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For Dad, on His Special Day

father's day

By Phil Hecken

No, that’s not a picture of me and my Dad at a baseball game — but it could be. Before I was even in little league, my pop took me to my first ever game at Shea, and I was decked out in my first uniform just for the occasion. Since that time, I’ve been to dozens of games with my dad; they will always be one of my fondest childhood memories, ones which I will always cherish. Sadly, there will be no more Met games with dad.

Fortunately, he’s still with us, but his health has been steadily deteriorating over the past two years. I won’t go into details, but it’s tough to watch this once vibrant, athletic guy who taught me how to have a catch, throw, serve a tennis ball and strike a golf ball (and to properly blouse my baseball pants), now reduced to being an armchair spectator. Up until about five or six years ago, when the ravages of time forced him to have knee replacement surgery, I played tennis with him about every two weeks; until two years ago, when a blood disease and West Nile Virus put him in a coma with a resulting 100-day hospital stay, we’d still play 18 holes on the weekends; now, when I see him, it’s to watch those events we once played, and the only competition between us is a spirited game of bridge. Walking is now a chore for him, as he must use a cane. But he’s been a fighter through it all — never once complaining or being an imposition, even though it wouldn’t be imposing at all. Last Father’s Day I was certain would be his last, but he’s surprised me yet again.

~~~

I’m not sure how I became a “Uni Watcher,” but I’m pretty sure it’s in my blood. Dad was always pointing out little uniform details, especially when I was young and impressionable, even explaining the (now pretty much disproven) reason the Mets wore blue, orange and pinstripes as an ode to the Dodgers, Giants and Yankees. During the 1970’s and early 1980’s we attended lots of games at Shea; he taught me how to score, the nuances of the double-switch, and how the foul (fair?) poles were painted orange. When my buddies hit their teens and twenties, and it became “uncool” to do things with their fathers, my dad and I always stayed close, and we’d always see at least one ballgame per season at Shea, and we played tennis and golf together occasionally. Even after I’d moved out of the house and got married, we remained very close and had our fair share of uni watching moments together.

Many of those moments stand out, but none more so than back in 1999, when dad had acquired tickets for the Mets Turn Ahead The Clock night, and he didn’t quite understand the promotion. The Mets had already been wearing their god-awful black jerseys earlier that season, but these special ones were, according to pop, “just awful — the Mets don’t wear black.” He made a special point of telling me how bad they were. As it turned, out, that was the last Mets game we ever saw together.

I always figured we’d have more (although I saw plenty with my wife and my friends, dad always preferred to watch at home). After 1999, Dad and I caught some minor league games, but somehow, we never made it back to Shea. Once the plans to to build Citi Field new Shea were announced a few years back, I told him I’d get us tickets, but by the time it was officially open, he wasn’t healthy enough to make it to the park. We had tickets to the US Open at Bethpage last summer, but he couldn’t join me. We did watch, as we have every Father’s Day, the final round on television, but it wasn’t the same.

I’ll be spending most of today with the man who’s been a great father and a better friend than anyone could ever have asked for. I’m lucky I’ll have at least one more Father’s Day with him, although I have a feeling it’ll be our last together. But I’ll fire up the grill, we’ll cook out, then watch the final round of the Open, as we have always done, and probably play a dozen hands of bridge. And somewhere in there we’ll be hoping the Mets ditch the black in the Bronx. It’ll be great.

~~~

I hope all of you readers have a great Father’s Day — whether you are one or you have one, consider yourselves lucky. I now have far too many friends who’ll be without their fathers today, and I’m extremely grateful I’m not one of them. If you’re not spending time with your dad today, give him a call and tell him you love him.

The floor is open — feel free to talk about your dad or anything else uni-related that’s on your minds. Apologies to anyone hoping for the usual smorgasbord today, but I’ve got a bar-be-que to start, some TV to watch, and a card game to play. And I wouldn’t trade it for anything in the world.

