Some of the earliest memories I have with my dad are related to baseball. Every Sunday after church, we would sit in the car waiting for my mom to finish getting "just a few things" at the store and listen to Herb Carneal's play-by-plays of the Minnesota Twins on WCCO radio.
We would always have the old, portable, black radio on as we worked in the garden and would listen to the games. It was in moments such as these that I fell in love with baseball.
The Twins were my first love. My dad took me to my first big league game, watching the Twins in the newly build Metrodome when I was around the age my son is now.
I wished I could play first base like Rod Carew and Kent Hrbek. My all-star infield was rounded out with Ozzie Smith, Mike Schmidt, and Ryne Sandberg. I fell in love with the National League because of the Chicago Cubs and Ryne Sandberg, Greg Maddux and Rick Sutcliffe. But it wasn’t just watching the game. I wanted to be a baseball player.
As soon as I was old enough I played in my hometown’s version of Little League. Left-handed like my dad, we went together to hunt for a glove. (In the late 1970s, this was no easy feat.) He helped me oil it and break it in.
As often as possible I would play catch with my dad. Even with his Multiple Sclerosis not allowing him to stand up or run after the ball, he would sit in a lawn chair and play with me for hours. Never complaining. But, if I couldn’t get the ball to him, I would have to chase it down.
My final memory with my father is also grounded in baseball. April in the hospital. My dad in for what we thought would just be a routine stay. I visited him, I fed him his lunch, and ate his chocolate cake, and we watched baseball and talked about the Twins and how they would do that season.
My dad never left the hospital and I don’t think I ever spoke with him again. But I will forever remember watching baseball with him one last time. As the baseball season comes to an end, I am always reminded of how closely my memories of my father are tied to my memories of this game.
When people die, it’s hard. There are so many regrets. So many times I think about the things I wish I had told my dad. The times I cry when I find the letters he wrote me or the books I saved. The times I wish he could see me teach or know that it is because of him, reading to me before I could read myself, that my love for the written word continues. But it is in these spaces, especially baseball, when I also find my dad again.
This season I wanted to call him up when my Cubs made it to the postseason, and when there was still a chance for his Twins. When I watched each game, he was there with me, loving the sport as much me. I spent a lot of time listening to the games on my phone. Excited when I could get play-by-play from Chicago, so at least I knew it was in favor of the Cubs. I would sit and listen and share the moments with my children, and in these moments also remember what it was like for me as a kid listening to these games with my dad.
My memories of my father’s life are bookended in baseball. His death in April, as the season starts, is bittersweet for me. His passing is always marked by my hope that this could be the year. The Cubs could come through.
His birthday is at the end of September, when I hope for rebirth in the postseason, and this year I found it. It is moments such as these that we need to find those memories and hold tight. It is in these times that I know what my dad taught me. He taught me a love for a game, one where how you pitch, how you field, and every move you make changes each time a player steps up to bat. It is in these moments where you need to hold on tightly to the memories. It is in baseball, Sunday morning funny pages, the AM radio in our old station wagon, and playing catch in the front yard until it was time for dinner where my dad still lives with me.
It is for these reasons that, no matter what happens, I will love The Cubs and The Twins and the rebirth April brings them as I sit and listen to baseball on the radio, knowing that in the voices of the announcers and the thrill of the game I will find my dad.
Rebekah Buchanan is an Assistant Professor of English at Western Illinois University.
The opinions expressed are not necessarily those of the University or Tri States Public Radio. Diverse viewpoints are welcomed and encouraged.