Whenever the summer winds down and the Major League Baseball pennant race heats up, I think of my father. Especially this year, because the twenty-fifth anniversary of his death is just three months away. If Dad were living, he would be thrilled by the remarkable late-season resurgence of his favorite baseball team: the St. Louis Cardinals.
Here are a few excerpts from my book Tales of a Rollercoaster Operator, which includes my sweetest memories of my father.
When I look in the mirror, I see him looking back at me. My dad, that is. Though Walter Johnson was a larger man in stature with a broader chest–and hazel eyes instead of my blue–there was always a similarity to our stride and our gregarious, sensitive, idealistic, and loyal nature …
Dad was such a Cardinal lover that in July 1945, following his World War II service, he carried a paperback copy of The St. Louis Cardinals: The Story of a Great Baseball Club by Frederick G. Lieb with him. Evidently, the Special Services Division for the Army distributed the publication to servicemen overseas. Inside the flap, Dad wrote: “Read aboard ship enroute to U.S. in July 1945 on U.S.S. Monticello.”
Two decades after Dad returned from the war and resumed his civilian life, cheering for the St. Louis Cardinals became our shared passion. Of course, it’s too soon to know whether the team will return to the postseason this year after two mediocre seasons in 2016 and 2017. But just knowing they are in serious contention again reminds me of Dad, our Cardinal-loving DNA, and dozens of muggy St. Louis nights in the 1960s.
There we were. Sitting in the Busch Memorial Stadium bleachers. Side by side. Listening to the melodious baseball banter of Harry Caray and Jack Buck through our transistor radio. Anticipating Lou Brock’s next stolen base. Watching Bob Gibson pitch another gem. Rooting for our favorite team.