News & Politics

Librarian of Congress Carla Hayden on Going to Her First Baseball Game With Her Grandfather

“I don’t remember if the Cardinals won, but it almost didn’t matter. I was with him.”

Busch Stadium in St. Louis, where the Librarian of Congress went to her first baseball game. Photograph courtesy of Missouri State Archives.

“I spent my summers in Springfield, Illinois, with my grandparents, and my grandfather was a baseball fanatic. He would look at a game on TV—it was in black and white back then—and have at least one radio, if not two, giving him other games.

“It was an hour-or-so drive down to St. Louis, Missouri, to see the Cardinals. He would take me to my first game there. That’s what started my love of baseball.

“I was probably about six. My first impression was how big Busch Stadium was. All the people. It was the largest crowd I’d ever been in. I remember the excitement and the wonder of it. I remember holding my grandfather’s hand as we were going to our seats.

“It was nice outside. I had on pedal pushers, as they called them at the time, and little sneakers with white socks. I had on a sleeveless top with a collar. My grandfather had on his straw hat. He was a dapper dresser.

“The idea you could get a hot dog—that was like, whoa. That hot dog was a big thing. I didn’t have that kind of stuff that much.

“I knew about strikes and outs. I knew the rules. My grandfather would say, ‘That’s a double play’ or ‘He stole the base.’ He explained to me when you jump up or not, being a part of a crowd.

“I don’t remember other kids. I think because there weren’t that many African Americans there, there wasn’t that much interaction with other people.

“I don’t remember if the Cardinals won, but it almost didn’t matter. I remember being happy—I was with him.

“[That first game] is what really made me [a baseball fan], because it was more than just the radio. Baseball was the backdrop to other activities in the house—my grandpa listening to the radio while we did something else. But going made it come alive.”

—As told to Sherri Dalphonse

This article appears in the April 2021 issue. 

Editor in chief

Sherri Dalphonse joined Washingtonian in 1986 as an editorial intern, and worked her way to the top of the masthead when she was named editor-in-chief in 2022. She oversees the magazine’s editorial staff, and guides the magazine’s stories and direction. She lives in DC.