Here it is, baseball season again. I've been getting more and more into it within the last few years. Prior to that, I couldn't care less about the game. I had been a big fan up until the strike. But that soured me so much about it, I had stopped watching.
My dad loved baseball. It didn't matter who was playing. If there was baseball on TV, he was watching it. I've got some really good memories from my childhood of watching Saturday afternoon games with him. It was the only time I didn't have to eat at the dining table. What a treat! We had a red card table my dad would set up in front of the TV, so we could eat while watching the game. I can still hear the voice of Joe Garagiola as he broke down a game.
My favorite team back then was the Reds, and it seemed that their games were always being shown. And with a lineup that included Johnny Bench (no runs, no drips, no errors), Joe Morgan and Pete Rose, what was not to love? I even liked the Yankees back then. What can I say, I was a confused little kid. My favorite Yankee player was 3rd baseman, Craig Nettles. Man, I can still see in my minds eye some of the spectacular catches he made. Of course, I despise the Yankees, now. As it should be.
In the evenings, when there wasn't a game on TV, he would go to his bedroom, and lie in bed and listen to a game on the radio. My dad was an interesting guy. The only time he watched TV was for sports, news, or Mutual of Omaha's Wild Kingdom. Other than that, he couldn't give a shit. His only reading material was the four or five newspapers he subscribed to. I once gave him a book for Christmas, Jack London's "White Fang" and "The Call of the Wild." I thought he would enjoy it, since he was always relating to me stories from his youth about adventures he had had with his dogs. I don't think he ever read it.
My dad had a nasty temper. I don't think a day went by, when he didn't curse my mom out about something. He would scream at her, and tell her how stupid and worthless she was, until she was in tears. I hated him for a long time for the way he treated her. He never hit her, but the verbal abuse was unrelenting. There was a time when she couldn't take it any more, and threatened to divorce him. I cried, and begged her not to. She gave in, and continued to suffer, for my sake. How stupid and selfish I was.
I remember one time, when a tirade of his really went over the top, I got out my deer rifle, loaded it and sat on the front porch, contemplating killing him. I really wanted to. He walked by, saw me, and smirking, asked, "You gonna shoot me? You'd better go ahead and do it if you're going to." I lost my nerve, and put it away. Neither he nor I ever mentioned it again.
My dad seemed to mellow in his older years. And my mom even repressed the abuse to the point where she categorically denied it ever happened. Even after his death, she wouldn't allow me to say anything about it.
It wasn't until after his death, that I began to understand him. He suffered from severe arthritis most of his life from being hurt in the army. His spine and neck were completely calcified together, and he couldn't even turn his head. He was in constant pain. So it only stands to reason he had a short fuse.
The one thing we really shared and could talk about together was baseball.
I never told my dad I loved him. And he never spoke those words to me. But I know he did.