Hats off to Dad.
Every time I look at this picture of my dad and me taken at my cousin’s
wedding reception, I laugh, because believe it or not, it reminds me of
It was August 28, 2004. I had spent the previous two days in Chicago,
covering the first two games of a four-game series between the Astros
and Cubs. I left to go to Atlanta for the wedding, and I missed games
three and four. Little did I know, those two days were pivotal in what
turned out to be the greatest late-season run in the history of the
I’m in my hotel room, watching the game on WGN. Eighth inning, two on,
one out. Astros ahead, 7-6. Brad Lidge on the mound, facing Corey
And I’m having a true dilemma. I have five minutes until I have to meet
my family in the lobby. The instructions were clear. Mom’s rules.
Baseball rules, however, dictated that I needed to be watching Lidge
face Corey Patterson. I paced for a few more minutes, pondered my
options…and headed to the lobby.
And I waited. Five minutes. Ten minutes. Fifteen minutes [A
little background — Footers aren’t late. Ever. Growing up, if we had
to leave the house at 5:45, you could already hear my mom pacing at
5:44 and 15 seconds. We were the first ones to arrive at every single
extended family function. It was annoying).
Finally, my parents showed up, 17 minutes late. “Where have you been?” I asked, incredulously. No answer from my mom.
“You don’t leave in the middle of an inning,” my dad said, as if the
answer could not be more obvious. I looked over at my mom and she had
one of those I-don’t-want-to-talk-about-it looks on her face. So, I let
They say you never stop learning from your parents. Apparently it’s
true. I thought I had a pretty good grasp of your basic life lessons,
until my dad wisely pointed out that you have to line up your
priorities — Astros-Cubs Wild Card race first, everything else, well,
second. My dad stuck around to watch Lidge walk Derrek Lee to load the
bases before fanning Todd Walker with a 94 mph fastball to end the
eighth inning. Me? I had to hear about it, from my dad.
That’s a long intro to my main point of this blog — as we celebrate
Dads today, we also celebrate baseball. After all, for most of us, the
two go hand in hand.
My dad, meticulous and analytical by nature, has a wide variety of
approaches when discussing his favorite sport. He’s inquisitive ["Does
Billy Wagner know that you can throw 100 mph, but if Major League
hitters know what's coming, they'll still hit it out of the park?"];
demanding ["Next time you talk to Jimy Williams, ask him if he's heard
of bunting"] and blunt [Me: "Hi Dad, Happy Birthday." Dad: "They
My dad likes numbers. He has an uncanny ability to calculate just about
anything in his head, especially when it comes to the Wild Card
standings. Take, for example, that same 2004 season. It’s July 30. The
Astros and Reds stopped play for a rain delay, and, as expected, my
cell phone rings. It’s my dad.
He had it all figured out — the formula that would win the Astros the
Wild Card. They just had to go 40-20 for the rest of the season. He ran
through the scenarios for all of the contending teams — the Marlins
will do this. The Cubs, this, The Phillies, this. And on and on.
Roll eyes. I asked him if he had been watching this gosh-awful team,
and for crying out loud, how could he possibly believe they would win
I said something along the lines of “lay off the hallucinogens,” and ended the conversation.
Fast forward a few months. The season was over, the Astros had just
lost Game 7 of the NLCS to end an incredible postseason run. I went
back to that game in Cincinnati and counted the wins and losses from
that point forward. Dad said they needed to go 40-20. They went 41-19.
I called him and said, “I don’t know why I don’t just accept the fact that my father really does know best.”
So here’s to my dad. And your dad. Here’s to the dads that are still
here with us and to the ones who have passed on. Here’s to every dad
who has ever taken his kids to the ballpark, bought a few hotdogs, and
passed along the greatness of our game to the next generation. Here’s
to the dad who yells at the TV when his team loses but then takes a
deep breath, turns to his kids and says reassuringly, “We’ll get ‘em