/A Father’s Day story Ballgame with Dad leaves memory for a lifetime

A Father’s Day story Ballgame with Dad leaves memory for a lifetime

We were at the Colt Stadium, an old, decaying home of the Houston Colt.45s. It was 1962, an expansion season for Major League Baseball. The Colt.45s, a novice team, waited patiently for the Astrodome’s construction to take place across the parking lot. The.45s, who were horrible, faced the San Francisco Giants who were brilliant and advanced to the World Series. These were the Giants of Hall of Famer Willie Mays and Orlando Cepeda, as well as Juan Marichal. Jim “Peanuts”, Davenport was also part of those Giants, which is why we were there. Davenport was my dad’s close friend. He invited us to the Giants clubhouse and dugout before the game. We were seated right behind the Giants first-base dugout. This was my first Major League match. My eyes were probably not big enough to see the Texas-sized mosquitoes that seemed to love little Mississippi boys nine years old. We were there for batting practice, and we watched McCovey and Cepeda hit home runs that soared beyond the fences. McCovey, also known as “Stretch”, was a giant of a man. He reached almost to my elbow when he shook his hand. McCovey as well as Mays were particularly kind to us. It was Davenport who was our host that made it so pleasant. McCovey and Mays were all Alabamans. Davenport was also. This was a valuable lesson for a nine year old Mississippi boy in 1962, when there was so much racial turmoil. Davenport was black and Mays and McCovey were both white. They clearly respected each other as friends and teammates. Dad made sure to explain all the details of the game to them once they started playing. For example, Davenport’s ability to stay down on ground balls, Mays’s inability to swing hard enough to see the ball, and how the catcher switched his hand signals to indicate when a runner was at second base. Davenport took one wicked, low-hop ground ball from his chest and threw it out at first. Dad said, “See Rickey,” and Davenport threw the batter out at first. My father was a baseball player. He was a semi-pro catcher. He was an expert on the sport. He was a complete expert on everything. It was a night I felt glad that he knew Jim Davenport. To the delight of the home crowd, the Colt.45s were catching up with the Giants. It was close, and it was a pitcher’s duel. Houston led San Francisco with a run in the ninth inning. The Giants lost their last chance. After putting a few runners on base, the Colt.45s brought in a rookie. After walking Mays, the rookie brought Cepeda to the plate with forearms that were larger than most people’s legs. Dad stated, “If the rookie wasn’t nervous prior to this, he is now.” “Bases loaded. No place to put him.” Dad said that the rookie promptly threw three consecutive balls and prompted a visit from the catcher to the mound. Dad pointed out the orange bleachers that were beyond the left field fence. Dad replied, “See those orange chairs?” “Watch this. Cepeda might hit this pitch over them.” Cepeda’s next pitch sounded like a shotgun blast. The ball continued climbing up and climbing until it reached the top of the orange seats. It was a grand slam. I can still remember staring at the young pitcher. He slumped his shoulders. He looked at the ground. “How did that happen?” I asked. Dad shrugged. Yes, I do. The rookie pitcher had to either throw a strike or walk during the tie-breaking run. Cepeda would hit 379 Major League home runs. He was looking for a fast pitch right above the plate.