Nick has been kind enough to let me, dear ol' Dad, do a guest column on his great blog!
I've been a huge baseball fan for as long as I can remember, and was wild about card collecting from roughly '74-'80, after which I focused on record collecting...but since he's taken up the hobby, I am glad to be right back in the thick of it through him, and we've had so many good times digging for, talking about, and just looking through baseball cards...I'm thrilled he's so into it!
Aaanyway, I'd like to present "How Baseball (and Baseball Cards) Shaped My Life".
1. History Is Important
These Sporting News cards were great when I was a kid...I would always try to force my doubles into trades with friends, like "you NEED to have these in your collection!"...I was always a big fan of Baseball history, and I still feel ya gotta know where ya been to know where yer going, right?...With all the baseball history covered in cards these days, the 10-year-old me would've been in hog heaven!
Nick has mentioned a few times my encounter with Pirates player Mike Easler as a kid of 12 (1978) at a Cubs game at Wrigley.
I remember it so well, leaning over the third base line during batting practice and trying to get a player, ANY player, to come over and sign an autograph or even a few words....the only one who trotted over to us was Easler....gave us all five, signed some scorecards (I didn't have one, so I didn't get an auto!) and chatted for a minute....we went nuts!
In those days, Wrigley was pretty empty during weekday games so you could basically sit wherever you wanted to, so we sat towards home plate and every time he came up to bat that day, we just screamed "EASLER!!!...YEAH YEAH!!!!" much to the bemusment of Mr. Easler, who even waved to us during one at-bat!
It hurts when I hear about what jerks some ballplayers (or any celebrity) can be about meeting their fans...I've met some of my heroes (Alex Chilton, Chuck Barris, Kurt Vonnegut, Ray Davies, etc.) and I'm happy to report they were all really cool...but meeting a real-live BASEBALL PLAYER as a boy will always stick with me...athletes should remember that...
Don't get me wrong...Nick's grandpa (my dad) was not really a racist...but I grew up in a lilly-white neighborhood, working-class, and....well, you know how old-school guys were, little comments slipped, jokes cracked....and it's funny, now that I'm older, a lot of my peers who never left the neighborhood (I did, the FIRST chance I got!) are still like that, just like their small-minded dads....
Sooo, I'm watching the game, watching these incredible super-cool dudes (many of whom were African-American) then I turn around and look at my dad and his idiot friends...these were certainly NOT super-cool dudes!...and it hit me...THEY are wrong, and THAT attitude is not acceptable.
And I've never felt differently, and it makes me VERY proud that Nick is the same way.
4. "The only people for me are the mad ones, the ones who are mad to live..."
That's a quote from Jack Kerouac's "On The Road", and its certainly true of me, and it started with baseball....Like a lot of guys my age who were 10-11 in 1976, Mark Fidrych loomed large in my childhood...it's hard to imagine nowadays, but the best thing was he was loose, unrehearsed, not too far off from the way me and my goofy 10-year-old friends acted!
I was sold!...It was an absolute thrill to meet the man, WITH my son, who was also pretty jazzed, in 2002...just one of the baseball-related moments I was so fortunate to share with Nick.
Dizzy Dean, Bill Lee (who Nick and I also met...great guy...and he gave us a hilarious take on his brawl with Graig Nettles), Dock Ellis, Luis Tiant, Jose Cardenal...to fun-loving guys like Nick Swisher these days, I'm always drawn to the eccentrics, the left-of-center, and the ones with genuine passion and love for it, whatever "it" is...
For a while in the late 80s-early 90s....well, let's just say I strayed from some of my younger passions...I would mostly catch games in bars and felt far away from the game I once loved and followed....in 1992 a baby named Nick came along and it's true what they say...kids change ya!
I actually bought a pack of baseball cards that year to commemorate the birth of my son, and he was a big part of straightening out my life...
Guys like Ichiro and Derek Jeter renewed my love of the game, and as Nick got more into the collecting side, I was reminded how great baseball cards could be...and how great baseball could be...especially for a father and son!...Thanks, Nick!!
So there's a few from Dad...I'd like to thank all you readers for being such a positive thing in Nick's life, he really digs this whole blogging community thing and I'm glad y'all are such a good bunch...
I'll be reading right along with you....