Me, My Dad and Baseball

The Catch

I wrote this awhile ago, on the eve of the SF Giants run of World Series championships–wins that would have thrilled my late father. With the possibility that the hated Dodgers could win this year’s Series, I thought I’d reprint this.

The NY Giants won the World Series in 1954, sweeping the Cleveland Indians.  The series belonged to Willie Mays, perhaps the greatest player ever, the quintessential 5 tool guy: hit, hit for power, field, throw and run the bases.  Mays’ dramatic defensive play on a deep shot to center by Vic Wertz is known simply as “The Catch.”   This was obviously a team that was going to be a dynasty.  

I know that my dad certainly thought so.  He broke his father’s heart, a Brooklyn native, by becoming a Giants fan.  As my dad always said, “why did he move us to New Jersey if he wanted me to be a Dodger’s fan?  My father remained a Giants fan, even after Horace Stoneham knuckled under to the pressure placed on him by Dodgers owner Walter O’Malley to join him in moving their franchises to California–the Giants to San Francisco.

My father devoured box scores (and pre-internet days) cursing the delayed scores from the West Coast, traveled to see the Giants play in both NY (against the Mets) and several times to Montreal (against the Expos.)   My father caught a foul ball off a pitch by Juan Marichal at Shea Stadium in the early Seventies (a pitch my mom said would have broken her nose if my dad hadn’t barehanded it with his left hand.)  I remember my parents and I being harassed in both English and French by drunk Quebeqois Expos louts and having the ushers relocate our seats for daring to root for the Giants at the old Jarry Park in Montreal.

Despite the loyalty, my father never got to see another Giant’s World Series victory.  My father would regale me with stories of the 1962 World Series and the heartache that registered in his voice and on his face when he spoke about the Willie McCovey line drive with two outs and two men on in the bottom of the ninth inning was deep seated. The shot, caught by the Yankees’  Bobby Richardson, has been mythologized as a leaping snag of a screaming hard hit ball.  In actuality, the ball handcuffed McCovey and was hit with topspin, Richardson didn’t have to move hardly at all to make the grab of the falling ball.  You’d never know that from my father’s retelling.  He always said “a foot in any other direction and the Giants win.”

The Giants would only play in 2 more World Series in my father’s lifetime.  In the 1989 Series the Giants were swept by the Oakland A’s and even though it was an all Bay-area Series, the whole affair was dimmed by the earthquake that occurred just before Game 3.  The Giants were lifeless and never once even sent the tying run to the plate in any of the games.  2002 was a different matter.  The Giants were up 3 games to 2 after wiping the Angels out in the final game in San Francisco 16-4.  In Anaheim they were up in game six by a score of 5-0 in the bottom of the seventh.  Manager Dusty Baker relieved starter Russ Ortiz and, in a moment of hubris, “awarded” him the game ball on the mound.  Moments later, the Angels hit a three run homer and the collapse was on.  They lost Game Six  by a score of 6-5 and Game 7 by a score of 4-1.  I remember long distance calls to my father to Arizona after every game.

My father always tolerated my Red Sox fanaticism, they were his “other team” of interest as he was stationed at Portsmouth (NH) naval station during WW2 and he had seen many games at Fenway while on leave.  My dad took me to several games at Fenway while we visited his mother on Cape Cod during the summer, establishing the lifelong bond that I have with the Sox.  My father taught me perseverance in sports fandom–never to leave a game early, never boo your team’s players and never give up hope.  At times when my teenage rebellion and left-wing politics made it very difficult for my dad and I to even have a civil discussion, we always had sports in common.

My father passed away in 2003 and has missed the SU basketball national championship and the Red Sox victories in 2004 and 2007.  I miss my dad the most at times like this–on the eve of one of our team’s potential championships.  So I will dig out my old Giants cap and root for OUR team in the upcoming Series.  Go Giants!

 

 

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