The Good Old Days of Baseball and Stogies
Baseball and cigar smoking have gone hand in hand since good old Abner Doubleday invented the sport! Starting from the late 1800’s and until the early 1970’s, the stands were filled with boisterous characters with stogies in mouths, screaming at a bad call, or cheering on the home team. Unlike modern times, a fellow could enjoy puffing his favorite stick in any ballpark in the land it was a very acceptable, and often appreciated, form of fandom.
Being passionate about Americas Pastime, starting as a (fat) kid, I watched all the great old films, and documentaries about the game. During any camera pan, it seemed that every fan in the stands was wearing a big hat or fedora, an ugly suit, or sport jacket (depending on the era) and puffing away on their smokes.
Baseball and cigars are very nostalgic to me. My father was both a die-hard New York Mets fan his whole life, and quite the connoisseur of shitty machine made cigars. As a child, I sat with him as he watched just about every televised game in his favorite beat up lounge chair, clad only in boxer shorts. I have vivid (and disturbing) memories of him puffing away on his green dog rockets for all nine innings, and screaming bloody murder at our black and white Sylvania TV. Why was he cursing? Because even though they ain’t great today, the Mets really stunk badly in the 1960’s. In addition, being an angry, frustrated Jew his whole life, he always needed something to complain about, so his beloved Met games kept him suitably miserable.
The Bambino, Babe Ruth, always comes to mind, when I think of cigars and baseball. Those images in the newsreels of him winking and schmoozing with the fans with a big Cubano sticking out of his mouth were priceless to me. Everyone knew that the Babe certainly enjoyed the “good life” – beautiful young women, fancy cars, swingin’ nightclubs, shitloads of good food and booze, and of course, his beloved cigars, that were always part of his post-game persona.
Underneath the grumpy façade, my dad was really a good person, and he took me to Shea Stadium on many occasions to see his Mets get their asses kicked (most of the time). As a young boy, I have fond recollections of walking into this giant cathedral and smelling the combination of fresh cut grass, the snap of the bats during batting practice and that echoing PA system announcing the starting lineups. Just looking at numbers on the back of jerseys and quickly referring to my scorecard to see my favorite stars who I had formerly only seen on a grainy Sylvania now in the flesh, was truly an unforgettable experience that I still cherish today.
As the game progressed, and nightfall and big lights illuminated the stadium, the crowds began roaring with every pitch. The smell of cheap cigar smoke began wafting through the air; including the stinker dad was smoking. To me, this was the total essence and beauty of baseball.
Sadly, when I go to a game today, I am one of the many victims of our smoke Nazi bureaucracy that has taken away the privilege to smoke at almost all ballparks. Not all is lost though, because many of the minor league parks (that I attend) have grassy picnic areas in the outfield where a fan can go enjoy a smoke without the (tree hugging) douchebag sitting six rows below asking you to put it out.
I will always be a baseball fan, and I will always love cigars, but boy have things changed. Many find spending $200 for a ticket and sitting- smoke free, while eating Sushi a fun part of the sport. Me, I would rather go back in time, sit in the cheap seats, pig out on hot dogs and beer, and savor a nice dark Hoyo Governor. Just me and dad blowing clouds and cursing out the Mets … That, my friends, is what baseball (still) means to me!