Every time I hear or read about a former MLB player passing away, I feel as though I’ve lost a family member. I don’t know what it is but inside, I’m at a loss. I become reflective about the person, their accomplishments as well as the interactions I may have had with them. If for whatever reason our paths hadn’t crossed, I cycle through the memories I do have based on the things I’ve seen, read and/or experienced.
Another thing that happens when a former player passes away is I immediately call my dad. Even in this day in age where news is disseminated as quickly as a flash of lightning, it just seems like the news travels more like the pony express when it comes to my parents and I always feel compelled to keep them up to speed. I’m not sure it’s just because I want him to know that perhaps a friend of his had passed or if it’s because upon hearing the news, he becomes reflective and proceeds to give me his memories/recollections of that individual.
Yesterday, I made two phone calls. The first was to let him know the great Earl Weaver had passed away. The fiery, legendary Orioles manager was 82. Earl was a classic. He spoke his mind and like me, loved to use colorful language to get his point across…especially with umpires. He loved his Orioles and in turn, he was beloved. I think I liked Earl because of his approach but deep down know that it was because of his diminutive size & the combustion that little firecracker could create…much like my 5’10” dad.
The second call I made yesterday was to let my dad know Stan Musial had also passed away. Stan was 92. “The Man” was a gentleman. Oh sure, he was as terrific a ballplayer as there ever was but it was his gentle, soft-spokenness that stood out to me personally. I guess the impact left behind is simply measured by how one looks at the city in which a player spent his entire career…when I think of St. Louis, I think of #6 and that will always be the case.
Yesterday was a truly sad day for baseball. Dad was shocked as I delivered the news about Stan but as most do who’ve lived on this earth much longer than I have, he responded with, “Well, he lived a full life.” My dad is a man of few words but those few words always seem to be impactful…which is what happened next. He followed up with, “we’re all getting to that point now.” I didn’t know what to say.
I’m still a kid at heart and with that comes seeing my parents in a certain way. Sure we celebrate birthdays and the like but in my mind’s eye, I’m still looking up at them asking for their advice on the powder blue tuxedo for prom or the standard black with cummerbund as if it were yesterday.
My dad’s always be the invincible one. He’s a guy that made a decision at a very young age to leave his country behind to pursue this dream of playing baseball in a place he didn’t know much about and do so without knowing the language and/or culture. He persevered & carved out one hell of a baseball resume that covered every aspect of the game. It is from him I’ve derived my passion and love for the game of baseball. He is the one person from whom I draw my inspiration.
Baseball has always brought us together and no matter what happens, it’ll always be the bond that keeps us as such. It is the memories we have from the experiences we’ve lived that have always helped us pass the time and will continue do so.
You know, it’s unfortunate these types of calls to my dad are more frequent nowadays. The last thing I want to be is the bearer of bad news but I know that a conversation about the individual will ultimately ensue and that we’ll spend some time reminiscing about them or tell stories that keep them in our minds.
Many thoughts have run through my mind since dad uttered, “we’re all getting to that point now.” I know it is inevitable. I know that even he will eventually be on the bench beyond the pearly gates at some point. My question is, whom will I call when that time comes?
Livin’ the dream…
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