It’s About Fathers and Sons (and) Daughters

November 17, 2020

This past Sunday evening on the MLB channel was really special.  It began with a one-hour program, “Field of Dreams 25 Years Later,” followed by the movie itself. The 25 years later program was a fascinating one-hour conversation with Kevin Costner, who said that actors mostly show feelings they are not really experiencing, and if they’re good at it, they’re successful in their craft.  But sometimes they show their true personal emotions, and that was the case for him in the scene where he asks his father if he wanted to, “Have some catch?”

That scene always breaks me up.  As a kid, I spent countless hours playing catch with my Dad in our front yard of the little house I grew up in on south 35th street.  He was never too busy or too uninterested not to accept an invitation to toss a baseball back and forth.  Cordova, the little town he grew up in, like all of them in that era, had a town team, and he was a pitcher.  He enjoyed telling stories on his screwups, but I suspect he was pretty good at it, and he maintained an interest in the game for the balance of his life.  On Sunday afternoons, he enjoyed lying down on the bed, turning on the game on the radio, and then falling sound asleep.  Asleep though he was, if you stepped into the room and turned the radio off, he was instantly awake asking, “Who turned off the game?”

And when we wanted some baseball besides that which could be played in our front yard, we’d head out to Sherman Field, along with the father and son from across the street, and take in a Lincoln Athletics game from the first base bleachers.  That would have been in the Western League, where Lincoln was a Philadelphia franchise.

With that history and my boundless love for my father, I’m never able to get through Field of Dreams dry-eyed, and this showing was even more special in that my feelings also got away with me when James Earl Jones (a decided non-athlete himself) gave his speech about how baseball has always been there – this nation can defy its principles like wiping text off a blackboard, and baseball always helps to bring us together and lead us back to them.  It seemed to kind of fit what we are going through right now.

I was lying in bed at the end of that evening, and I thought about the father and son thing.  I have just one child, my wonderful daughter, Kristi, the horsewoman and school teacher, keeping it western down there in Gainesville, Florida, and I can truthfully say that I’ve never wished to have had more children, including a son.  I regret never owning my own airplane a heck of lot more than I’ve ever even considered not having a son.

And that led me to muse that, actually, baseball has been a frequent ingredient in the relationship that I’ve loved with Kris all these years.  Kris spent part of her growing up living in Alma, Nebraska, and whatever radio station she favored there carried the Kansas City Royals games, and Kris listened to all of them and became a loyal follower of the Royals.  One summer, we took an excursion to Kansas City, and she knew the lineup from memory, but I bought her a program anyway.  It was a great trip.

When she was acting and going to school in Colorado Springs, a spring or summer visit out there would frequently include the two of us heading over to the east side of town to take in the Springs’ triple A “Skysox,” a Denver franchise that played their ball in the highest elevation professional baseball stadium in the U.S.  Speaking of Denver, Kris, her then-fiancé, Leo, and I attended the third game the Colorado Rockies ever played, which took place in Mile High Stadium.  Leo was and is a baseball guy, and like my Dad, always seems to know what the season average is for players on any nearby teams.  Once the Rockies got settled in at Coors Field, I had a ticket connection, and we made any number of visits there to what is one of the truly great ball factories.

When the kids moved to Florida and settled in the Daytona area, we would try each summer to take in a Daytona Cubs (now Tortugas) game at Jackie Robinson Ballpark, where he played his minor league ball.  This is baseball right out of Bull Durham, and we love it.  And it goes without saying that we’ve been to a game at Haymarket Park, to see the Saltdogs do their stuff in one of the finest minor league parks in the country.

Each year, Kris and I exchange greetings on Opening Day.  I still recall that in one of these exchanges, Kris announced that, “The boys of summer are back.”  Something about that line grabbed me and still does today.

Over the past few years, every once in a while, the Booth’s – now including granddaughter Delaney - and the Jensen’s have rendezvoused for a long weekend in one of the country’s more fabled cities, and those trips, which were made even more memorable when Cindy joined the group, inevitably have involved taking in a major league ball game.  Accordingly, we’ve seen the Yankees in their last summer in the original house that Ruth built, watched the Yankees take on the Red Sox at Fenway, and of course watched the Cubs stumble their way through a contst the last summer before the Ricketts family bought the franchise and significantly lifted the club’s game.  A city that’s been on our list for some time is San Francisco, though when it comes that particular trip will probably lack a ball game since they are no longer played at Candlestick.  Like all baseball folks, the Jensen’s and the Booth’s are traditionalists.

Though Kris and I have probably not ever played catch more than two or three times, falling asleep that evening I realized that The Field of Dreams may be about fathers and sons, but just as fittingly can be about fathers and daughters, and how “the game” can be a factor binding and bringing an additional dimension to their relationship.

Sometimes I think about how empty my life would be if Kris had not come along and joined the dance, and on this particular occasion, I also thought about just how much baseball has been a shared interest and passion over the years, enhancing the tie between us.

“I see great things in baseball.  It is our game – the American game.  It will repair our losses and be a blessing to us.”

Walt Whitman (you can look it up).


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