Here is the final installment of the Father's appreciation series...
PART 6 - CLOSURE
As the 70’s progressed, the Angels finally developed a team that was in contention in the AL West mostly by signing some big name free agents. Dad wasn’t sure if he liked this method of improving the Angels, although he also didn’t have his characteristic polarized reaction either. Actually, it seemed at the time like Dad was changing in a couple of ways.
First, he was becoming more mellow, and a bit more introspective. That was evident not only in reaction to free agency, but in other ways as well. He wouldn’t get as angry over minor issues as he had in the past. Second, his passion for the Angels seemed to be declining. He didn’t watch or listen to games as frequently. He didn’t know the players as well as once had. In looking back, I now realize his life’s focus was shifting.
In 1971, my parents purchased the business that had functioned as Dad’s “2nd” job (it was an LA Times distributorship). It was stressful for the initial 3-4 years, but then the Times purchased all of the distributorships and converted the distributors to employees. This actually worked out very much to the benefit of my parents. They were relieved of the day to day responsibilities of running a business (payroll, taxes, payables, receivables, hiring, etc.) while actually netting substantially more income. The deal with the Times was so beneficial that Dad actually retired (a change from being fired!) from his job as a transportation foreman a couple of years later. Had the economic stress of providing for a family been a factor in his frantic support of the Angels? Was Angel fandom an outlet for those inevitable frustrations?
I am not sure, but his behavior had definitely crossed a threshold. My sister married a Dodger fan (family scandal) and my brother-in-law coaxed my Dad into attending a game at…that place he had banned us from calling Dodger Stadium. I was shocked to hear that he’d dare set foot in that place to see that other LA team, even though that GDOM was no longer running day-to-day Dodger affairs. That shock was nothing compared to how my bro-in-law convinced Dad to have a picture taken…wearing a Dodger cap! When I saw the photo, I gave dad a “What the Hell!” look, and he responded with a face that said “What’s the big deal?” To my other brothers, this was just too strange for words. We would have been less shocked of he’d started wearing dresses.
He fully retired in 1983. Well, almost. He started volunteer work for a Catholic Services Meals-on-Wheels program in the Hollywood area. This actually became more stressful than regular work, due to the need to climb stairs in apartment buildings. His left knee – the one that had been partially crushed in the military – had given him intermittent problems through the years. Now, his knee appeared to be in constant pain. He limped noticeably, and when he sat long enough, he would start rubbing it. Go see a doctor? No, he didn't like doctors, and only saw them under the most severe distress. He relied instead on what had worked in the past, that steadfast determination to keep going, keep moving forward, don't stop, there's people counting on him to deliver.
Some of the recipients of the meals were AIDS patients. Now Dad wasn’t an especially sympathetic person, and he might be described today as “homophobic”. Regardless, he was truly touched by the AIDS patients he encountered. He told me on a couple of occasions of their deep gratitude for the delivery of these meals. He also told of how horrible it was to watch AIDS victims waste away relatively quickly from the ravages of the disease, once the virus became active. He added that these AIDS victims were so pleased just to have a 5-10 minute conversation. He was humbled to be able to give what he thought of as so little, yet enrich another so much.
Yes, baseball receded even more in importance in his life, to the where he would need to be prodded to enter a discussion on the subject. I felt fortunate that he attended the Spring Training game in 1987. I recall asking him during that trip if he was upset by the collapse of the previous year. He gave me a look like he didn't know what I was talking about. Finally, he seemed to barely remember what happened. He knew about the “Donnie Moore” game, but it was like some distant news…like a tornado in Nebraska or somewhere that…yeah was tragic and all.
He continued delivering meals for a couple more years. One morning, the nun running the program called home and asked my Mom why Dad didn’t show up that morning. My Mom thought he had already left for "work". She discovered him in bed, comatose. It turned out he had suffered a major stroke. He died 13 days later on August 12, 1990. During those 13 days, he never really regained consciousness.
There's a lot of his behavior I have left out. He was far from a perfect being. Since this is a baseball blog, the focus here is on baseball and the Angels, and I've tried to retain that focus through this series. There aren't too many days that pass without thinking of him. He's not physically here, but he's far from "dead" to me or to my life. Though his interest in the Angels had faded over the years, he was the first person I thought of after the World Series victory in 2002.
So Dad, wherever you are Happy Father's day to you. I hope you are able to enjoy the day with your own Dad and other loved ones. Thanks for all that you did for me and the other 4 "knuckleheads". I love you. Take care, Dad.
Special thanks to Rev Halofan and to SBN for allowing the posting of these memories on this website.
And for all you younger Dad’s out there, be good to your kids. At some future date, they may be writing about you anonymously on some blog or other website.
Now, go out and have a great Father’s Day!