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
Staten, Mountaineers take responsibility for loss
West Virginia University had Gonzaga beaten.
Simple as that.
HERTZEL COLUMN- Harris hopes for more shots when he’s hot
The game was over, a dark memory in Eron Harris’ mind as he sat in the West Virginia University locker room.
HERTZEL COLUMN: Defense needs to be WVU’s No. 1 priority
When Dana Holgorsen took over as West Virginia’s football coach, he came carrying the credentials of an offensive innovator and with an unbroken history of offensive success, the assumption being that it would carry over from Texas Tech, Houston and Oklahoma State to WVU.
Gonzaga avoids upset at WVU
For most of Tuesday night’s battle at the Coliseum, West Virginia did a number on Gonzaga star Kevin Pangos, and because of that and some dazzling first-half shooting by Eron Harris and second-half heroics of Terry Henderson, the Mountaineers seemed on their way to an upset of the nation’s No. 20 team.
WVU hoping for home-court advantage against Gonzaga
On the surface, you may wonder what chance West Virginia has at victory at 9 p.m. today when Gonzaga comes into the Coliseum to face the Mountaineers.
HERTZEL COLUMN- Gonzaga brings excitement to WVU Coliseum
Gonzaga comes to the Coliseum today to face West Virginia in a 9 p.m. game televised nationally on ESPN2 and, like it or not, it is Gonzaga and not the Mountaineers that has the star power to make this an attractive national game.
HERTZEL COLUMN- WVU game attendance questioned
You might remember Rick Harshbarger. We introduced him to you almost a year ago as the guy driving the car parked in the Coliseum parking lot with the license plate: NO1WVFAN.
HERTZEL COLUMN: There are no sick days for athletes
So you wake up on a Monday morning and it’s cold outside; a couple of inches of snow have fallen. That’s bad enough, but then as you roll out of bed and put your feet on the cold floor, you realize you head is aching and your back hurts and you’ve got the sniffles and then …
Huggins implores Mountaineers to play to their strengths
Bob Huggins’ message to his West Virginia University team coming out of its disappointing 80-71 loss at Missouri that never really was as close as the final score indicates was a simple one – do what you do.
“We come out and we have too many guys playing out of character and doing things they can’t do instead of doing things they can do,” he said immediately after addressing his team on Thursday night in Columbia, Mo.
WVU women win seventh straight
Unlike the West Virginia University women’s basketball team she plays for, Asya Bussie draws a crowd every time she steps onto the Coliseum court.
The crowd, unfortunately, isn’t fellow WVU students or paying customers.
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