Sports In My Family

“No, no, no, can’t you hold your hands like I am!” Dad bellowed, attracting Mom’s attention.

“Floyd, can’t you see you’re confusing him? You know he isn’t left-handed like you are.”

“David, pretend you’re looking in a mirror and Daddy’s hands are your reflection. There, now you’re getting it.”

*      *      *

All I had done was ask Daddy why he had those two funny sticks behind his bedroom door. I hadn’t expected a golf lesson, although I might have expected him to lose his temper in frustration.

I didn’t set foot on a golf course until I was twenty-five and Dad had been dead half of my life, but I remembered how to hold a club. “You know, Dan,” I said to my friend, “I’m pretty sure Dad never played golf. I still don’t know why he had a driver and a putter. The only time he even watched golf on tv was if we visited Uncle Joe and he was watching a match.”

I was in my sixties before I casually mentioned those clubs to my sister that she explained. “Didn’t you know Daddy had been a caddy in Hot Springs when he was a teen? I guess they reminded him of those good times.”

The only sports Dad showed any interest in had been the Friday or Saturday night wrestling or boxing matches on television. That made a certain sense, as I’d heard about so many times Dad had gotten into fights.

Now, my brother-in-law, Claude, loved baseball and had even tried out for the St. Louis Cardinals. He didn’t make the team because he was blind in one eye, but that didn’t prevent his being a life-long Cards fan.

Claude gave me my first fielder’s glove and taught me how to bat, catch and pitch. He took me to see my first in-person game at the old Busch Stadium on Grand Avenue, where I got to see the only out-of-the-park home run I’ve ever witnessed. When Marcia had married Claude they couldn’t afford a television, so every summer weekend Claude would be in our living room. After the game he’d take me outside for some practice.

I never got to play on a team, but he taught me how to place-hit and throw a knuckler, slider and curve. One day he was practicing pitching to me and threw a slider that clipped the top of the catcher’s mitt I was wearing and hit me right between the eyes, laying me out cold. I woke up with him bent over me, his face as white as mine probably was, minus the red welt above my nose.

When spring came around in my Freshman year at high school, I wanted to try out for the team. I was so excited that my blood pressure must have been off the chart, had it been checked. When my turn finally came to step to the coaches desk to sign up, he took one look at me and said, “I can’t let you play.”

“W-why not?”

He pointed to my shirt. I looked down and saw a trail of crimson that had dripped from my nose. “I’d lose my job, that’s why.”

I was heart-broken and never tried again. I had had occasional nosebleeds, but so had my sister, Jackie, so I hadn’t thought it that big of a deal. By the time I joined the Army they had stopped. C’est la vie.

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