~~~

Any man can be a Father but it takes someone special to be a dad. — Anne Geddes

 

47 comments to For Dad, on His Special Day

  • JimV19 | June 20, 2010 at 8:34 am |

    Happy Father’s Day everyone!

    Phil, hope you and your dad have a great time today. I’ll be visiting my dad a little bit, when I’m not watching soccer.

    Speaking of that, the 2nd half of Slovakia’s game is underway. See y’all later.

  • Ricko | June 20, 2010 at 8:46 am |

    Happy Father’s Day to all who are “Dad”, and to the Dads of yours who are still around.

    Might be a little late for Father’ Day gifts, but just got an email that Ebbets Field Flannels has all New York/Brooklyn/New Jersey team stuff on sale. That includes the NY Knights jersey, hat and jacket, btw, which rarely are specially priced.
    http://www.ebbets.co...

    —Ricko

  • Dave | June 20, 2010 at 10:45 am |

    Phil, thanks for sharing your Father’s Day thoughts with us. Very touching. Having lost my dad several years ago, it make this day one of rememberance. Being a dad now, makes it easier, and it gives me a chance to show & teach my daughter many of the things that were show to me. Happy Father’s Day to all the dads out there, enjoy your day!!

  • StLMarty | June 20, 2010 at 10:53 am |

    My first game with my dad wasn’t so memorable. To put things nicely, he’s always been a bit “thrifty”. We went to that particular game because it was Lutheran Night at Busch Stadium. Therefore, tickets were reduced for members of the Lutheran South and Lutheran North communities. The seats weren’t so hot, and I think I managed to get a soda. I’ve never been agoraphobic, but I did not like the large crowd.
    Despite all of this, I did walk out happily with a Montreal Expos batting helmet. Thanks for that one, pop dukes.
    I will be seeing him today, and I am looking forward to it. I still have to pick up a gift. He’ll be pleased with whatever I get him, but I promise you that I won’t be spending a lot of money. Like father, like son, eh?

  • Gill | June 20, 2010 at 11:24 am |

    UniWatch fans: Let’s get on the UCLA bandwagon in the College World Series. Classic unis and stirrups worn in the proper way. It gets no better, people.

  • Cort | June 20, 2010 at 11:27 am |

    My dad was a ballplayer, a pretty good one. He loved telling us how he once struck out future National League MVP Ken Boyer on three pitches in a “campers versus coaches” game at a Florida baseball camp, and how he’d beaten Pat Dobson in a Buffalo Municipal League game.

    My dad had a big plastic bag, filled with flannel jerseys from his playing days. Starting in seventh grade, I wore one of those jerseys to school at least once a week, beautiful flannels in white and grey. One was a sleeveless number, with a script “Amherst” chain-stitched across the chest in black and red. Gorgeous. I was lousy at sports, but I knew a great uni when I saw one.

    Dad died in 1979, a week shy of his 40th birthday. I was 16.

    The uniforms are long gone; my mother claims that they were ruined in a flooded basement, but I think they may have been accidentally donated to Goodwill. Gee, this is a really depressing Father’s Day post.

    On a positive note, my kids made me breakfast in bed, and there are hints that a new soccer jersey is in my immediate future…

  • Gill | June 20, 2010 at 11:27 am |

  • Graf Zeppelin | June 20, 2010 at 11:47 am |

    Dear Mets,

    Please do this today.

    Thank you.

    Sincerely,

    Mets Fans Who Get It™.

  • Ricko | June 20, 2010 at 11:48 am |

    [quote comment=”395165″]Dear Mets,

    Please do this today.

    Thank you.

    Sincerely,

    Mets Fans Who Get It™.[/quote]

    Motion seconded.

  • mtjaws | June 20, 2010 at 12:06 pm |

    Great tribute, Phil. Thanks for sharing.

    My Dad is always there for me, and although he isn’t into sports as much as I am, he still enjoys watching and listening to my rambles about the little details.

