Friday, July 27, 2012

Sophie Goes to Fenway and Grandpa's Speculations

Last Sunday Sophie Ann Zinn made her major league debut at Fenway Park when the Red Sox took on the Toronto Blue Jays.  With a 15-7 final score, I'm not entirely sure it qualifies as baseball, but that's the disadvantage of living in an area deprived of National League baseball.  In any event Sophie must have set some kind of record, attending vintage, minor league and major league games before she is three months old. 

Paul Zinn on the other hand wasn't quite that fortunate, he had to wait until he was 7 for his first game or more properly games - a 1986 twi-night doubleheader between the Mets and the Cubs at Shea Stadium.  Still Paul beat me as my first game was a Wayne PAL baseball league trip to the Polo Grounds in August of 1957 when I was 10.   

It's not surprising that Sophie's first game made me think back to Paul and my experiences, but it also led me to go back even farther to speculate about possible games for earlier generations of Zinns.  That starts, of course, with my father, Hank Zinn (1914-2002) who appears in both the above and below pictures.  In the first picture, he is the bat boy for the Maywood Athletic Association (I'm guessing in the early 1920's) while in the second, he is in the second row directly in front of the man in the suit.  The picture is of the Bogota high school baseball team in the 1930's when Hank was an all Bergen County outfielder before going on play baseball at Montclair State.

One of the many things I never thought to ask my father was about his first major league baseball game.  I know that he went to a World Series game in the 1930's at Yankee Stadium and also that he and my mother went to a Dodgers game at Ebbets Field.  My guess is that he probably went to a major league game sometime in the late 1920's or early 1930's - it wasn't Ebbets Field as I know he went there only once.  Chances are probably equal between the Yankees and Giants, both teams were very good during that time frame and both locations were equally convenient.

But this speculative exercise doesn't end there because there is also my grandfather, John G. Zinn (1892-1955) who I'm named after.  He appears in the above Borden's Milk Company team picture in Hackensack possibly in 1924, but sometime in the 1920's.  Of the four players in the second row, he's the second from the left. 

Not only is there a family resemblance, but if you look closely you could see something on his right hand.  For members of the Neshanock vintage base ball team, especially  our first baseman, Dave "Illinois" Harris, let me explain that it's a glove, specifically a left handed first baseman's glove.  I have no idea if he ever went to a major league game, I was only eight when he died and wasn't a baseball fan.  Still it's more than possible that at one point he went to a game, again I doubt it was the Dodgers and the Giants and Yankees are probably equally likely.  If it was prior to his 1913 marriage, however, my best guess is that it was a Giants game as they were the "Tiffany" franchise in New York while the Yankees were distant also-rans.

There's no realistic basis for further speculation, but I'm not going to stop.  The above picture shows my grandfather on a motorcycle and to his right is his father, John Zinn (1850-1920).  He was born in Hackensack and I would love to find evidence of his having played for a local base ball club during the 1860's, but no luck so far.  Certainly he grew up just as the New York game was taking hold in New Jersey and it's certainly likely he played the game at least informally, but I'd say the odds are against his having been to a major league game.

That's even more true of his father, the man on the left in the above picture, another John Zinn (1827-1897) who came to this country from Germany in 1849.  He was leading figure in the German community in Hackensack in the 19th century and I would guess the burden of providing for his family in a new country didn't leave him much leisure time.

So I think it's safe to say that Sophie represents at least the fifth generation of Zinns who have attended a major league baseball game.  Hopefully she will inherit the baseball gene and attend many, many more at least on some occasions with her grandfather who will make sure the earlier generations are also there, at least in spirit.

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