Saturday, June 14, 2008

For Love of the Game

Grandpa said, "It's like you with your racing, I suppose - I remember mornings we'd get up at 5am and wouldn't stop playing until one in the morning."

He was a pitcher. Played semipro. Mostly he just couldn't get enough of baseball, and in a different era - one without the Depression, or World War II or Korea - who knows what baseball might've done for him, I think he was probably that good. That's my curiosity, not his - he's not a "might have been" kind of person. He just loved to play.

He worked for Hormel for 40 years, eventually a supervisor. Hard work. Slaughterhouse work. The stuff you think about not wanting to think about when you hear the words "slaughterhouse work".

"We had a team there at the Plant," he said, "and I wasn't supposed to play with those guys because I had other things to do, but one day they got a game going and needed a third baseman, so I stepped in. Well after our pitcher walked I don't know how many guys, they said hell Doyle, get up there already, so I went to pitch the ball. The catcher...God he was a big sonofabitch." And he laughed then, like he does when his eyes water for the quality of the laughter.

"Anyway," he continued, "I said to him What signs do you want to use? And he just looks at me and says Hell, I don't know nothin' about any signs - you throw it and I'll catch it!" He laughed again, so that we laughed with him. Because it was funny, and because his laughter makes you want to laugh with him. Then, breathless for laughing, "And I'll be goddamned if we didn't strike out 6 or 7 guys in a row!" The punchline is too much, and the three of us fall into hysterics.

I'll bet even now he can feel the threads beneath his fingertips.

Number of tickets just behind first base at Miller Park for Twins vs. Brewers : 3
Miles driven by my brother to come to the game: 700
Hours he spent in the car between Minneapolis and Madison, for the flooded out interstate and surrounding roads: 9
Hours spent on the detour coming home between Milwaukee and Madison: 2

Taking your Dad's Dad to the game for his 85th birthday: Absolutely Priceless.

I don't feel too great still, but I'm racing tomorrow. It's been decided just while I was writing this. Because youth, like life, is short, and I want to look back and feel the threads.


Rainmaker said...

Cool post. My dad is much the same - went fairly far in baseball - and my grandpa just loved the game. Unfortunately...being a Redsox diehard, it was a bit of a rough game for him. ;)

RobbyB said...


But you're wearing the wrong jersey!

Good luck tomorrow.