My sister-in-law is one of my biggest blog supporters, always telling me how much she loves my writing. Last week we were talking baseball because I had just seen the movie 42 about Jackie Robinson. She told me of her father’s love of baseball, and I said she should write it down and I could make her a guest blogger. A few days ago I received an email with an attachment. She asked me to look at it and tell her what I thought. “It may not be what you want for your blog,” she said meekly. “You don’t have to use it. You can just read it for me.” When I opened the attachment and read it, it took my breath away. Sister-in-law, I bow to you. You are an incredible writer! Here is my sister-in-law’s piece about her father.
My Dad and Baseball’s Early Days
by Kathy Boyd Rich
My dad never had a bucket list. But if he had, at the top would have been visiting the Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, New York. I was thrilled to take him there when he visited me in Clinton, New York, where I lived in 1994. Dad was a sprightly 88, a little the worse for wear, but I thought he’d like to see the Boston Red Sox exhibit, a team he had a lifelong love/hate relationship with when I was growing up. I can still remember taking the Providence to Boston train with him and going to Fenway Park several times when I was very little. I longed for him to tell me the story about what was going on in the game, but Dad during my growing up years had adopted a cheerful stoicism, and he was content to watch the game quietly while we munched on our hot dogs.
I don’t remember him being very impressed and, although he followed the season, he always seemed to be disappointed. Consequently, I was left with unanswered questions and never developed much of an interest in baseball. I was pleasantly surprised, however, when we entered the baseball museum and we came face to face with the wax figure of Ted Williams, someone even I remembered from Fenway as a hero on and off the field. We took a picture of Dad and Ted; Ted was the one swinging the bat.
Dad was pleased but it wasn’t until we entered the room dedicated to the very early days of baseball that he really came alive. All I saw were plaques on the wall and pictures of boys dressed in strange gear, but dad must’ve seen something else. Without hesitation he began to tell me the story of a young man who was so in love with the game of baseball, he followed the teams around New England every weekend. He rattled off names and stats and pointed out to me the players that he admired most. He told me these were the real heroes and how hard their lives were, working for low wages and giving their all for little recognition. He knew personal details of their lives. (Dad had absolutely no regard for the players of the 90’s whom he derisively called “millionaires” because of their constant striking for higher pay.) I had tears in my eyes listening to my dad. Wouldn’t I have loved to have known that cheerful young man he used to be before he became encumbered by raising children and providing for his family? I was mesmerized because I was hearing the story, the one I missed hearing when I was a little girl.
As we later sat in the movie room on the fake bleachers and watched the tribute to baseball, I pondered this glimpse into a man I had loved all my life, yet didn’t really know. I was 8 years old again as I held my dad’s hand and sang “Take me out to the ballgame…” Dad lived almost two more years, and that picture of him and Ted remained in a prominent spot in his apartment, telling me how much that trip meant to him.