I visited my dad this morning at his nursing home and it was a good visit. The Deity Herself must have intervened, and I am glad about that. Alzheimer’s is really a terrible disease. It robs people of their mind long before they physically pass away. Dad looks terrible and after yesterday I did not expect much, but I wanted to connect somehow.
On the way I picked him up a San Francisco Giants hat and shirt. Dad has been a Giants fan since coming to the west coast back in the late 1950s. When we moved up to Mudville in 1971 he would occasionally take us over to Candlestick Park to see them play. Admittedly this was a pretty decent trip so we didn’t go as often as I’m sure that he would have liked. The first baseball game that dad took me to was in the summer of 1969 Seattle Pilots at Sick Stadium. I don’t remember what day it was, only that it was either a Saturday or Sunday day game which happened to be “Bat Day.” In those days teams gave real bats to the kids. I got one with the signature of Pilot’s First Baseman Mike Hegan. I had the bat for years. I think I finally broke it playing a pick-up game in the 1970s. Dumb me; the damned thing would probably be worth a fortune now. When we moved to Long Beach in 1970 we went to a lot of California Angels games. This was in the time before they went through the crisis of what to call themselves. You know, The California Angels, The Los Angeles Angels, the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim and finally now the Anaheim Angels. Those were great times. Dad was awesome in getting us to the game, helping us shag foul balls and teaching constantly at the game. If we were not at the game we had it on the radio. I still enjoy listening to baseball on the radio. I mostly now listen to the Norfolk Tides when they are on the road.
When we moved to Mudville, dad like I said would take us to Giants games. The most memorable of these was on August 24th 1975 when in the second game of a double header against the New York Mets, Ed Halicki threw a no-hitter. That was cool; dad took me to see a game where a no hitter happened. It was magic. We would also attend Oakland A’s games. This was back in the days of Charlie Finley’s ownership and the dynasty team that included Reggie Jackson, Sal Bando, Rollie Fingers, Vida Blue, Jim “Catfish” Hunter, Joe Rudi, Bert “Campy” Campanaris, “Mudcat” Grant and Paul Linnblad. We saw a couple of the playoff games against the Detroit Tigers at the Oakland Coliseum in 1972. The A’s won both, Rollie Fingers picking up a win in relief and Blue Moon Odom shutting tehm down in the second. In Mudville we would go see the Stockton Ports of the California League who at the time were part of the Baltimore Orioles farm system.
While we went to a lot of games it didn’t stop there. Dad from as early as I could remember would take me out to the back yard, vacant lot or school baseball field to teach me to pitch, throw and field. When I saw the movie For the Love of the Game starring Kevin Costner there are old clips, home movie clips of Costner and his parents with his dad playing ball with him. Those clips sent me back to my childhood when dad did that with me.
Today I had my dad back for about five to seven minutes. They were a good five to seven minutes. The visit yesterday was not so good. He was not very with it and very anxious. Today he was calmer and I gave him the Giants hat. When he saw it his eyes lit up. Then I gave him the shirt, and he smiled. I then told him the Giants had taken two of three games over the weekend from the Dodgers and he said simply “Good.” Dad is not a Dodgers fan unless they are playing in the World Series, then he is not a fan, but simply a National League partisan. I told him about my season ticket with the Norfolk Tides and he said, “I wish I could go with you.” I then thanked him for all that he taught me about the game and how he taught me to love it. He said “at least I taught you something.” I then told him that he had taught me a lot more about life than he might remember. He smiled. I told him how he used to take me to the back yard and play catch, teach me to pitch, and to field a ball cleaning as we played pepper. I said “I still remember you telling me to keep my butt down and keep in front of ground balls.” He said “you have to do that.” I told him any time that I was in the infield that I could hear his voice telling me to “keep your butt down.” I did mention that he didn’t teach me how to hit and he said something that surprised me. He said: “Son, to be a hitter takes a natural gift, a lot of people can’t hit.” I then said, “Well I’m one of them” and he smiled.
He asked me about the Navy and we talked for a minute or two about it. Then he then started to get anxious and ask me to take him to the recreation room. They were getting ready for an organ concert. I wheeled him beside an older lady and he said. “That’s my son…He’s a Navy man too.”
I promised that I would see him again tomorrow. I don’t know how he will be doing then but at least for a few minutes today I had him back.