My father was a huge New York Yankees fan, having grown up in east New Jersey. He, like other sports fans in the day, chose one of the New York teams to follow. He couldn’t stand the Brooklyn Dodgers and was indifferent to the New York Giants.
He often told me about listening to the games when he was young.
His favorite player was Joe DiMaggio, but he was also fond of Yogi Berra. He may have even listened on the radio to Babe Ruth when he was very young.
I am now at the age my father was when he had earned his PhD in music history and we moved to northern Minnesota where he taught college. Looking back, I don’t know how he did it. He was much older than most parents were when starting a family. How can you juggle a new job, a young child and an obsession for sports that had to take a back seat to life?
Throw in the fact that he was diagnosed with Parkinson’s at about the age I am now. I couldn’t have done all that.
But he forged on, raising me the best he could. I was the only child; my mother later told me they had difficulties in having a child and I was considered a “miracle.” I look at it as my parents saw how I turned out and said, “No more.”
But in my dad’s earlier years, before I entered his life, he spent a lot of time with baseball. He told me he once attended a Yankees game and actually heard Yogi Berra retort to a heckler in the stands. He said Berra climbed fencing behind home plate to dislodge a foul ball caught in the wire. Some yelled, “Hey, Yogi. You look like a monkey up there.”
Yogi shot back, “Yeah, if I had a face like yours I’d be complete.”
I know in 1942, my father enlisted in the U.S. Army and was stationed at Fort Dix in New Jersey and that’s where I think he may have heard some of the games I am currently replaying.
It’s an odd concept, but it’s also somewhat completing in a way, a full circle, if you will. As I roll the games for the Yankees, there was a chance he may have actually listened to the same exact game with his friends, or others stationed at the base. He may have slipped away on a furlough at some time and caught a game in person, seeing the players that I now see as APBA game cards; watching the plays that I see as dice rolls.
It’s his birthday today and I still miss him. He died in 1987, 26 years ago. I miss his baseball tales and I miss the security net parents provide no matter how old the child is. But as I play the games of this 1942 season, there is some comfort in the connection I still have with him.