BRATTLEBORO >> Lynton "Curly" Worden has loved baseball since he started playing the game around 1946, when his family lived on Atwood Street. He played baseball in high school, during his army service, and in a semipro league in the West River Valley, and then he became an umpire for levels from Little League to small-college games. In the winter of 2015 he decided to realize a baseball-lover's dream. He planned a trip to visit every major-league baseball stadium in the country.
"I had been to Yankee Stadium, and to Fenway of course," he explained. "The first major-league baseball game I saw was in 1948. I saw the Boston Braves play in Boston; Warren Spahn pitched. But over the years, watching games on TV, you never got a chance to actually see what a ball park looked like from the outside. So I thought that one day I'd like to see these ballparks — walk around them, get a view of the area they're in, and the people. So I said to myself, 'One day, if I'm able, I'm going to take a trip and watch a game in every park.'"
Last April he loaded up his car and started off.
"I paid three months of my condo fee and three months of the light bill, and my daughter Christine watched over my condo and paid my bills that needed to be paid," he recalled. "So for three months I was carefree.
"I had three suitcases — one for winter gear, one for summer gear, and one for odds and ends," he went on. "I bought some little jugs of maple syrup for friends and people I wanted to thank as I traveled, and I started my car and left."
After an Opening Day game at Yankee Stadium on April 6, he went to Philadelphia, where he watched the Phillies play the Boston Red Sox.
"The game-time temperature in Philly was 41 degrees," Worden noted. "There was a light mist in the air, and when the game ended the temperature was 39. I saw Jonathon Papelbon pitch two outs in the eighth, and all three outs in the ninth — and he got his first save after leaving Boston."
The next stop was Washington, where he admired the memorabilia wall on the concourse and thought about the time when the Senators played at the old Griffith Stadium. Then it was on to Atlanta.
"My daughter Andrea flew down, and my grandson came over from the coast of Carolina where he was going to college, and they did the Saturday night game," he said. "And then Andrea rode with me to Miami for the Miami game — and in my opinion the Miami stadium was the greatest stadium I saw. I wanted to see the huge one-piece roof open, but it was spring, and because of the rain they don't open it until June or July."
On the way to Houston, Worden fulfilled another goal of the trip — seeing the country and visiting friends. Some of them were people he had met on a trip to Europe that focused on the Second World War.
"After my wife died, I had to decide what to do with myself," he said. "I took a trip to Europe with a couple of friends. It was 11 days of enjoyment with 40 other people from around the United States. We spent three days in Paris, and then we spent the 5th of June at Utah, Sword, and Juno Beaches where the U.S, Canada, and the British landed. And then June 6, D-Day, at 9:30 a.m., I was standing on Omaha Beach looking out over, trying to visualize what it must have been like. We spent the morning on the beach, commemorating the war vets who were there. We had seven who had served in World War II either in the Pacific or in Europe. After lunch we went to the cemetery and had another ceremony.
"It was a wonderful trip," he continued. "When we returned, I thought, I've always wanted to do this baseball trip, so I made up my mind that that was my next trip."
When Worden stopped in Louisiana, a friend from the European trip invited him to stay.
"So I spent five glorious days in Louisiana, five of them on a houseboat," Worden said. "I spent one day at the LSU-Texas A&M game in Baton Rouge, and one day with a young man in New Orleans at the Mercedes-Benz Dome, and we had lunch and an afternoon on Bourbon Street."
On to Texas, where Worden not only watched a game in Houston, but also visited iconic sites. The first was the Cowboys' stadium.
"I had a tour of the inside, and I was able to go down on the floor," he recalled. "The turf was rolled up, but it gave you an idea of how massive the place is. I went to the ballgame, and the next day, before I left, I went back into Dallas and went to the Kennedy Memorial complex. And in the afternoon, I went to the Stockyard Museum in Fort Worth."
After two days on the road ("not much to see down through Texas all the way to El Paso — it's just brown"), he arrived in Arizona, where he stayed with friends and attended a Diamondbacks game before heading up to San Diego.
"I was able to have a tour of the U.S.S Midway, an aircraft carrier, and went and saw the Padres, and from there I went to Los Angeles," he remembered. "It was Sunday, a beautiful sunny day. In my opinion, it was the greatest game I saw on my trip — 13 innings, one to nothing, and the Dodgers hit a home run in the bottom of the 13th inning."
Since pitchers in the National League have to bat, rotating pitchers and changing the batting order is an essential strategy. Worden enjoyed watching that struggle.
"To watch the two managers fight that battle to win — take the pitcher out, put the second basemen in the order where the pitcher was — it was an interesting game," he commented.
"The next stop was Anaheim, home of the Angels, a huge, monstrous complex," he continued. "It was an enjoyable game — so enjoyable that all of the participants in the game were given a sombrero. There were 28,600 people at the game, and in the sixth inning the public address announced that everybody was to wear the sombrero for five minutes. It entered the Angels and the people in the Guinness Book of World Records for the most people wearing a sombrero in one area."
Worden headed up the California Coast to the Bay Area. He attended a game in the San Francisco stadium on a sunny May afternoon that turned frigid ("the coldest I've ever been" — he repeatedly took shelter in the heated concourse), stayed with another friend, visited the redwoods in the Valley of the Giants, and took in a game in Oakland.
The next day he left for Seattle, where he saw Mount Hood and the Needle and spent half a day at the huge market before the ballgame. On the way to Denver, he was impressed by the Rocky Mountains.
"I wish I'd had someone with me to see the beauty of the Rockies," he commented.
He continued east to Kansas City and St. Louis.
"The city of St. Louis has so much to offer new people," he noted. "I spent one whole day at the Arch and saw the movie about the building of the Arch. I went to the Budweiser brewery, and over to America's Center to visit the football field. To my amazement, they were having a Comic Con — all these people dressed up like comic-book characters — so that was enjoyable."
After a Cardinals game, he went to a Red Sox game in Minneapolis and on to Milwaukee, where he saw the opening of the dome's roof. Worden's son flew to Chicago to join him for a Cubs game.
"Wrigley Field was the most unique of the ball parks," he commented. "It's built in a residential neighborhood, and you can't get around it, can't see anything but the entrance, and the columns and the beams are like Fenway."
He headed to Tiger Stadium in Detroit and visited the Rouge truck plant and the Ford Museum before doubling back to Chicago to see the White Sox play. In the parking lot, he met a couple who were so impressed by his travels that they invited him to share their box seats — and their tailgate picnic.
On to Cincinnati, Toronto, Pittsburgh, Baltimore, and finally to Citi Field for a Mets game. It ended late at night; Worden drove home in time for his grandson's graduation from Brattleboro Union High School before heading to Boston to watch the Red Sox.
"Ten weeks, 16,000 miles," he said. "I had a chance to see 35 great ballgames, but more importantly I got to see the magnificence of the country. I just wish I had had someone with me."
Maggie Brown Cassidy can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.