Take me (and Dad) out to the ballgame

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My Dad and I have been attending baseball games since the 1980s.

It’s a summer ritual that never disappoints.

Years ago, we drove to L.A. to see the Dodgers.

These days, we’re all about the Angels for one big reason: my Dad is 84-years-old and doesn’t drive or walk as well as he used to. So I pick him up in Claremont, drive to Anaheim and he kind of leans on me as I get him to his seat.

My Dad and I have been attending baseball games since the 1980s.

It’s a summer ritual that never disappoints.

Years ago, we drove to L.A. to see the Dodgers.

These days, we’re all about the Angels for one big reason: my Dad is 84-years-old and doesn’t drive or walk as well as he used to. So I pick him up in Claremont, drive to Anaheim and he kind of leans on me as I get him to his seat.

The last few years have been tough ones for him. He’s got a number of maladies, including neuropathy –he’s had a handful of nasty falls but refuses to use a cane or walker – and kidney difficulties, which have landed him in the hospital several times. He fell in the garage earlier this year and lay there, quite conscious, in a pool of blood. I suspected the reason he didn’t call out was he was ready to call it a life.

His weight has dropped from 165 to about 130. With all the pain and such, his spirit seems to have emaciated a good deal as way.

At any rate, nearly three months ago, figuring the Angels and Texas would be in a division race late in the season, I bought us two field-level tickets to last week’s matchup and told him, in the tough love manner he taught me: “You can’t do much about the balance problems, but you can strengthen your legs, so get to it.” So I show up last Thursday night and I couldn’t help but grin. He’d gained 10 or 15 pounds, he was standing upright rather than bent and guess what? He’s walking pretty well, too.

And he couldn’t wait to get to the game.

Which we did.

“How about I drop you out front, find a parking space and then come and meet you,” I say, thinking I’d save him some strength.

I’ll clean up what he said to me: “Horsecrap.”

Like I said, he wasn’t too proud to lean on me as we descended the steps to our seats (or maybe he was too proud to fall in front of thousands of people and chose the lesser of two indignities), plopped down in our seats and watched and talked baseball for more than three hours.

A few observations: My Dad likes to see a baserunner hustle from first to third on a base hit; he’s a fan of what baseball insiders call the manufactured run; he noted that the team needs more power at third base; Trout, he said, is something to see but Mantle was more powerful and also faster before he tore up his knee.

What else? He talked about the greats he had seen live, at stadiums across the United States. Mantle, Berra, Whitey Ford, Musial, Mays, Nolan Ryan and maybe his favorite: Bob Gibson, who he watched pitch a three-hit shutout and hit a solo home run for a 1-0 victory in St. Louis.

He sang “Take Me Out To The Ballgame” with joy and vigor. I tell you, the man was in paradise and he turned to me late in the game with a gentle smile on his face and said: “Son, it doesn’t get better than this.” On the way home, my wife seemed shocked. “Your Dad has come alive,” she said.

The Angels lost by a score of 3-1, I told her.

It hardly mattered.