A birthday note to Ed, the baseball fan

Guess what, Dad! Baseball season started yesterday — the same day as your birthday. You would have been 94 years old. I never realized the two milestones frequently coincided until Jim pointed it out this weekend, but I imagine you appreciated it.

In the late 1970s and early 1980s, Pittsburgh was the city of champions with its winning football and baseball teams. Willie Stargell was one of my favorite players.
I brought this banner from Pittsburgh when we cleared out my childhood home.

Many of my memories of you relate to baseball. For instance, I remember how much you enjoyed watching Tim play baseball. You rarely missed a game when Tim was a pitcher/first baseman in 2012 for his American Legion team. When I arrived to pick you up, you were usually waiting outside with your walker, a baseball cap on your head, a gleam in your eyes, and wire-rimmed glasses perched on your nose. Your enthusiasm was infectious. No matter how crazy my day had been, I relaxed and looked forward to the upcoming game.

We stayed to the end of every game, no matter how long they ran.  A few times, in fact, the field’s caretakers were preparing to turn off the lights as we pulled out of the parking lot.

Thanks to support from you and the rest of their fans, Tim and his teammates — the Royals — won 16 games and finished second in their league. Jim was Tim’s head coach that year, so he rarely spent time with us fans, but he recalled your interest. “Ed was never critical of Tim as a player or of me as a coach,” Jim said. “He just enjoyed it.”

As a native of Pittsburgh, you were a Pirates fan through good times and bad. Do you remember the time that Suzie and I went with you to a game in St. Louis? The Pirates were playing the Cardinals. You wore your Pirates hat of black and gold, and, of course, you stood out in a sea of red and white. However, nobody cared much about team colors because it was 100+ degrees with high humidity. If I could, I would have chosen a different day to go, but we already had tickets.

I was so worried about your getting sick! I brought a cooler full of wet washcloths, and I kept at least one draped around your shoulders or on your head.  Periodically, I wiped your face with a washcloth. I frequently sent Suzie to get more water from the pitchers that the stadium provided. Finally, you had enough of my coddling.

“Lisa, just watch the game!” you exclaimed.

All three of my kids have played baseball or softball, so when we visited Kentucky on vacation in 2008, we just had to visit the Louisville Slugger factory. Everyone who takes the tour brings home a mini bat. We gave this one to Dad.
My husband and I along with our three kids signed Grandad’s souvenir bat, at left and above

I calmed down and enjoyed the game. The Pirates won, but in Cardinal country, we kept our elation to ourselves. And, fortunately, you didn’t get heatstroke.

It’s too bad the Pirates haven’t won the World Series since 1979. At least, they’ve had several good runs. Do you remember coming to our house in 2013 to watch the Pirates play the Cardinals in the National League Division Series? I hope you don’t remember that we picked you up late and that you missed the first few innings. I apologize. If I could do it again, believe me, we’d be early.

Pitching+to+Matthew+Snyder+Park+early+1990s (1)
I can only imagine how much Dad enjoyed playing ball with his grandson Matthew in the early 1990s at Snyder Park in the Pittsburgh suburb of Whitehall. Matthew’s dad, Chip, played baseball in high school and college. (This picture originally appeared in a scrapbook. Note the curved edges and blue background.)

I cringe when I recall how my home looked that day. Jim dropped you off on a side street, so you could avoid the front steps by walking across a neighbor’s backyard and entering the house through the back. The patio outside our back door was cluttered with unplanted plants, chairs, and sidewalk chalk. I vaguely recall clearing a haphazard path for you and guiding you through the Nahach maze.

Once inside the house, our dining table said “Welcome!” with a lopsided grin. “Have you been grading?” you asked when you saw the stacks of papers and gradebooks. “Always!” I replied.

You handled the chaos at my house with aplomb. Despite the backpacks strewn on the floor, the scattered newspapers and the dog spread out on the floor or sofa, you had no problem negotiating your way to an available chair. Good job, Ed! I hope I’m that nimble in my 80s and 90s.

Jim vaguely remembered that the Pirates lost the division series to the Cardinals, but neither of us remembered what year it was. I should  have remembered it was 2013 — the last year you cheered on the Pirates for a whole season. You passed away the next May, just a month and a half into the 2014 season. That year, the Pirates claimed a wild card spot, but lost the all-important game.

This afternoon, the Pirates lost their 2017 season opener 5-2 against the Boston Red Sox at Fenway Park, but, hey!, the season is a day old. Let’s give them a chance. Happy Birthday, Dad. I hope you can catch some innings.

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