Today marks the second Father’s Day since my dad passed away in January 2019. It’s supposed to get easier, I’m told. Except for the people who tell me that it never gets easier.
Guess I’ll find out.
I’ve shared how he took me to my first baseball game in 1971 at Memorial Stadium. Game 2 of the World Series, with the Orioles winning 11-3 after a rainout the previous day.
I got to miss school, hang out with my dad and watch baseball live. It could have been an exhibition game and I’d still cherish the memory. But the World Series?
Can’t beat it.
We agreed on most sports topics. It tended to be more fun when we stood on opposite sides.
A few examples:
* He didn’t seem bothered by the Eddie Murray trade to the Dodgers in December 1988, and not because he was a huge Brian Holton fan.
My dad felt like Murray wanted out of Baltimore so badly that he no longer played with any passion. Owner Edward Bennett Williams shared that opinion, which was a much bigger issue.
As a fan, I couldn’t wrap my head around a Murray trade. I didn’t care about his surly reputation with the media, especially since I didn’t start covering the team until 1997. I didn’t care if his uniform wasn’t filthy after games.
You don’t give up Eddie Murray, and especially for Holton, Ken Howell and Juan Bell. The return seemed lighter than a batting glove.
We know how it turned out. One of the worst trades in franchise history.
* He thought Ryan Flaherty was taking up a valuable roster spot and didn’t understand why the Orioles kept the former Rule 5 pick on the team.
I’d counter that Flaherty’s versatility had value.
Manager Buck Showalter trusted Flaherty at multiple positions. Every team needed someone like him as the 25th man.
The bat wasn’t supposed to produce big numbers across his slash line.
Flaherty deserves praise for going 4-for-12 with three walks in the American League Championship Series in 2014 while most of his teammates went stone cold at the plate.
* He wanted Chris Davis planted on the bench when the slugger stopped slugging. Don’t play him again until the first exhibition game.
I endorsed lowering Davis in the order. The bottom third. Exactly what manager Brandon Hyde has done.
Take the defense at first base and continue to hope that something clicks. And Davis wasn’t blocking a prospect.
The Orioles weren’t going to release Davis with the years and money left on his contract. They keep trying to fix him and the improvement this spring probably would have left my dad feeling a little more encouraged.
My dad really liked Davis as a person, from everything I told him. He just ran out of patience as the strikeouts mounted, especially those called third strikes with runners on base.
* He rooted for Muhammad Ali and I was a huge George Foreman fan, setting up our disagreement over “The Rumble in the Jungle.”
I sat on my bed listening to the round-by-round reports on one of the sports radio stations. This was 1974. I had no other way to find out who won.
I’d walk downstairs after each round and give my dad the latest updates. My final trip to the living room ended with the words, “Ali knocked him out.”
My dad pumped his fist in the air as I turned and headed back to my room.
As much as I would have loved to actually see the fight, there was something exciting about the round-by-round reports. My heart was racing.
* He despised Sugar Ray Leonard and rooted hard against him. Meanwhile, Leonard might go down as my all-time favorite boxer.
My dad was annoyed by ABC Sports televising every fight after Leonard turned pro, as if trying to carry him to the welterweight title. He argued that referees stopped fights too quickly - and I hated to admit that he was right on a couple of occasions, including the bout against Wilfred Benitez in 1979 that gave Leonard the World Boxing Council belt.
(I also thought that Thomas Hearns, leading on all scorecards in their first fight, should have been allowed to continue in the 14th round. Plenty of people agree. But his manager, Emanuel Steward, said afterward that referee Davey Pearl was “justified” in stopping the fight.)
I spoke to my father over the phone after Terry Norris gave Leonard a bad beating in their 1991 bout for the WBC light middleweight title. Leonard was knocked down twice, but he went the distance.
At one point, he reached for the ropes while trying to stay on his feet. It was hard to watch.
My dad told me that he felt sorry for Leonard. It was hard for him to watch, as well. Funny that I still remember the conversation and his compassion for a fighter that he disliked.
I should add that our opposing views on Leonard created a really tense moment, when he grew agitated with me after another Leonard televised win. I might have challenged him a bit too strongly, shall we say, and he quickly reminded me that I wasn’t quite ready to do that.
My mom vowed that night to never have us in the same room for another Leonard bout.
* The Baltimore Colts were our team, though his Pennsylvania roots showed when it came to his beloved Steelers.
(I missed Lynn Swann’s acrobatic catch against the Cowboys in Super Bowl X because I was in the garage retrieving more Iron City beers for my dad and his friends. But I’ve seen the replay plenty of times.)
For whatever reason, he never liked Colts linebacker Stan White. It was nothing personal. They never met. But he used to deliver more shots during games than White.
White was an All-American at Ohio State and the 438th of 442 players selected in the 1972 draft. He played eight years with the Colts and was named first-year All-NFL in 1975.
Didn’t matter to my dad.
White wasn’t my favorite player, but I had to keep defending him. The guy seemed to lead the team in tackles every game.
* Don’t get me started on Nick Saban and Alabama football.
Let’s just say ... Roll Tide.
And Saban haters gonna hate.
This seems like a good time to ask if anyone here has similar stories of sports disagreement with their fathers.