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Daddy-o: Little League and voices of Dad from faraway: Father’s Day

June 14, 2013




“You show me a free spirit and I’ll show you someone who;s supporting him.”

That was one of the many things my Dad said to me. When I was going through chemotherapy I wrote how in Today Cancer Tomorrow The World, and I described our relationship in Blind Guys Break 80, and working on another book, Slow Pitch and using some of what follows below. When I was battling testicular cancer, his voice, and my Mom came to me. I felt his presence again, not his words. Just the sense of him, the way I’d see him on the couch, lowering the paper, smiling and shaking his head after I made some wisecrack, probably half wondering where I came–well, that made two of us.

Another time:

“Fritzie, I don’t mind you being right, you just don’t have to be so loud about it.”

Another life lesson.

It’s odd what sticks and what doesn’t. He was very well read. My Dad did have a way of needling people, and pointing out what they didn’t know, but he didn’t leave them a fire exit. He cornered them and spiked the ball.

A lesson learned–I saved that for the stage, but pulled back from it in life, unless the person was rude or cruel, than I used the assault weapon of slams. But I pulled back on him. Once when he was recounting a mistake I made in the past, I said,

Another time…

“You were a good hitter in little League.”

Little League, I thought, where was his Dad going with this? It definitely was a weird way to change the subject.

“What was that team?”

“My team, in Freehold? The Falcons. We took first place. I was good in Little League. But when everyone hit puberty and I saw the first curve ball come at my head and go in for a strike. I was a lost cause.”

“But, you were good.”

“I remember the Good Humor Man use to give us a free ice cream if we hit a home run, and I couldn’t finish my ice cream bar and we had to take the field. I left it on the bench. When I got back and it melted so Greg Ziff ate it. And he didn’t get a hit the whole game! The next time I hit a home run I opted for Dixie-cups, at least if it melted I could drink it.”

“In that one game against the Wrens you drove in seven runs. It was a close game. In the last inning, you were up and the manager from the other team came out and changed your stance. Remember that? Of course you do.”

“No,” said I, lying.

“I was in the stands.”

“Oh yeah.”

I  recalled the game. Istepped up to the plate and the Wren’s manager, Mr. Brock, a fat guy in a windbreaker came out of his team’s dugout, shouting, “Time! Time!’ He went over to the nine-year old me and said, “Son, I’ve been watching you swing. You’re swinging incorrectly.” The manager reached down, grabbed my ankle, and shifted it slightly forward. “There, now you have the right stance.” I was confused. But he listened. I always listened to adults–then.

“That manager screwed you up,” said his dad, sipping his vodka. “You popped up.”

I remembered the feel of that man’s strange hands on my ankles, the smell of tobacco on his breath, and the sight of yellow-stained teeth. It surprised me  Dad still felt guilty. Funny how a game can stick with you and make a difference.

“Huh, don’t remember that,” said I, lying. “I don’t remember it at all.”

A lesson learned.
When Mom died, Dad couldn’t adjust. He started drinking too much, and pissing away his money going out for dinners and lunches, and running up his credit cards because he lost so much money in the market years ago, like everyone else but the bankers and brokers who perpetrated  did. If that was the way he wanted to leave this world I had to respect it. The bottom line, he gave me a childhood, and nothing of the world followed him into the house.
At least I did what I could for him, and when he was at the lowest point in his life, I was there. He bounced off me, but stayed there. I was there and it didn’t have to be that way. And easier way to say goodbye..
One Comment leave one →
  1. Tim Geiselman permalink
    June 17, 2013 9:31 pm

    Little League seems to be a rite of passage for every boy in America. From the kid who strikes out 3 times to the pitcher who walks the bases loaded to the kid in right field who drops the only ball that is hit to him in 15 games, organized baseball is a head trip. Add to that mix the all too common misguided coaches (e.g. Mr. Brock – what was he thinking?) and the loud parent in the stands and you have the recipe for some bad times. My 10 year old kid hit a home run over the fence (a rare occurance for that age group). When he arrived at home plate his team mates mobbed him and he never touched the plate. The opposing coach challenged it after he went into the dugout and the umpire called him out. His team wound up losing by one run. It was a long night and and I found it odd that an opposing coach would rob a kid of celebrating his home run in order to win the game. Your post above dealt with alot more than Little League, but, still, that is what came to mind as I read it.

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