Catching Time With Dad
Kindberg Remembers Fondly ’69 Series In NYC
Tim Kindberg faced a dilemma earlier this week in the run-up to Father’s Day.
The Jamestown native and the married father of two had to decide whether he should celebrate by: one, attending a minor league baseball game at UPMC Park in Erie; or, two, paying a visit with his adult sons, Jacob and Luke, to Movies 17, a theater located in the Pennsylvania city, to celebrate the 30th anniversary of the premiere of “Field of Dreams.”
Either way, Tim, who in the interest of full disclosure is my first cousin, couldn’t lose, because if there is anyone who loves baseball more than him, I have yet to meet him.
“My dad’s been gone a long time,” said Tim, a lieutenant with the Chautauqua County Sheriff’s Department. “I think that’s why all this stuff means more to me, and I think all the (baseball) stuff I’ve done with the boys is because I didn’t get a chance to do that with my dad.”
Harold “Pinky” Kindberg died in May 1973 at 37, but among the gifts he left his family that includes wife Sandy, sons Tim, Mark and Steve, and daughter Karin, is a passion for America’s pastime, particularly the New York Mets.
Tim, 57, was the first to experience it just shy of 50 years ago. That’s when he accompanied his dad to Game 4 of the 1969 World Series. That’s when they sat in the right-field stands at Shea Stadium in Queens, and that’s when Mets’ outfielder Ron Swoboda made one of the most spectacular catches in the history of the Fall Classic en route to a 2-1, 10-inning victory over Baltimore. The Amazin’ Mets went on to win that game, and followed it up with a clinching victory the next day.
One of the few people locally who wasn’t surprised by that improbable championship was Pinky. He had predicted it would happen in a preseason contest conducted by Post-Journal sports editor Frank Hyde. And by virtue of that successful prognostication, the wheels were set in motion by fall to provide Pinky and 7-year-old Tim, his oldest child, a trip to the Big Apple to see a World Series game.
It all began with a letter that arrived at the Kindbergs’ Newton Avenue home on Oct. 10, 1969. It was from a vice president with Bankers Trust in New York City. His name was Charles Garrett.
Garrett’s missive on company letterhead — Tim still has the letter — was dated Oct. 9 and reads as follows:
“Enclosed are the two tickets for Game #4 at Shea Stadium which, unless there are some postponements, will be played on Wednesday, October 15th. Hope you enjoy it and the seats are good. We will look for you Thursday morning at the bank if you have a chance to stop by.”
Tim figures that because his dad was a banker with the Bank of Jamestown, Pinky had a business as well as personal connection with Garrett.
“The seats are in right field near the foul pole,” Garrett wrote in a postscript. “At least they are in the park!”
So at 11 p.m. Oct. 14, 1969, Pinky and Tim boarded a train in Jamestown, bound for the Big Apple.
“I couldn’t believe it that I got to stay up until 11,” Tim recalled. “We got into Hoboken (New Jersey) like 7 or 8 in the morning. I can remember going through the Lincoln Tunnel on a bus.”
Pinky and Tim ended up staying with one of Pinky’s cousins, a Manhattan resident, who was the president of the New York Bible Society. That was appropriate given that most baseball observers figured it would take some divine intervention for the previously woeful Mets to win a title.
Enter Swoboda, a good-hit, no-field right fielder.
With runners on the corners in the top of the seventh inning and the Mets leading, 1-0, with one out, the Orioles’ Brooks Robinson drilled a Tom Seaver offering in the direction of Swoboda.
“Sitting in right field, I just remember at one point something happening and everybody stood up,” Tim recalled. “I’m just a little kid, and I can’t see anything.”
But the crowd of 57,367 went nuts.
“I just have to believe that was Swoboda’s catch,” Tim said, “because that would have had to be right in front of us.”
Frank Robinson scored from third on the sacrifice fly to tie the game, but Seaver got out of the inning without any further damage. The Mets won the game in the 10th inning to take a 3-1 lead in the series, and won it the very next day.
“I clearly remember taking the subway to the game and I can remember my dad saying something about (seeing) Nancy Seaver (Tom’s wife), but I can’t believe I knew anything about the Mets.”
But the baseball seed had been planted. Tim was hooked.
“I don’t think there’s any other sport that’s like that,” he said. “I love baseball, but it’s a metaphor for life. Redemption. Unfairness. How unfair was it when my dad died when he was 37, right? But then I got to take Jacob and Luke to all those games through the years. … There wasn’t a time that I didn’t stop and think, ‘It doesn’t get any better than this.'”
Now back to Tim’s conundrum.
Would he join his sons in Erie for a Double-A baseball game today or would they watch “Field of Dreams,” starring Kevin Costner, at the theater?
Earlier this week, Tim texted me that that a decision had been made. They’ll be going to the movie.
“Field of Dreams,” according to Wikipedia, is about an Iowa corn farmer who hears a voice telling him: “If you build it, he will come.” He interprets this as an instruction to build a baseball diamond in his fields.
Tim visited that “Field of Dreams,” located in Dyersville, Iowa, with his wife, Maria, in 1993. That was 24 years after Tim and Pinky sat in right field at Shea Stadium for Game 4 of the 1969 World Series.
“It’s maybe corny, but it’s all about fathers and sons,” Tim said. “When you watch ‘Field of Dreams’ and Kevin Costner gets to bring his dad back and play catch with him, how much would you give for that?”