The first Major League Baseball game I can confirm I ever went to was on Aug. 7, 1987. Our family structured its family vacations around where the St. Louis Cardinals were playing -- we took one every two years, and my favorite was visiting Cincinnati and watching the Cards beat the Reds and then riding roller coasters at King's Island -- and in 1987, we decided to pack into our Buick Skylark and drive east. We went to Niagara Falls, we dropped by Cooperstown and we saw the Cardinals play the Phillies at Veterans Stadium.
I don't remember much from that game other than one detail: The Cardinals got blown out so badly that in the ninth inning, they brought in utility man Jose Oquendo to pitch. That's the one thing that stuck in my mind. Until fairly recently, all I had was that fading memory. But today, we can know exactly what game that was: It was Aug. 7, 1987, a 15-5 Phillies victory. (The game was so bad that John Tudor pinch hit, and Willie McGee played shortstop.) There is something fulfilling and complete about knowing that someone, somewhere was chronicling what my 11-year-old self was doing that day, and that I can now find it. Our baseball history is our own history. It is a marker for our own lives.
Which is why I'm delighted to spread the word of a new site, one I've been consulting on, called Hardball Passport. The next invention from Peter Robert Casey and Kyle Whelliston (the people who created Basketball Passport, which I wrote about in November), its goal is to digitalize and chronicle your entire baseball fan history. Every game you've ever been to, you can load in there and have forever. It is an absolute must for every baseball fan.
Baseball is a sport that naturally lends itself to this concept: After I wrote my theoretical "See 30 Games And 30 Stadiums In 30 Days" column in January, I was blown away by how many people told me their life goal was to see all 30 MLB stadiums. Hardball Passport gives you a place to log that whole journey. It is the primary replacement for the late, lamented ESPN Passport, the site ESPN shuttered last year . But it's an improvement. It's exactly what a site like this should be.
So let's play around with it.
The site has 89,528 full major league box scores, complete with scoring summaries and narratives. For reference, here's a screenshot from last year's World Series Game 2, in which the Cardinals beat the Red Sox 4-2.
You've got your box score, your stadium breakdown, the number of games played there that season, who was there and a way to log that you were there. And you can find these for every single Major League Baseball game since Oct. 21, 1975, the night Carlton Fisk hit that home run in that Red Sox-Reds World Series. You can search by team, stadium or season. If you were at a game, it's in there, and you simply push the button that says "I WENT," and it'll be logged in your system.
The site not only has all those MLB games, it also has every minor league game and stadium, from Triple A down to short season and rookie league, since 2002. And Casey says they'll be adding collegiate games and stadiums within a matter of weeks. So you can find those too. Here's my favorite minor league stadium, MCU Park in Brooklyn:
There's one of those for every MLB and minor league stadium, even those that have been closed. (Especially those that have been closed.)
Once you've found every game -- or at least those ones you know you've been to; there are surely games before that Phillies-Cardinals game in 1987, I just have to sit down with my parents and figure out which ones they were -- you can start checking out your own personal page. And this is where it gets really fun.
So far, I have logged 239 games in 34 different ballparks. So my Stats page looks like this:
That has all the games I've been to, teams' records in games I've attended and the best individual performances in those games. (I had to cut off the page to fit, but it lists the top 20 pitching performances I've seen as well.) On July 18, 2006, Andruw Jones went 5-for-5 with two homers and 6 RBIs. I remember that game. Now I'll never forget it.
There are some other whirlygigs on there, including challenges (see every stadium in South Carolina!) and Bucket Lists, which allow you to store stadiums you want to make sure you get to before you die, and the ability to add photos of yourself at each game you've attended. But the main thing is logging your own games, and your own stadiums, and your own experiences. It makes those memories concrete. It makes so they won't go away.
Casey -- who also says there's an app coming that will allow you to check in at games -- says that now that Basketball Passport and Hardball Passport exist, there are two more legs on the stool on the way: Football Passport on Aug. 28 and Puck Passport on October 1. But from this viewpoint, Hardball Passport is the centerpiece. Baseball is the sport this was invented for.
It is difficult sometimes to find the excuse to head out to the park anymore. All games are available to use on our computers in a matter of seconds. But, especially with baseball, there is no substitute to actually being there. This is how our memories are created. And this site is how they are sustained and maintained. It's Hardball Passport, and it's just terrific. I'm so happy it exists. So join. And you're welcome.