The Biggest Baseball Fanatic is Watching His Dream Matchup from Heaven
Dad has been gone since July, and here it is October and the World Series is about to begin. Nearing the end of his life, he only cared about two things during the blazing hot summer: seeing his grandchildren/great-grandchildren, and watching Astros baseball.
As described in a comical way, my husband Gary went to extraordinary lengths to get a Roku to get Dad his games in his room with an Astros package. You can read this previous blog to see how many back-and-forths it took to get Dad his equipment and keep him happy with Astros baseball. In his last weeks, he could still recite win loss stats and who got home runs, until he took a turn for the worse in mid-July.
Dad grew up and spent his first 87 years in Philadelphia. Phillies Baseball was his passion – baseball his preferred sport, and he was a “listen to the radio broadcast” old-timer, who had trouble adjusting to cable television and televised regular home games. Sometimes he would just want to sit by the radio to hear rather than see. Dad bled Phillies red, and when I was lucky enough to work for them through college and grad school as a Phillies girl, there was no one more excited for me to see every home game than him.
Little did I understand what being at EVERY. SINGLE. HOMEGAME truly entailed. It was a long baseball season, and I spent five years doing that. I never got tired of that job, never tired of Phillies baseball, because I was truly a daddy’s girl. His love of baseball and the Phillies seeped into my being.
He attended a few games while I was working and I visited him in my uniform. He was so very proud of me.
He and I enjoyed the 1980 baseball season together -reveling in the play of the Phillies all the way up to and including their World Series victory. It was a baseball year I will never forget, for that reason – his and my own excitement matching, and in the fact that I benefited greatly from that victory in that the number of promotional events tripled. (More events: More money. I worked my way through college and graduate school because Dad had no extra money to do that for me.)
Just as he loved the Phillies when they were good, he cursed them out when they were “lazy” or just played badly, and had off seasons. They gave him many good seasons, and probably even more bad seasons. 1964, written about in my blog by that title elaborates on the promising Phillies collapse of that year. Dad was heartbroken that year.
When I moved Dad to Houston to be near me in 2014, the Astros were becoming a dynasty within a few short years. He maintained his sworn allegiance to the Phillies, but access to games was limited, and somehow, Astros fever seeped into his bloodstream.
There is something that happens when you move to a new city, with all new sports teams. If you love your new city, as I did when I moved here to Houston 41 years ago, you adopt a love of EVERYTHING Houston. That includes the baseball team.
For the first five years, I remained strictly a Phillies fan, only going to Astros games when the Phillies were playing them as both were in the same National League back then. In fact, on one occasion, I went up to the broadcast booth to see my old boss, Chris Wheeler, and asked him to give a shoutout to my dad, which he did while telling dad over the radio broadcast, that I was one of the prettiest Phillies girls ever. Sure enough, Dad was listening, and you never saw a man so thrilled in your life after that broadcast. First, his name was said over the airwaves, and then his daughter was complimented. It was a highlight of a very quiet and modest life.
After my son Brett was born, my ex-husband bought partial Astros season tickets, shared with others. It assured great seats and it was a place to bond with his son Brett over the sport of baseball. Sure enough, we all became Astros fans before long. They were the heartbeat of the city we loved, the favorite team that filled up a massive stadium each game.
We still loved the Phillies, but we also loved the Astros. When your children love the home town team – you tend to melt towards them too.
Still, it was an utter shock to see Dad take to the Astros so quickly. Yet, not really. Everyone talked about the Astros, where ever he socialized, it was the topic of conversation. The sports pages, where he read box scores daily, were filled with Astros. It seeped into his being rather quickly, and when the team became great, he was fully onboard.
Sometimes we would discuss this and he would say, “The Phillies aren’t showing me anything, the Astros are an exciting baseball team.”
He had never ever been a fair weather fan to the Phillies before, but that’s what happens when Astros fever catches you.
So Dad became a first and foremost Astros fan, reveling when he got to attend games, wearing some Astros gear, discussing with his grandson Brett in every discussion. If you consider that the Astros went to the World Series in the last four out of six years, you can understand why someone who loves the sport of baseball would get caught up in a winning team. (He still followed the Phillies)
He went wild in 2017 when they won the World Series. He defended the stupid trash can thing – the Phillies got caught one year he told me, and I researched and saw it was true, and he told me every team did it. Sure enough, the Yankees and Red Sox were caught too. It did not make it right, but Dad cited statistics about them winning more road games where there were no signals to prove they were a worthy team. He focused on their talent, which they continue to have in abundance and that makes a lover of the sport of baseball so very happy.
He reveled in each World Series visit by his adopted team. It was exciting for him.
Dad, though declining rapidly this year, knew the Astros had a special team this year and was so excited for this baseball season. I thank the Astros for distracting my dad through his end of life phase (a difficult one) because he had something to so look forward to each and every day. He was aware on the day in June when the Astros made the baseball record books when two of their pitchers pitched immaculate innings in the same game. (Never done before.) For a man who loved the sport of baseball, that was noteworthy.
I know Dad did not expect the Phillies to go to the World Series this year. I did not expect it either. It surprised and delighted me but Dad was already gone so I could not share it with him. They played a spectacular post season so far and I know Dad would have been just as excited as I was during that. It is ironic that they even squeaked into post season play with a victory over the Astros – in Houston!!!
His dream match up would be the Astros/Phillies and here it is happening and he is not here to see it. Many have mentioned he has the best seats in the house for this exciting event. (from Heaven) I wonder who he would root for, but I think, like me, he would just enjoy every moment of every game and be happy with whatever outcome. That’s how I view it with my original team and my adopted team. You don’t love adopted animals or children any less than your birthright ones. My friend Ziggy Gruber who owns Kenny & Ziggy’s – one of my favorite restaurants, rooted for the Astros over his hometown (New York born and bred) Yankees.
Here I have to quote Sam Malone who put on Facebook the following: (note that he grew up in my area of Philly and moved to Houston as an adult and made it as a media celebrity) Here is his quote about people asking who he is rooting for: “Yes, I was born and raised in Philly. Lived there for 25 years. Great memories of taking the Broad Street subway to Veterans Stadium to see the Phillies… However, Houston is my home. Texans have been so hospitable since I hit the airwaves in ’93. (My son) was born in Houston. I opened up a marketing company here. Good luck Phillies, but… It’s all ASTROS baseball at our house.”
Note that his opinion is NOT my opinion. I am torn two ways and have joy that both teams are in the Fall Classic. I have that old sentimental pull for the underdog Phillies, and that current strong hometown tug on my heart for this Astros team that my current town loves so much. I will be happy for every run that both teams score. I wish it to be a good contest with no hard feelings.
And I believe Dad, watching from Heaven, will enjoy every moment of this match up between parts of our hearts just as I will. Choose a favorite? No way. May the best team win and I can celebrate for either one without a shred of guilt.