  • Dave Welch | June 20, 2010 at 12:32 pm |

    I never made it past little league baseball but I still remember my Dad teaching me to wear sanitaries and stirrups — and the proper way to cuff my pant legs.

    The Navy has taken me thousands of miles away from him but we are still close.

  • interlockingtc | June 20, 2010 at 12:54 pm |

    I suppose, in the early ’70’s, out there in the corn fields of the upper Midwest, my dad questioned why I chose the Bengals, of all teams, as my favorites rather than the logical choice, the only choice, the Vikings. But if he did, he never mentioned it.

    As a matter of fact, he made a point of taking his sons to a Vikings pre-season game in August (maybe 1974, ’75?) at the old Met. We got up real early and he drove the Kingswood wagon four hours south to suburban Bloomington. We found our seats out in right field, on the old wooden bleachers, in blistering 90 degree heat. And I couldn’t have been happier. I was getting to see my Bengals in person for the first time.

  • Ryan B | June 20, 2010 at 1:10 pm |

    [quote comment=”395166″][quote comment=”395165″]Dear Mets,

    Please do this today.

    Thank you.

    Sincerely,

    Mets Fans Who Get It™.[/quote]

    Motion seconded.[/quote]

    Motion apparently denied – Mets in the black tops again today.

  • tcc1986 | June 20, 2010 at 1:44 pm |

    Braves are doing the Sunday Red Tops….While Kansas City is doing the royal blue tops with script Royals across the chest

  • hugh.c.mcbride | June 20, 2010 at 2:00 pm |

    Wonderful tribute today, Phil. Hope you & your Dad have a great afternoon, & that all the other sons, daughters & dads who are reading this do, too.

  • Paul Lukas | June 20, 2010 at 2:08 pm |

    Beautiful job by Phil today. As many of you know, I lost my own father just over a year ago, and I’ve been thinking about him quite a bit today. Called my mom, reminisced a bit. Sad, but a good sad, because the memories are good ones. My best to all dads today.

  • Oakville Endive | June 20, 2010 at 2:09 pm |

    Hmm,

    For a sport that shamelessly uses other holidays to flog merchandise – I’m somewhat surprised baseball doesn’t do more on Father’s day – maybe across the league retro day – to the approximate era when today’s Father with yound children, were young children themselves – so say mid 1980’s – it would make it more of a special day.

  • M.Princip | June 20, 2010 at 2:38 pm |

    Happy Father’s Day to all at Uniwatch land. A great sports related memory I had with my father was in 1980 when he surprised me by taking the whole family to RFK where the ‘Skins were playing the Seahawks. We didn’t have tickets, and had to buy them from some scalpers, finally ending up with some decent nose bleed seats, yet we had a great time, and the Seahawks won 14-0. Thanks Pop!!!

  • mike 2 | June 20, 2010 at 3:05 pm |

    Hmmm – I posted a long post a minute ago and maybe it landed in the spam trap?

    Anyhow, I posted this last year and I can’t improve on it:

    I’m one of those people who knows that Field of Dreams wasn’t about baseball, it was about fathers and sons. Ray and his father getting the opportunity to have one more catch in the field.

    Ray Kinsella: Hey… Dad? You wanna have a catch?
    John Kinsella: I’d like that.

    My dad took me to my first major league baseball game. Jays versus Athletics, on Victoria Day, 1977. I don’t remember much about the game other than we were a long way from home plate, the seats were metal benches on the first base side, we were facing into the football stands and had to turn sideways to see the baseball field, and the Jays lost.

    We went to dozens of games when I was a kid. In those days you could buy undated tickets for the grandstand at Exhibition Stadium for one dollar at the grocery store. Me and my dad could go to games for two bucks, it was cheaper than going to a movie.

    We were together at the top of the fifth deck on the first base side at the Jose Canseco home run game in 1989.

    He taught me to catch and throw in our front yard, and he coached all my little league teams until I got older and better and they insisted on having “real” coaches. He still spent hours playing catch with me, and came to every one of my games. Even when I was an adult and played slowpitch he still came to as many games as he could.

