Back in the day, before politics, social media and political correctness sucked the fun out of life’s simple pleasures, we were easily amused. We didn’t need video games, the internet or a cell phone.
My fondest memories growing up were of those times spent in the upper deck of Shea Stadium watching the Mets. I was a huge baseball fan, still am (though they could speed up the game and get rid of the designated hitter.)
Back then you could buy a general admission ticket for one dollar and 30 cents, or get in free with 10 coupons clipped off milk cartons. It was an incredible bargain and the cheapest entertainment anywhere. If it was unbearably hot, we headed to Shea. We didn’t have air conditioning and the upper deck was always about 20 degrees cooler with a steady breeze since the stadium sat near the water. Unlike the assigned seats in the lower levels, you could sit anywhere you wanted, since the ushers didn’t bother working the nosebleed section. If it wasn’t hot, you could wait till the ushers in the lower decks left around the fourth inning and move down to some empty box seats.
While the concessions were cheap, we avoided the real food since it was awful, with old, wrinkled hot dogs like the kind you see under a heat lamp in a gas station. We usually brought our own sandwiches, snacks and drinks. One thing we couldn’t bring was ice cream. They sold cups of Breyers for fifty cents, with half vanilla and half chocolate. Each cup came with a wooden spoon.
As for being easily amused, that was provided by the ice cream lid. You cannot imagine the pure enjoyment provided by a round piece of cardboard at a baseball game.
It quickly became a tradition for fans to scale their lids toward the field. Most of the time they never made it, but if the wind was just right your lid might touch down on the grass. When it looked like one was getting close, the crowd got into it, the noise getting louder as the lid got closer. “OoooooohhhhhhHHHH…. (Yea! or Awwww.)” If it made it to the field, a cheer would go up. Anything that hit fair territory got a bigger cheer. And if you scored the ultimate, a lid that would interrupt the game, well, that would nearly bring a standing ovation.
Over the years I scaled many ice cream lids, only one of which made it to the field in foul territory. But that was not the most memorable attempt.
One night my two closest friends, Steve and Frank (still my closest friends today) were taking in a game when Frank finished his ice cream and prepared to airmail his lid. He sailed it toward the field. Almost immediately a breeze caught it, making it change direction. It didn’t even make it out of the upper deck.
Instead, the lid sailed several rows down and smacked a guy in a leather jacket right on the sleeve. And stuck there. Pretty funny.
The man slowly turned his head and looked at his sleeve as chocolate and vanilla ran down the leather. He slowly peeled the lid from his jacket. We got a look at his face. This guy looked like an extra from a horror movie.
Our laughter quickly turned to, “Uh-oh, we’re dead.”
He turned and looked up at those of us in the cheap seats.
We decided to pretend we had no idea what was going on and started clapping and chanting for the Mets.
Problem was, it was between innings and the grounds crew was dragging the infield.
The man wiped the ice cream from his sleeve and stood up. Of course, Frank’s lid couldn’t have hit some skinny guy. As luck would have it, our victim was built like a Coke machine. And he looked seriously ticked off.
We kept paying attention to the field as he walked up the steps. My heart rate spiked as he reached our row.
Thankfully, he kept going and sat in the last row of the upper deck.
It was our chance to get outta there. “Let’s go get something to eat.” We hustled out of the third-base side of the upper deck, down a couple decks to the first base side about as far as possible from the ice cream man.
We never threw another ice cream lid. The point soon became moot, as the Mets stopped selling cups of ice cream and switched to bars on a stick. I’m guessing the people who cleaned the place after games were probably tired of peeling sticky ice cream lids off seats.
Of course, things like this couldn’t happen today in our antiseptic homogenous society in which someone will be offended by anything you do.
Then again, if you want to be part of the resistance, next time you’re eating a cup of ice cream, make good use of the lid.
Randy Tatano lives in Brewton and is the author of more than 20 novels, writing political thrillers under the pen name Nick Harlow, and romantic comedies as Nic Tatano. He spent 30 years working in television news as a local affiliate reporter and network field producer. The views and opinions expressed here are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the policy or position of 1819 News. To comment, please send an email with your name and contact information to [email protected].