My father died on Monday, a little less than a month before his 87th birthday. His health had been getting worse and worse, especially over the past year, so it’s a blessing that his suffering has reached an end. But that doesn’t mean we miss him any less.
We’re holding the viewing later today, and the funeral tomorrow.
I have not watched any of the Mets vs. Phillies series this week, though if my father was well enough to follow baseball it would have been a big deal. He was born in Scranton, Pa. and lived in Pennsylvania for the first half of his life, so he grew up a Phillies fan.
After he moved to New Jersey, he adopted the Mets… except when they were playing the Phillies. Even with the Mets 20 games out and the series a battle for third place, it would have been about as important to us as the annual Subway Series games are to most fans.
Dad was the one who first tried to get me interested in baseball, though I didn’t really have the attention span for it at the time. He bought into the early 1980s hype surrounding the baseball card hobby too, but at the time I was more interested in Star Wars cards than baseball cards.
I ended up with a large part of my current baseball card collection thanks to dad. The complete run of 1980s Topps sets isn’t very valuable, and I’m not even sure how much they mean to me. But he also gave me some great old ones that will always be part of my Mets baseball card collection. (I still have the Star Wars card sets too, though they’re not exactly in mint condition.)
When I did finally start to pay more attention to baseball as I got older, we went to games together. I saw games at Shea Stadium, the (renovated) original Yankee Stadium, Veterans Stadium, Lackawanna County Stadium, Mercer County Waterfront Park, Skylands Park, Binghamton Municipal Stadium, Commerce Bank Park (Bridgewater) and Bears & Eagles Riverfront Stadium with him. We also went to the Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown.
Dad got me my first “game-used” baseball, tossed to us by a career minor leaguer then playing in the Blue Jays system, Jose Monzon. He’d help me get autographs at minor league games when I was a kid (and occasionally, even later – he had much better luck getting Rick Wise to come over and sign autographs than anyone else did at Somerset Patriots games.)
There was another time we had gone to Scranton to see the Red Barons play the Norfolk Tides, and we were staying overnight at a hotel near the ballpark. A few of the players either hadn’t found housing permanent housing yet or were being housed there at the same hotel.
Dad loved to talk to everybody and while we were all eating the hotel’s free continental breakfast, he ended up striking up a conversation with Eude Brito, a pitcher who had spend a little time with the Phillies the year before. I never would have asked in that setting, but Dad got Brito to agree to sign an autograph for me, so I went back to the room and grabbed his card. Though it would have no value to 99.9 percent of baseball fans, it will always be priceless to me.