    Our last game together was in the summer of 2004, Jays versus Devil Rays at Skydome. I don’t remember anything about the game other than Jorge Sosa pitched for the Rays and (not knowing anything about the Rays) he thought Sammy Sosa was pitching for about the first three innings.

    He died five years ago of pancreatic cancer. I’ll think of him a lot today, and honour him by watching a little baseball and by having a catch with my son (who was born three weeks before my dad died) in the backyard.

  • StLMarty | June 20, 2010 at 3:11 pm |

    Happy Father’s Day, Nathaniel Horneblower!
    http://hosted.ap.org...
    This was probably commented already, huh?

  • ab | June 20, 2010 at 3:16 pm |

    I’m sure (correct me if not) that the Cubs-Angels weekend series has seen the same uni matchup all three days: Cubs in pins, Angels in red alts.

    And today: Big Z, starting, in pins. Maybe the red tops were the only ones the Halos packed for the Chicago trip.

  • Ricko | June 20, 2010 at 3:19 pm |

    [quote comment=”395170″][quote comment=”395166″][quote comment=”395165″]Dear Mets,

    Please do this today.

    Thank you.

    Sincerely,

    Mets Fans Who Get It™.[/quote]

    Motion seconded.[/quote]

    Motion apparently denied – Mets in the black tops again today.[/quote]

    Phillies in their creams again today.
    So, would this help the whole “When an Alt is Not an Alt” thing (looking at you Astros and White Sox, among others)?

    MLB just adds one simple stipulation:
    “Any jersey(s)/uniform(s) designated as an ‘Alternate’ shall not be worn in consecutive games, even in instances when those games are in different cities.”

    —Ricko

  • Ricko | June 20, 2010 at 3:34 pm |

    [quote comment=”395179″]Happy Father’s Day, Nathaniel Horneblower!
    http://hosted.ap.org...
    This was probably commented already, huh?[/quote]

    As long as someone brough that up, I’ll mention what I was thinking about this a.m.

    The core issue that bugs me about the vuvuzelas is this: Blowing them kind of says the “right” (ahem) of a fan in the stands to do anything, so long as it isn’t illegal or strictly prohibited in the fine print on the back of his ticket, is more important than the game itself.

    It goes to a broader issue, too. Apparently it doesn’t matter if the family sitting next to you hates you blowing your brains out (the other definition of which they’d probably prefer), you should just do it anyway…because no one ponders that they might be being rude anymore.

    Know what the defintion of “rude” in today’s world is? “You pointed out that I was being rude? How RUDE of you.”

    In other words, rudeness is accepted. So don’t you DARE be rude enough to point out someone’s rude behavior.

    Want proof? The next you tell someone who’s trying to cut in line at a concession stand, “The the line starts back there”, your kids will be upset with YOU, rather than with the person butting in. You’ll get, “Da-ad” (the two syllable version indicating their annoyance with you for being such a social misfit).

    —Ricko

  • Nolan | June 20, 2010 at 3:57 pm |

    For anyone that was wondering who makes TCU’s caps and uniforms, it’s a company called Pro-Line.

    As it turns out they’re based out of Ft. Worth, TX (home of TCU if you were unaware).

    Their logo is lame (screen grab from Kevin Z. in yesterdays comments.)
    http://www.flickr.co...

  • ab | June 20, 2010 at 4:09 pm |

    The individual headers on all of the official MLB teams’ websites have been replaced with “Happy Father’s Day from Dove Men Care.”

    THANKS, DOVE MEN CARE!

  • Tris Wykes | June 20, 2010 at 4:15 pm |

    I would like to recognize my father for taking me to Fenway Park one day when I was about 10. In addition, when a giant, obese, black transvestite who was either drunk or high sat next to us and caused a ruckus, he went and got the cops. Thanks, dad.

  • JTH | June 20, 2010 at 4:36 pm |

    Great post, Phil. There was no need to apologize.

