Here's part 4 of 6 in the series of fatherhood appreciation. Just 2 more to go...
PART 4 – ANGEL BASEBALL ON THE AIR
The Angles move to the Big "A" for the ’66 season roughly coincided with changes in our family economics. Dad – always eager to give someone a piece of his mind – had been fired from his primary job in ’65 for arguing with his new boss. The timing was especially bad as my parents had bought a home only 6 months before he was fired. He already had 2 employers, so we weren’t completely destitute. But he had difficulty finding a primary job at the same pay scale. Eventually, he was hired as a transportation foreman at a lower pay scale. Mom talked about going to work, but he would have none of that. He believed it was far more important to have a parent at home when he came back from school.
Dad and Mom contemplated trips to the Big A and concluded that it just wasn't going to happen any time soon. There were 3 decisive factors; the new family economic realities, the distance to the stadium (we lived in Los Angeles) and my dad’s sleep schedule (he would awaken at 3:00 AM for work on his "secondary" job, 7 days a week). I bugged my parents (and I think my older brothers did too) but the response was generally "Not now...we have to be careful how we spend our money".
This led to my next special Father/Son Angel memories, from the mid 60’s on through the early 70’s. The inability to attend games at the Big A didn’t prevent us from enjoying Angel games. He (or we) would catch as many games on KTLA as possible (in those days, only road games were televised). If they weren’t on TV, he would listen in on KMPC. During these games, he’d listen to the play-by-play, read the paper and smoke his pipe with some aromatic tobacco mixture. I believe the pipe was intended to calm him down. It didn’t always work. I can still hear him now..."Pop-up! Strike-out! Sit down! Jesus H. Christ! These bastards couldn’t hit to save their life!", or "That STUPID son-of-a-bitch!"…and worse. When an Angel finally came through with a clutch hit or pitch, we would let out a weird cackle/laugh, as though he couldn’t believe his ears.
I specifically recall his frustration with Nolan Ryan…3 perfect innings followed by an inning with 3-4 walks with a random hit thrown in, followed by 5-6 more perfect innings. And the Angels would lose the game. Dad would be begging to the radio,"…Jesus man…just throw a strike!", or "NO!...not ANOTHER walk!". Ryan perplexed my Dad like no other player…an extreme love/hate relationship. I can still see him holding his head in his hands as Ryan was characteristically losing control, and muttering to himself, "Here we go again".
I’d sometimes sit and listen to the games with him. I’d also learn about some of intricate strategies of the game, why a batter would be intentionally walked, when a stolen base should/should not be attempted, what type of pitch a hitter should look for depending on the count, and so on. Baseball has so many unique features...you don't realize all of these complexities until you try to explain it to someone else. Other times, he’d reminisce about special memories from when he played baseball, MLB "stars" he followed as a youth, and how the game had changed over time.
As I approached my middle teen years, hanging around the house faded in interest. There were other distractions, and hanging around the house with Mom & Dad just wasn’t as…interesting? Plus, my older brothers and sister had started to move on with their lives in one form or the other. The days of gathering in the living room and enjoying Angel baseball as some portion of a family slowly reduced more and more until they finally ended for good.
Today, when I catch the scent of someone smoking a pipe, I find myself reminiscing about those radio and TV days of Angel baseball, of Dad, and of his explanations of the game’s intricate strategies. I think of the voices from those days that broadcast the games, Buddy Blattner and Dave Neihaus, Dick Enberg and Don Drysdale. It is unfortunate, but all good things…they do come to an end.
Tomorrow...one final special spot for memories of Dad and Angel baseball.