My Dad, Decisions, And A Dog Named Lady

This story will eventually spin around to a dog named Lady. So, you’ll definitely want to stick around for that.

But, this story is, more importantly, about my dad.

They say you won’t understand your parents until you are a parent yourself. This has always placed me at a disadvantage.

But, I’ve realized a few things since they’ve been gone.

My mom taught me “things.” The skilled how-to-do “things.” My dad, in a weird way he probably didn’t realize, taught me how to figure things out for myself.

I’m always interested to hear other people’s “father stories.”

“My dad taught me to bike … “

“… to fish …”

“ … to drive a car …”

“… to throw a baseball …”

And, to be honest, it always makes me a little jealous.

My dad didn’t teach me any of those things. But, I think my dad gave me space to figure things like that out for myself.

When I wanted a bike, like all the neighborhood kids already had, he said, “When you show me you know how to ride a bike, I will get you a bike.”

This took more than practice. This required me to cajole my friends and barter with them into loaning me their bikes, five minutes here, 10 minutes there, so I could practice. I’m sure I bent a few handlebars and dinged up a few frames when I wiped out. But, I figured it out, and one night after my dad got home from work, a friend – I’m pretty sure it was Pam, the girl down the block – loaned me her bike and I rode it to my house so my dad could see that I had learned to ride a bike.

That weekend, I had my bike.

And, it was purple with a flowered banana seat and it was exactly — exactly — the bike I dreamed of.

So, my dad didn’t teach me how to ride a bike. Not exactly. Or, did he?

My dad also gave me space to make decisions on my own, and here’s the story I want to tell. Continue reading

Everyone Knew Her As Babe

Dear Mom,

If you were still around, I wonder what you’d think about how things are today. I bet you’d be sitting at the kitchen table with that bemused look on your face that seemed to say, “How did I end up surrounded by so many idiots?” You wouldn’t roll your eyes. You wouldn’t say a word. You’d just have a look. That look. That look of bemused and deep, utter disappointment. You’d take another sip of coffee and not say a word.

You wouldn’t believe the mess we’re in these days, Mom. I’m rationing flour like it’s gold dust. I overbought eggs – just in case those are in short supply next. I rarely leave my house and when I do I have to wear a mask.

I know how you worry, Mom. But, really, don’t.  I promise you, the cats are ok.

I miss you. I love you.

My Mom was named Julie. Well, technically, Julie Ann. But, pretty much everyone called her Babe.

Babe

A lot of her friends probably didn’t even know what her real name was. To them, she was just Babe.

She was Babe because she was the youngest in her family, but that didn’t stop me from, on occasion, suggesting to her that she was named after Babe Ruth – which didn’t go over well. Or, Babe the Blue Ox – which went over even worse.

(My mom had just one sibling, an older sister who everyone called Sis. Editor/Husband wonders what Sis was called in the years before my mom was born – before “Sis” officially became someone’s sister. I am guessing her pre-“Sis” nickname was “Child.” Creativity in nicknaming was not my family’s strong suit.)

Public Domain

Other Babe

My mom was born in the summer of 1929 – a good, but not great, year for Babe Ruth who, at age 34 in a not-great year, was still able to lead baseball with 46 home runs. He swatted his 500th career homer on August 11, just 24 days after my mom was born. These incidents were, as far as I know, unrelated. Continue reading

Whatever.

My dad never said “I love you.”

Not to me, anyway.

There was a time when dads, as a rule, didn’t say “I love you” to their children. That was just the way things were done.

It’s not like I didn’t know he loved me.

Us.

My dad taught me to love reading and basketball. He taught me that the best beer must be properly chilled and the best practical jokes must be properly executed. (My practical jokes would make my dad proud.)

My dad taught me to parallel park by handing me the driver’s handbook with written instructions, setting up two sawhorses in the yard, and pulling the massive old grain truck up beside them. “There. Park it between those saw horses. You won’t hurt anything and once you can parallel park the grain truck, you’ll be able to parallel park anything.” Then he left. (I think he just got into his tractor and drove back out into the field.)

He left me alone to figure it out.

Continue reading

Because That’s What Moms Do

Sometimes after a long day and work has weighed heavily on me, I’ll look into a mirror and see my mother looking back. Not the bright, young, bewitching mom that I remember most, but the older, tired mother, made haggard by years of hard work and an illness that should have, predictably, killed her in her forties, but didn’t.

My mom was much stronger, much tougher, much more focused than I am, and there are many times that I will say, sometimes out loud, “Mom, why couldn’t you have given me that tough gene of yours?”

My mom was, at her core, a private and quiet woman and she wouldn’t be happy at all to know that I have written about her illnesses and struggles on here.

But, she would be glad to know I still write.

Because, my mom supported everything I chose to do … every direction I wandered in, no matter how weird and how awkward. Even when my dad disapproved, my mom trusted me.

That’s what moms do, right? Continue reading

Chris Davis Gets A Hit …

When I was young, but not so young that I didn’t know better, but, still, decades ago, I backed my mom’s beloved Chevy Suburban through the garage door.

It may not be the most embarrassing thing I’ve done in my life, but it is the one that I can think of right now.