    I got one “Uni Watch-related” gift today — a Jerry Dior MLB logo-inspired shirt and hat that say “Great American Dad” and have a guy mowing the lawn in place of the batter.

    I am, of course, wearing them now.

  • Ricko | June 20, 2010 at 4:45 pm |

    I realize they’re knockoffs, but still fun to see these two jerseys again…
    http://cgi.ebay.com/...
    http://cgi.ebay.com/...

    —Ricko

  • Ricko | June 20, 2010 at 4:46 pm |

    I know, a knockoff, yes…
    http://cgi.ebay.com/...

    —Ricko

  • Dwayne | June 20, 2010 at 6:18 pm |

    I want to thank my Dad for taking me to my first MLB game at Crosley Field in 1965. A Saturday game vs. the Giants and Juan Marichal pitched. We sat down the 1st base line and Dad bought me my first bobblehead.

    Thanks Dad, for starting me on my life-long love affair with baseball and Kentucky basketball and always having my back.

  • Ricko | June 20, 2010 at 8:11 pm |

    Haven’t seen this version before…
    http://cgi.ebay.com/...

    —Ricko

  • Mike Engle | June 20, 2010 at 8:36 pm |

    [quote comment=”395191″]Haven’t seen this version before…
    http://cgi.ebay.com/...

    —Ricko[/quote]
    Seriously, Ricko? That was the original sleeve patch. But the eBay photographer has the orientation wrong. The marlin’s mouth points NW.

  • Ricko | June 20, 2010 at 9:00 pm |

    [quote comment=”395192″][quote comment=”395191″]Haven’t seen this version before…
    http://cgi.ebay.com/...

    —Ricko[/quote]
    Seriously, Ricko? That was the original sleeve patch. But the eBay photographer has the orientation wrong. The marlin’s mouth points NW.[/quote]

    Jeez, yes. A split second after I hit “Say It!” I had a forehead smack moment.
    Sleeve patch. Du-uh.

    I think what threw me was the improper orientation. Mind’s kneejerk reaction was, “Horizontal?”

    Hey, I’m old. Allegedly, that makes me easily confused. Normally, I’d say, “Don’t bet on it.” Now not so sure.

    —Ricko

  • war eagle jeffrey | June 20, 2010 at 9:39 pm |

    [quote comment=”395162″]UniWatch fans: Let’s get on the UCLA bandwagon in the College World Series. Classic unis and stirrups worn in the proper way. It gets no better, people.[/quote]

    damn they are a thing of beauty aren’t they. and that shade of blue…nice.

  • Mark K | June 20, 2010 at 9:40 pm |

    [quote comment=”395187″]I realize they’re knockoffs, but still fun to see these two jerseys again…
    http://cgi.ebay.com/...
    http://cgi.ebay.com/...

    —Ricko[/quote]
    Not just knockoffs- brutal knockoffs!

    Is there a site that shows the Braves uniform history? Seems like they must’ve worn those for only a year or 2.

  • Ricko | June 20, 2010 at 10:43 pm |

    [quote comment=”395196″][quote comment=”395187″]I realize they’re knockoffs, but still fun to see these two jerseys again…
    http://cgi.ebay.com/...
    http://cgi.ebay.com/...

    —Ricko[/quote]
    Not just knockoffs- brutal knockoffs!

    Is there a site that shows the Braves uniform history? Seems like they must’ve worn those for only a year or 2.[/quote]

    Yeah, didn’t wear them for long. The Ernie D. years. Then they went to the double-blue most associated with, I gues, Bob MacAdoo.

    —Ricko

  • Ricko | June 20, 2010 at 10:47 pm |

    POWDER blue. Double blue is the Argonauts.
    (I’m having a Duh kinda day)

    —Ricko

  • Ricko | June 20, 2010 at 10:49 pm |

    Buffalo fans might enjoy this…
    http://sportsposterw...

