Just a reminder that there is still plenty of Wezen-Ball content going up at Baseball Prospectus every day. Just this week I wrote about the favorite activities of lesser known 1980s players thanks to Topps Big baseball cards and rooting for Matt Cain during his perfect game despite Charlie Brown’s advice. There’s also daily Tater Trot Tracker updates. For Father’s Day, please enjoy this piece on dad’s from the Terrific
I’m the oldest of four girls and we grew up in a small town where dad was known and respected. He wasn’t rich or anything, just salt of the earth, honest, and a good man. He was a music teacher. In his youth, he also piloted small planes and skied a lot. He was a man of action as well. He had his challenges but who doesn’t. In the end, I’m not mournful of my past but of the memories I’ll never have.
Dad died in August of 1996 when I was a sophomore in college. The night before he died, I was watching Field of Dreams. He had prostate cancer but the surgery weakened his heart which was in bad shape already due to lifestyle choices and an illness when he was a child (some in the family say). As I get older, the memories fade a bit but some are strong as ever. I still remember the sound of his voice, but what I remember the most are his hands. That’s because I have hands like his. I don’t have man hands but I don’t have lady-like dainty hands either. I have hands meant for work. I always loved holding hands with my father. He had such strong hands. They were musician hands: tough and calloused but elegant.
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For being only a small town man born in the 30’s, he was a really progressive dude. He believed that his daughters should never ever be limited in physical or mental capacity because of their gender. It was his mission and goal to raise women, not girls. He wanted us to be strong and independent. So naturally we were little ladies and tomboys. Let’s put it this way, we played Barbies, but we also set the Barbies on fire or gave them mudbaths. We played dress-up, but Star Wars dress up with lightsabers. We also played baseball in the backyard. After the Red Sox went to the World Series in 1986, we played World Series in my mom’s old bridesmaid dresses.
One of the things I always regretted was never knowing exactly who dad’s favorite baseball player was. I’m sure he told me and I’m sure I was listening to my walkman at the time or spaced out (I space out a lot). Dad was definitely a Red Sox fan, but I also wonder if he was a Brooklyn Dodgers fan as well, especially when he was growing up, which is 100% possible. We’re from Western Massachusetts, pretty close to the Yankees/Red Sox Mason-Dixon line in Connecticut. My cioci (Polish for aunt) was a diehard Yankees fan and I think a few others in my dad’s family were (not that there’s anything wrong with that). I’d stop by her place on the way home from school and talk baseball with her. It was awesome. She was awesome. That’s how I want to be when I grow up. Of this I can be sure, from college onward he was definitely a Red Sox fan. He went to BU and got to see Ted Williams play (seriously how awesome was that). I’m not saying dad was a Dodgers fan and then a Red Sox fan. I wonder if he loved both and, when the Dodgers left town, the Red Sox were it for him but with a special place in his heart for them. When I was a kid, I always remember watching Dodger games and knowing the players pretty darn well. Dad and I LOVED Fernando Valenzuela. I love the Brewers and Red Sox both equally, so it’s definitely possible.
In any case, I know his favorite players were Jimmie Foxx, Tony C, Ted Williams, Fernando, and for sure Sandy Koufax. Dad and Koufax were almost birthday twins and born a year apart. Maybe this is all I’ll ever know or discover without a TARDIS or ouija board. It seems like back then you had your favorite team but it was completely ok to love players on different teams because they were larger than life and transcended rivalries.
Since this is a baseball blog, on this Fathers Day, I implore all of you to find out who your parents favorite ballplayers are. I say parents because my dad would have wanted it that way. Write it down and always know these things because favorites change. You have the all time favorite players and the favorites right now (who may or may not make it to the echelon of all time). As time progresses, knowing your parents favorite ballplayer is a vital link to unlock a treasure trove of memories.
Make baseball less about a father/son type of thing (which dad thought was so stupid) and more about a bonding experience with your child regardless of gender. MLB and the marketing companies will hate that but screw ’em. Remember, you can be a pal with a son but father to a girl. Ultimately watching baseball with a child or a parent isn’t about what you say, it’s about what you don’t say. I’d give anything to have my dad back, to just sit quietly and watch the game, Star Trek, or Doctor Who together (I’m on the verge of a Ray Kinsella moment here). Also, eat healthy and take care of yourself.
What sustains me now is that I DID have my father for as long as I did. His passing made me into the woman I am today and I have the experiences I have because of that. I am stronger and more determined to fight because of that.