It was not a good day. The electric garage door was mid-open when, in a hurry, I backed through it, wedging the door against the top of the car and the garage ceiling, mangling the door opener gears that were still grinding away, and bending the track. I had crushed things so tightly together that I could not back out or in without destroying the frame of the garage or taking the top of the Suburban clean off.

It took the better part of an afternoon to peel everything apart.

It was not inexpensive.

Amazingly … amazingly, then and amazingly, today … my parents didn’t get mad.  Well, not mad on the outside anyway. Accidents happen, they figured, and no one got hurt.

(If you knew my parents, you would know that this was not their usual reaction to such things.)

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This brings me to the Baltimore Orioles Chris Davis who has spent many embarrassing moments lately not hitting a baseball in front of thousands of fans who expect more from a highly paid professional athlete. Continue reading

They Called Him Dad

Dad Clarke never married. He had no children.

But, baseball fans called him Dad, reporters called him Dad, everyone called him Dad, although his given name, which was given in 1865, was William.

Public Domain

Dad Clarke, circa 1888.

He is the only childless “Dad” I know.

I wonder if that seemed peculiar to him? To be a Dad in name only?

There are a lot of dads in baseball. The lower-case, fathers-with-children kind. Some ballplayers today have kids like other people have Tupperware. Just lots of kids. Preternaturally fertile, these players.

(Full disclosure: I am a kidless writer. I do not know beans about parenting. But, I had a dad, and I called him Dad, so I’m confident that I’m qualified to write this.)

There are only a handful of ballplayers who, over the years, were known primarily as “Dad.” Not as a sometime nickname, but as the name that overrode the name they were given.

Or, were there?

Continue reading

“Ladies Day”: The Moms Who Love Baseball. The Moms Who Love Purple.

In the days before radio, and television, and those horrible Facebook Live broadcasts, major league baseball was hard to follow from afar.

In 1893, the major league was just a dozen teams huddled together in big East Coast cities and extending only as far west as Chicago and St. Louis.

Minor league baseball filled in everywhere else.

This is important on this Mother’s Day only for this …

In the early 1890s, the California League offered “Ladies Day” free admission to female fans at every baseball game.

The San Francisco Call, 6/13/1891

Ladies Free!

Free admission for ladies at every game “is not known in any other baseball city in the country,” The San Francisco Call reported.

(“Not known in any other baseball city” is 19th-century code for “we haven’t invented Google yet, so how are we supposed to know?”)

Then this happened.

The California League was, in 1893, just these four teams: the Los Angeles Angels, the Oakland Colonels, the San Francisco Friscos, and the Stockton River Pirates who became the Sacramento Senators before the season was through.

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San Francisco vs. Oakland, Haight Street Grounds, 1890

Continue reading

Macy’s New-Old Baseball Balloon: Harold In Black & White

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There is a new balloon in the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade this morning and you must stop whatever you are doing this morning to watch.

It’s Harold, the baseball player balloon, from Miracle on 34th Street, recreated for 2017. In black and white.

Could there be anything more wonderful, more perfect, more … more … well, everything?

It’s a baseball player throwback balloon … in black and white!

Courtesy: Macy’s

Here he is in the 1946 Macy’s Thanksgiving Parade.

On this Thanksgiving, I hope that you have much to be thankful for.

I do.

Including you. Those of you who stop by here … who comment … who agree that baseball isn’t too slow … who agree that box scores are best read in a newspaper spread out on a table, not on an iPhone (although in a pinch, that iPhone is going to have to do) …  who cheer me up when the Orioles lose … you guys are great.

I love that baseball has made us friends. I’m thankful for you!

My dad and I always watched the Macy’s Parade together on TV. It was one of those magical things that we always did together. My dad died 11 years ago – on Thanksgiving Day. But, he would never want me to lose my love of the Macy’s Parade.

So, I need you to do just one thing for me.

Watch for Harold the Baseball Player today with me, would you? He’s the one in black-and-white.

Here’s a little more about new-old Harold.

Happy Thanksgiving!

Photos From Dad

There aren’t a lot of pictures of my dad.

He was the family photographer. He was the one who documented his life, our lives, and the passing of time.

He had the camera. He took the photos. There weren’t many times that someone took a photo of him.

I took this one.

My dad’s photos – and he took thousands of them – were neatly sorted, by topic, and filed, along with their negatives, in big plastic boxes. Most included handwritten notes – sometimes written over the front of the photo – explaining  who, or what, or when.

Tractors and wide fields of North Dakota wheat being harvested. And, pets. And, every house we ever lived in. And, flowers. And, squirrels. And, plenty of people I don’t know. And, cars.

(There are a few more photos of me, his daughter, than there are of the cars he has owned. But, it’s pretty close.)

Continue reading

The Short Life & Tragic Death of Walter “Mother” Watson

I wish I had a photo of Walter “Mother” Watson of the Cincinnati Red Stockings to show you, it being “Mother’s Day” weekend and all.

I know he was a pitcher. A three-game cup-of-coffee guy. But, righty? Lefty? No clue.

Over two games, just 14 innings, in May of 1887, the Red Stockings put Mother Watson on the mound.

Watson gave up 18 runs in those two games though, to his credit, only 9 of them were earned.

He played just one more game for the Reds, when they stuck him out in left field.

Continue reading