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
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HERTZEL COLUMN: WVU gymnast hopes to stick her final landing
The reaction, one suspects, was the same as most people who see either a picture of West Virginia University gymnast Hope Sloanhoffer or meet her for the first time in person — a quick double take, maybe even stumbling over the first few words of an introduction.
Bussie looks forward to WNBA
On Tuesday, the weather turned cold, the wind blew and amongst the raindrops that fell a few snowflakes fluttered quietly to Earth.
It was as if it was a celebration of Asya Bussie being drafted on Monday night by the Minnesota Lynx, champions of the WNBA, with the third selection of the second round, the 15th overall pick of the draft.
HERTZEL COLUMN: Jackie Robinson’s impact extends beyond baseball
It is Jackie Robinson Day as I sit here writing this today, and I feel as though I am doing it in a world gone mad.
Every player in Major League Baseball wore No. 42 on Tuesday in honor of Jackie Robinson, the man who took racism’s best shot and integrated the game that was known then as the National Pastime even though it was as white a Ku Klux Klan robe.
Gyorko, Padres agree to extension
Jedd Gyorko, who hasn’t hit much of anything with a .178 start on this season, hit the jackpot on Monday, signing a six-year contract extension with the San Diego Padres for $35 million with a one-year club option at $13 million.
HERTZEL COLUMN- Spring game showed defense has improved
From Dana Holgorsen’s viewpoint, which was standing right behind the offense, West Virginia’s Gold-Blue Spring Game on Saturday was a rousing success for it showed very little of what the Mountaineers will be in this coming season, probably not even showcasing the man who will direct the offense in the quarterback position.
WVU signs guard; Adrian arrested for DUI
There was something good and something bad for West Virginia men’s basketball coach Bob Huggins this past weekend as Kansas junior college player Tarik Phillip committed to play for the Mountaineers but rising sophomore Nathan Adrian was charged with Under 21 DUI after he was stopped at 1:20 a.m. Sunday for an expired registration sticker.
HERTZEL COLUMN- Garrison still proving he can carry the ball
The running back raves from the West Virginia coaching this spring have been directly mostly toward Wendell Smallwood, and rest assured he earned every one of them with his versatility, but it was a reborn running back who well may have taken the biggest jump up the depth chart.
WVU baseball drops seventh straight game
One’s athletic skills are tested on a daily basis but every so often other aspects of an athlete’s makeup are tested, often far more important aspects in the game of life.
Gold-Blue Game answers few questions at quarterback
Dana Holgorsen finds himself in a quarterback quandary.
He’s looking to have one quarterback and has five of them as spring practice ends, and nothing about the spring session has done anything to straighten out the situation.
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