This coming Sunday, June 20th is Father’s Day, and I intend to post a little something each day this week as a remembrance of my Dad. Why on a baseball blog? Well, why not? My Dad was a hard core Angel fan for many years. He is the reason I became an Angel fan, which will be described in one of upcoming posts. If you don’t like it, that's OK. There's other posts to fulfill your reading and baseball enjoyment. If you like what you read, post your own memories of the Angels, baseball, and fatherhood...or son-hood or some equal.
And away we go with a little background on my Father.
PART 1 - BIRTH OF A LOYAL FAN & MLB COMES TO LA
Dad was born in 1917 in the mining town of Butte, Montana. His Mom died when he was about 10 years old, and shortly thereafter, his father moved the remaining family to Los Angeles. My Dad attended Los Angeles High School and was a fair athlete, excelling in baseball with the help of one of his older brothers, my uncle Bob. (Uncle Bob played in the Yankees minor league system). Dad also had a tremendous singing voice. For the first few years after high school, he balanced these twin passions by playing on a semi-pro baseball team, and performing in opera & light opera productions. He also worked as an auto mechanic. How’s that for variety?
Like so many others of his generation, he enlisted in the Army after the start of WWII. He had a rather bazaar military career, nearly getting court-martialed for fist-fighting with a drill sergeant (you read that right…a drill sergeant!). A few months later while preparing for his first deployment, his pant leg was caught by the belt on a conveyor while loading equipment, and his left knee cap was crushed. The military doctors weren’t sure how to treat the injury, so they put him in a hip to toe cast for 5 months. The knee didn’t heal during that time. It took 2-3 years for it to improve. Even then, it was never "right". He spent the rest of his enlistment in the States working a desk assignment. This was probably to the benefit of our enemies, since his Vesuvian temper was erupting on a more frequent basis.
After the war, he met my Mom, and they were married in 1947. Dad also tried to resume playing baseball, but the knee wouldn’t cooperate. Straight forward running was OK, but any twisting or turning was out of the question. My Mom once told me of going to see him play before they were married. He got a base hit and rounded first, only to have the knee buckle. He collapsed on the ground, and had a hard time getting back to his feet. My Mom closed this memory by saying it was the most despondent she had ever seen him. His attempt to resume some level of competitive play ended later that year.
His other passion of singing also was shelved as the need to provide for a growing family exceeded his personal priorities. My oldest brother was born in ’49, followed by other brothers in ’51 and ’54. My only sister was born in ’52, and I entered the world in ’57. Yes, my parents were good Catholics, doing their best to keep the Pope employed. To stoke his baseball passion, Dad would take the family to minor baseball games, and he coached my brothers when they were old enough to play little league. He developed a strong desire to support a full-fledged MLB team, and through the 50’s, it seemed only a matter of time before that desire would be satisfied with an MLB franchise in Los Angeles.
He was initially excited when he heard that the Dodgers might relocate to Los Angeles. An MLB team in LA! But as he read more about the deal-making to secure the move, his excitement turned to loathing, and then to anger. Make that A-N-G-E-R. It was directed at all involved, but most focused on Walter O’Malley. There is a part of my youth where I was convinced "God DAMN" must have been Walter’s middle name, and "That" was his first name, since I recall hearing Dad say repeatedly, "That God DAMN O’Malley!" When the move of the Dodgers was finally announced, he reluctantly concluded that there was no way he would spend one cent to support the Dodgers. NO WAY. He wouldn’t give that bastard the satisfaction…not to that God DAMN O’Malley (from here after to be known as GDOM).
Ah, but fate can be one fickle mistress. Events would conspire to tempt him into the land of that GDOM. Would he go? You'll have to read that in part 2, which will be posted some time tomorrow.