My grandfather never took my father to see a sporting event, but they did stand in their back yard together to watch the Hindenburg fly over, not knowing it would explode a little later to mark one of history’s great tragedies.
“It was just a floating balloon,” my dad said.
Growing up in New York City in the 1930s and ’40s, my father had the chance to see a lot of sports’ all-time great players and monuments, which he did on his own.
My father saw Yankee Stadium, The Polo Grounds, Ebbets Field, Jackie Robinson, Babe Ruth, Otto Graham and on and on when, in our memories, America looked like a Norman Rockwell painting.
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“I could go to a New York Giants football game, with my school pass, for 50 cents,” he said. “We could go to a doubleheader at Ebbets Field to see the Dodgers and bring our own lunch.”
As the expense has increased, the innocence of watching a pro sporting event is long gone since my father, who is in his early 80s, started attending games.
Sports may be a lot of things these days that are not good, and the cost is ridiculous, but it still can provide a wonderful life experience and bond for parents with their kids.
Even though his own father never took him to any game, the fact my father did so often remains among my own fonder life experiences, and a source of eternal gratitude.
This Father’s Day is a reminder that taking a kid to the game very much qualifies as “quality time,” and the chance to hear about some of the things your dad may have seen when he was a kid.
For instance, when my father, Ted Engel, was a kid living on Staten Island he was very much a Brooklyn Dodgers fan. In 1947, he would go to Ebbets Field to watch the Dodgers, and Jackie Robinson.
“He was a marvelous base runner. That’s what I remember — he could run,” he said. “I had never seen a guy steal home before. … They said he made a bigger impact on integration in this country than Lyndon Johnson.”
In 1951, his Dodgers completed an all-time collapse when the New York Giants caught them despite trailing 13 1/2 games in the standings in August.
The Dodgers tied the Giants on the final day of the regular season to force a three-game playoff, but the Giants won the best-of-three series in the bottom of the ninth inning of Game 3 when Bobby Thomson hit the Shot Heard ’Round the World.
“I was working in an A&P store. Thomson’s aunt was in the store,” he said. “We were all listening to the game. If you walked down the street, every radio was on for that game.”
Despite not exactly being the world’s greatest athlete, for reasons that escaped me then and now, my father was an absolute junkie for this stuff.
“I don’t know why but I was enthralled by it,” he said. “I could name you every major league player in the National League when I was 7 or 8.”
On this Father’s Day, I can think of dozens and dozens of events my father took me to — auto racing, football, basketball, baseball, and on and on. He took me to one of the eight games Wayne Gretzky played for the Indianapolis Racers in 1978.
He took me to the 1991 Final Four, and I vividly recall high-fiving him when Duke stunned undefeated UNLV. And this came from a man who showed about as much emotion as a mailbox on Sundays. Neither of us had a stake in either team, but did share a deep passion to see UNLV lose.
For him I wish his my grandfather had taken him to see a few of those Dodger, Giants or Yankees games when he was a kid. I would want that for any kid, not only to have the experience but to be able to share it with your dad.
On this Father’s Day, I am grateful he gave me so many of those to recall and share.
And on this Father’s Day, if you can, take your own kid to a game.
They are not going to forget it.
Kevin Von Erich returns
Because today is Father’s Day, it’s time to make an exception and make room professional wrestling.
(Full disclosure — I don’t get it, but I know the name Kevin Von Erich).
Von Erich has been retired from professional wrestling for years, lives in Kauai and has not been in Texas in four years. Tonight at the College Park Center at UT Arlington, Von Erich will return to the ring to watch his sons, Marshall and Ross, wrestling in the TNA Slammiversary.
“To be able to see my sons wrestle back in Texas where I spent so much time, I can’t think of a better way to spend Father’s Day,” Von Erich told me.
Von Erich is 57, and looks to be much older. His hands are huge, but look like a tree root system. He doesn’t wear shoes, and he says he is in pain pretty much all the time. That said, he said it was all worth it.
Spurs best Mavs again
The Mavericks once again went overseas for another bargain, off-the-grid player to complement Dirk Nowitzki. They recently signed one of the best players from the Australian league, guard Chris Goulding.
Never heard of him, either.
The Mavericks receive a lot of ink for their scouting and scouring of foreign lands to find solid NBA players, but no team has done it any better than the Spurs.
The Spurs feature eight foreign-born players who complement their biggest star, Tim Duncan.
The Mavs may sign a lot of foreigners, but the Spurs find the right ones.
Tony Parker, Manu Ginobili, Boris Diaw, Tiago Splitter, Marco Bellinelli are major reasons the Spurs should win the ’14 NBA title.
Other than the German Dirk, it’s hard to get real excited about Mavs’ ability to find the right foreigner.
Having tried the likes of Chris Anstey (Australia), Wang Zhi-Zhi (China), Bruno Sundov (Croatia), Antoine Rigaudeau (France), Tariq Abdul-Wahad (France) and a few others it’s hard to think Goulding is going to do much.
Feliz still not ready
When the Rangers placed Tanner Scheppers on the disabled list last week, it opened a spot, which the general manager said Neftali Feliz is not ready to occupy.
It’s not a velocity issue, GM Jon Daniels said, but a performance issue. This season at Round Rock, Feliz is 1-1 with a 4.35 ERA; he has allowed 17 hits, seven walks in 202/3 innings. But he does have 23 Ks.
Since blowing a save in Game 6 of the 2011 World Series, Feliz is not thrown 50 big league innings. He had Tommy John surgery in 2012, and here we are nearly at the midway point of 2014 and the 2010 AL Rookie of the Year and 2010 All-Star is a minor leaguer.
The Rangers will promote power-hitting prospect Joey Gallo to the big league club when rosters expand in September.