time as an adult, I suggested that we drive out to Setauket so she could see my old houses, junior high and all that other silly crap. She couldn't understand why I kept insisting we should get up at about 6 a.m., and eventually gave up trying to convince me otherwise. We got in the car at like 6:15 and, to my astonishment, rolled into a still-sleeping Setauket at about 6:45. That night I called up my parents to yell at them.)
Another flaw with the 5/11/77 theory is the Mike Phillips factor. Mike Phillips had replaced the departed Rusty Staub as my favorite player, because I'd invented a superhero whose real name was Mike Phillips and was astonished to discover that A) there was a real person named Mike Phillips; and B) he played for the baseball team I was beginning to love. (You can't make this stuff up.) Mike Phillips hit a home run in on May 11, 1977, which clinches the impossibility of my having been there: I would have remembered that, and I wasn't that lucky a kid, karma-wise. (We lost both games of the doubleheader, by the way.)
So perhaps it's more likely that I attended Saturday, July 30th's game against the Parodies: Mike Phillips had been traded for Joel Youngblood by then, a good swap even if it did leave me newly aware of the chill emptiness of the universe. Nino Espinosa faced Dave Freisleben; and the Mets lost, 8-6. That sounds more like the kind of game I'd have seen.
I do remember attending a game in 1978 against the Cardinals, chosen because Mike Phillips and the rest of the Cardinals were flying into Shea, as the scoreboard might put it. I had seen fans with bedsheet banners and posters and such, and so I was ready with my own sign. It was addressed to Cards manager Vern Rapp, and it read HEY VERN! IF YOU WANT A BENCH WARMER GET A HOT WATER BOTTLE BUT DON'T USE MIKE PHILLIPS! accompanied by a not-bad drawing of Mike Phillips hitting a home run. (Heck, he did hit for the cycle once — I certainly remember that day, because I spent it levitating.) My mother rather gently pointed out that my sign might not get the attention its passion deserved, since it was written in navy-blue ink on a piece of letter-sized dark green construction paper. I ignored her and held my manifesto proudly all game, aiming it at various distant cameras. I have no idea what game in 1978 that was, but I do remember Mike Phillips didn't play.
So that was the history I grew up with, however vague in the details, and the origin myth that helped form part of the foundation of my baseball fandom. Until last Christmas. We were sitting around my parents' house in Virginia talking with old friends of theirs, and Joe nonchalantly began talking of how they, my parents and I had gone to see the Red Sox play the Tigers at Fenway in 1970 — my first baseball game as well as my mom's. What the? Fenway? Kaline? Yaz? Me? How had nobody ever seen fit to mention this in the 34 years since then? It's like forgetting to tell some guitar-crazed kid about how he was a babe in arms while Hendrix played Woodstock, or how, oh yeah, that nice Mr. Einstein used to help you count blocks — maybe that's why you like physics.
But maybe it's a kindness not knowing. As you observed firsthand, Joshua's first game was no beaut, and he'll never be able to outrun this box score.