Happy Father’s Day!

June 16, 2008 at 1:01 am | Posted in Holidays, Introduction | Leave a comment

It’s after midnight now, so technically Father’s Day is over, but it’s been on my mind all day, so the subject of this post will be Father’s Day. The sport of baseball has been going strong in the United States for over 150 years. A huge reason for its continued popularity has been the impact of fathers teaching their sons about the game and sharing their enthusiasm for it.

Though I don’t give my dad nearly enough credit, I must admit that he played a big role in getting me interested in baseball, and baseball cards, when I was a kid. It’s funny to think of now, but when I was a toddler, my dad didn’t think that I’d ever be interested in baseball. That is why he sold his entire baseball card collection (or what he thought was his entire collection at the time) to raise money for a new car when I was three. That is why he went to Rochester Red Wings games and saw Cal Ripken and Don Mattingly play, but didn’t bring me. I was too young to be able to enjoy those games, but years later it would have been very cool to say that I was there to see two of my favorite players before they were stars.

I think I showed my first real interest in baseball when I signed up to play tee ball when I was in first grade in 1986. After that, my dad took me to my first Red Wings game, against the Toledo Mud Hens. I still remember that game and the fact that the San Diego Chicken made an appearance at the ballpark that day. He also helped me to buy many packs of 1986 Topps, showed me how to put the cards in order by number, and how to pick out the star players.

Through the years after that, my dad took me to countless Red Wings games and to many other minor league games around New York State. He took me to my first major league games in Toronto in 1987, against the White Sox and the Yankees. He took me to Toronto a few other times, and later to Yankee Stadium and Three Rivers Stadium in Pittsburgh. He taught me a lot about the game and its history. I first heard names like Mickey Mantle, Roger Maris, and Willie Mays from stories that he told me about baseball from his childhood. He helped me to develop a passion for collecting baseball cards, just as he had done when he was a kid. And, maybe most importantly, he was always willing to go to the backyard for a game of catch.

I don’t think that I realized how great it was that my dad did all of these things for me. I took it for granted. Years later I found out that not every kid got to have these kinds of experiences with their dads. Some kids didn’t even have dads that were around for their childhoods. My relationship with my dad was never perfect. My parents separated in 1991 when I was 12 years old. I blamed my dad for a lot of the bad things that happened to my family, and I wasn’t very fair to him. But now when I look back, I am very grateful for my dad and his major contribution to getting me interested in baseball and baseball cards.

I would be remiss in this post if I did not mention the strong influence that both of my grandfathers had on me too. My mom’s father was a sports writer for the Buffalo Courier Express newspaper, covering the Buffalo Bisons. I don’t think I ever spent a summer day at his house without the TV being tuned to a New York Mets game. He told me a lot of stories about baseball and even gave me some old bats from Buffalo players. He also had season tickets to the Bisons, which I’m pretty sure they sent him for free because of his contributions to the success of baseball in Buffalo. I remember fondly going to games there with him while he snuck in peanuts from the grocery store since he thought that they were too expensive at the stadium. My mom used to always say that I got my love of baseball from my grandfather. He passed away in 1996, but his influence lives on with me. I am proud to say that he was inducted into the Buffalo Baseball Hall of Fame in 1996, and his plaque currently hangs at Dunn Tire Park in Buffalo.

My dad’s father has also has had a very positive influence on me. While he never had a baseball-related career, he did fascinate me with stories about Babe Ruth and Lou Gehrig when I was a kid. He also managed to save a bunch of baseball cards of star players from the 1950s and 1960s that my dad owned when he was a kid, and he kept them in a box in his basement. One day in the early 1990s, he gave the cards back to my dad, and my dad and I spent some great time together sorting through the cards and looking up their value in Beckett. My dad still has those cards. The experience of looking at those cards is something that I’ll write more about in a future post.

I owe a lot of gratitude to my dad and to both of my grandfathers. They helped me to become a huge fan of baseball and a baseball card collector, but more importantly, they taught me great life lessons over the years, and I am the man that I am today because of them. I look forward to one day having a son (or sons) of my own and sharing my passion for baseball with them.

To all of the fathers out there, happy Father’s Day to you! And thank you for helping to spread the joy of baseball and baseball cards to your children.

In the spirit of this post, here’s a picture of me from my Little League days, circa 1992:

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