It was Sunday.
Not just any Sunday. A special Sunday.
Father’s Day — and yes, even when you are a grandfather with grandchildren old enough to have presented you with a great-grandchild but kind enough not to have done so, it remains a special Sunday.
Especially this Sunday.
True, you have spent half your adult life without your father, but none of your childhood, and you know the adult you are on this special Father’s Day Sunday grew out of those childhood days.
This day was special, for the TV before you was flashing reminders of everything that was your father. The Pirates were playing the Dodgers, and if this wasn’t the New York Giants versus the hated Brooklyn Dodgers rivalry that you had grown up on with your father, it was still baseball, and wasn’t it he who had introduced you to the game that had shaped your life?
Jerry Hertzel traveled for a living, hawking women’s blouses to America’s top department stores out of New York’s garment district. In the early days, when he had moved your family from the city into the northern New Jersey suburbs where there was grass and trees and fields in which a little boy could learn to play the game of baseball, he traveled in this overgrown Hudson.
He’d drive from New York to Philly, Philly to Cleveland, Cleveland to Chicago, Chicago to St. Louis, St. Louis to Kansas City ... and then home, all in that Hudson.
He was a long way away, but only a phone call away, and there was that night when you were only 10, your first year of Little League, first year of organized baseball, first year of catching, playing for an established Little League team.
This was serious stuff then, serious enough that you woke up one morning to learn you’d been part of a 10-player trade, going from one team to another with a player who eventually would become a major leaguer.
In those days The Bergen Record, the local paper, one that has grown into a major player in New York covering the Yankees, Mets, Giants, Jets, the NBA and NHL, covered Little League, and there was a story of the trade, a story that said the deal was made because that little kid’s team needed a catcher.
You were the catcher they felt they had to replace. That was one of those teary phone calls of the emergency type, the kind only a father could get a 10-year-old son through.
How many hours had this father spent throwing batting practice? How many hours had he hit pop foul flies until you could catch them behind your back, tricky as that was for a catcher? How long had you talked baseball ... learning why you didn’t try to take an extra base when two runs down, when to call for a fastball or a curve?
Surely this Gerrit Cole you were watching pitch for the Pirates, the one with the 98 mph fastball, didn’t learn any more from his dad, didn’t spend any more hours with him in the backyard playing catch.
Just as baseball was Cole’s life, so it became this father’s son’s life, leading him into a career as a baseball writer, a career he would not trade for anything else.
But there was more on television on this Father’s Day Sunday, the U.S. Open, and all eyes were on Phil Mickelson, a father and a golfer, and in the eyes of this son, as close a person to his own father as anyone could come.
Mickelson was a left-hander, just like Dad, and while he had a prettier golf swing, he owned no more U.S. Open titles.
Dad came to golf later in life, after he’d finished molding his son, first as a ball player, always as a human being. Once he discovered the game of golf, he fell in love with it. By then he traveled by plane and was covering the entire country, bringing his sample case and his golf clubs everywhere he went.
I’d hear tales of playing at Torrey Pines in San Diego or Pebble Beach in L.A. When he was home, he’d head to River Vale Golf Course.
The day before he learned he was suffering from colon/liver cancer that would take his life at just 60, he played 36 holes at River Vale. He never got back to the course and that bothered him far more than the inevitable fate he knew he was facing.
Yeah, Sunday was a special day. He would have loved to have seen young Gerrit Cole beat those Dodgers with homey Pedro Alvarez, who grew up in New York not far from where he grew up, hitting a home run.
And yes, I guarantee he smiled when Mickelson holed a wedge for an eagle to grab the Open lead, probably even heading out to one of those courses in heaven to work on his own wedge to get ready for the day Mickelson joined him for a round there.
Email Bob Hertzel at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow him on Twitter @bhertzel.
It was Sunday.
- Bob Herzel
HERTZEL COLUMN: Big 12 provides plenty of optimism
This past week the Big 12 held its annual media gathering in Dallas and served up a heaping portion of optimism for the 2014 season that is now upon us, West Virginia University opening its preseason practices on Thursday.
This is a time of year when no one has lost a game, not even Charlie Weis at Kansas, and it’s a time of year when opinions are more plentiful than tattoos in an NFL locker room.
HERTZEL COLUMN: WVU needs White to follow in former receivers’ footsteps
A year ago Clint Trickett took a lot of grief as the once potent West Virginia offense came unraveled, but there is more that than meets the eye.
The criticism was not unfounded, of course, although behind each incomplete pass there was the pain Trickett was suffering through to throw it, his rotator cuff in need of surgery.
HERTZEL COLUMN: O’Toole joins long list of eccentric WVU kickers, punters
The star of the Big 12’s annual football media day wasn’t a star at all.
He intrigued the media far more than Bob Stoops, the coach of preseason favorite Oklahoma, and more than Baylor quarterback Bryce Petty, the preseason player of the year.
WVU, N.C. State to meet in football
Following a trend of creating non-conference games against regional opponents, West Virginia University has reached agreement with North Carolina State to play a home-and-home football series in 2018 and 2019.
The Mountaineers are scheduled to play N.C. State in Raleigh on Sept. 15, 2018, and then play host to the Wolfpack on Sept. 14, 2019.
HERTZEL COLUMN: ‘Cheating pays’ remark should draw attention
When Bob Bowlsby, the outspoken commissioner of the Big 12, presented his opening-day picture of the future of college sports in Dallas for the annual media day gathering, his bleak comments were not unexpected.
Holgorsen’s program hits turning point
You can almost sense, as you watch West Virginia University football coach Dana Holgorsen sit before the gathered Big 12 media contingent answering questions in the Omni Hotel in Arlington, Texas, that he senses his program has reached a turning point.
Trickett’s play key factor for Mountaineers’ success
In the end, it comes down to the quarterback.
Always has with Dana Holgorsen, always will.
Quarterback is the offense with the West Virginia University coach. When he does well, the team wins – almost always.
When he does poorly, the team doesn’t stand much of a chance.
Saban, family happy at Alabama
Alabama football coach Nick Saban, whose team opens the season against West Virginia in Atlanta on Aug. 30, denied receiving or turning down this offseason an offer of $100 million to coach Texas, indicating he planned to finish his career as coach of the Crimson Tide.
HERTZEL COLUMN: ‘Quarterback child prodigy’ comes to WVU amidst very high expectations
Has West Virginia football coach Dana Holgorsen finally put the arrow he needs in his quiver with the commitment received Wednesday from high school quarterback David Sills, who is a rather extraordinary story and may also just be a rather extraordinary quarterback?
WVU kicker Molinari ‘All-American boy’
West Virginia kicker Mike Molinari may not be an All-American but he is an All-American boy.
He was honored for that on Wednesday when the Allstate Insurance Company and the American Football Coaches Association announced the West Virginia redshirt senior kicker/punter Michael Molinari is a nominee for the Allstate AFCA Good Works Team.
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- HERTZEL COLUMN: Big 12 provides plenty of optimism