By Matthew Van Wormer
Today marks the beginning of our Fan of the Week column. I have picked someone close to me as the very first person to be honored as such. My father, Hans Van Wormer, has been an Indians fan for his entire life and he has passed his love of the Tribe on to me. He took me to my first game in July 1989. It happened to be a doubleheader against the Red Sox and we got there late in the first game of the twin-bill. I was hooked immediately by the great sights, sounds and smells of old Municipal Stadium. Indians games would become my summer home, all because of my dad.
His history with the Tribe goes back a bit farther though. Back in the days before Ticketmaster, many people in Elyria got their Indians tickets from The Men’s Shop downtown. My great grandparents owned the Men’s Shop and my great grandmother had the task of returning the unsold tickets (and back in the 60’s and 70’s, there were plenty of unsold tickets) to the stadium along with the money from the tickets that were sold. When those days came, my dad made sure that he had all of his chores and homework done so he could make the trip into Cleveland with his grandmother.
As my dad and his grandmother were greeted at the entrance, they made their way to the ticket office to do the quick job of turning in the money and tickets. Once that was out of the way, the best part of the trip began. The two of them would travel to the main concourse and find some seats that were readily available so they could sit back and watch batting practice as well as a few innings of the game that was taking place that day. My dad got to see players like Carl Yastrzemski, Luis Aparicio and Mickey Mantle for other teams while Luis Tiant, Sam McDowell and Ray Fosse battled for the Tribe. It was experiences like those that turned my dad into the fan that he is to this day.
Ticketmaster’s birth coupled with the closing of The Men’s Shop saw the days of batting practice and free Tribe games come to an end for my dad but he still got to games every now and then and once I was born, he had a reason to go more and more. If it weren’t for my dad, I may not be writing this story about him right now. I can vividly remember not wanting to play Little League one year and my dad throwing down the gauntlet on me. “If you don’t play Little League, I won’t take you to any Indians games this year.” Well, the choice was simple from that point. I played baseball and got to go to games. To this day, my dad and I still go to an Indians game for my birthday every year, a tradition that’s been going on for almost 20 years.
So, is my selection of the first Fan of the Week a little biased? Maybe. But without my father, I may not have become the Indians fan that I am today. I think that makes him pretty deserving of this honor. Next week, we have another special story about a man with a lofty goal; visiting every ballpark in the Major’s in one season!
If you think that you or someone you know deserves to be the DTTWLN? Fan of the Week, contact me through Twitter (@MatthewDTTWLN) or e-mail (firstname.lastname@example.org) and let me know why and who you think should be the Fan of the Week!