    —Ricko

  • JimV19 | June 20, 2010 at 10:49 pm |

    Anyone looking for a job? The Pirates could use a new pierogi.
    http://sports.yahoo....

    And yes, if I lived there, I’d be tempted to apply. But only if I got to be Cheese Chester or Sauerkraut Sal.

    Actually applied for the Pirate Parrot job back in ’86. Never made it past the first interview, though.

  • PatrickinMI | June 21, 2010 at 12:06 am |

    Here’s a thought regarding interleague play. Would it be so bad to see white-on-white? Imagine Mets at Yankees, especially if Mets were wearing their “real” home whites. It might not work for match-ups such as Arizona at Detroit but in cities such as NYC, Chicago, etc it would be an interesting concept.

  • odessa steps magazin | June 21, 2010 at 12:10 am |

    I can only hope we get some discussion of Lady Gaga’s Yankee jersey from Friday night in Monday’s column.

    talk about wardrobe malfunction.

  • mtjaws | June 21, 2010 at 12:59 am |

    [quote comment=”395202″]I can only hope we get some discussion of Lady Gaga’s Yankee jersey from Friday night in Monday’s column.

    talk about wardrobe malfunction.[/quote]

    Are you trying to say this isn’t proper??? I wonder if anything (number and/or name) was on the back.

  • Nick | June 21, 2010 at 2:44 am |

    [quote comment=”395183″]For anyone that was wondering who makes TCU’s caps and uniforms, it’s a company called Pro-Line.

    As it turns out they’re based out of Ft. Worth, TX (home of TCU if you were unaware).

    Their logo is lame (screen grab from Kevin Z. in yesterdays comments.)
    http://www.flickr.co...

    I love the TCU unis, but I really do not like Three letters on the cap (“TCU, “LSU, “CSU”, etc.) I know that is the school name, but there has to be a beter way – I say pick a tight logo or one or two letters, maybe an interlocking “TC”?
    Just saying.

  • Ricko | June 21, 2010 at 7:00 am |

    [quote comment=”395203″][quote comment=”395202″]I can only hope we get some discussion of Lady Gaga’s Yankee jersey from Friday night in Monday’s column.

    talk about wardrobe malfunction.[/quote]

    Are you trying to say this isn’t proper??? I wonder if anything (number and/or name) was on the back.[/quote]

    She’s just this year’s attention whore.
    (not like there’s only one, of course)

    —Ricko

  • B-Rich | June 21, 2010 at 11:28 am |

    One more dad sports-uni-logo-name story, a day late:

    My dad and my mom divorced when I was seven, and we wound up living about 100 miles apart, but he’s still been my dad and always there for me.

    Growing up, I usually spent a month or two in the summer with him. In the late 1970s, like a lot of kids at the time, I got into playing and following soccer. As kind of a camaraderie thing, my dad got into it with me. The thing I remember most about it, though, was that we had a “quest” in the summer of ’79 to find out the team names/nicknames of all the NASL teams. We knew the NASL cities from the standings in the newspaper, but in those days before the internet, it was hard to find out the team names. We scoured sports pages daily, watched NASL games on television, he found out some, I found out some. By the end of the summer we had filled in the last “blank” – Portland Timbers. The following spring, we even went to Tampa and saw an NASL game in person, but I’ll always remember our “quest” fondly.

  • Kevin Z. | June 21, 2010 at 9:33 pm |

    [quote comment=”395183″]For anyone that was wondering who makes TCU’s caps and uniforms, it’s a company called Pro-Line.

    As it turns out they’re based out of Ft. Worth, TX (home of TCU if you were unaware).

    Their logo is lame (screen grab from Kevin Z. in yesterdays comments.)
    http://www.flickr.co...

    Nice follow-up. I thought it might be a TCU-related/relevant logo since a lot of college teams put logos on the back of their hats.

  • Bertram Pezzetti | June 24, 2010 at 6:45 pm |

    Great blog post.Really looking forward to read more.