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Happy Father’s Day from VEB

Chicago Cubs v St Louis Cardinals Photo by Dilip Vishwanat/Getty Images

Today is Father’s Day, and I hope you all have plans of some sort to celebrate it in one way or another. I won’t take up your time with a long, extensive breakdown of how bad the Cardinals are right now — I’ve got a piece in the works for tomorrow morning that at least touches on that subject, along with some other big picture things I’ve been thinking about — and instead just wish you a happy holiday.

Father’s Day, in general, is a more traditional fit for the sporting landscape; not to overgeneralise, but the story of baseball fandom is, somewhat frustratingly often, the story of a father passing the game down to his children, especially sons. That has changed over the years, of course, and continues to change, but I know the demographics of our site, and the readership is still heavily tilted toward the male side. Sports, for all the democratisation that’s gone on as time has progressed, is still too often seen as the purview of men.

I got my own baseball fandom from my grandfather, primarily, rather than my father; my own dad is a big baseball fan, but not like my grandpa Ed was. I’ve written about it before, back when I changed my name; he was a minor league baseball player in the years following the war, and he could still run like the wind even at 60, with two bad knees and a bad smoking habit, when he wanted to. He taught me to pay attention to on-base percentage years before I read any articles explaining why; it never occurred to me that the dads yelling, “Good job, buddy! Walk’s as good as a hit!” when their progeny managed to watch four out of the zone in Little League were expressing sage wisdom, probably without either meaning to or realising it themselves.

He knew Stan Musial, a tiny bit, and George Kissell, a bit more, and the one time I ever met Kissell he remembered my grandpa. Asked Grandpa if he ever broke the habit of sliding headfirst, in fact. Grandpa laughed a little and said he didn’t do much sliding at all anymore, one way or the other. They shared the kind of rueful laugh that I knew then as the exclusive domain of the aged and aching; children have no proper understanding of that sort of laughter. Nowadays when my friend Denny at work admits he ended up with a terrible charley horse in his calf the last time he and his wife were having sex, we exchange that same kind of rueful laugh, and I know where he’s coming from. I had a bitch of a hamstring cramp not too long ago myself in a similar situation. Aging is not for the faint of heart, even when one is not yet aged.

My grandpa Ed was actually a step grandfather, but he was more of a father to my mom than her own real dad was. He was more of a presence in our life as a grandfather, too, than Grandpa Don was, right up until the end of the latter’s life, when he quit drinking and tried to make amends, only to run out of time much earlier than any of us expected. A lot of what I think and feel about being a man comes from looking at those two men, my mom’s real father and stepfather, and seeing how different they were. And how they were the same, too.

I bought my dad a new cooler this year, and a new pair of those long barbecue tongs with wooden handles. I never spend nearly as much on my father for holidays as I do my mother; largely because such extravagances seem wasted on a man who largely appears to have most everything he wants, needs, or has use for. It’s a nice cooler, though, and we’ll throw some chicken on the grill — I just made up a fresh batch of Alabama white barbecue sauce that’s mellowing in a mason jar — and watch the ballgame tonight. Hopefully the fathers of St. Louis get one over on the fathers of Chicago. It’s been a rough spell here lately.

So if you are a father, or have a father, or just know a father, I suppose, Happy Father’s Day to you and yours. Watch a game with your son, or your daughter, or your own dad. It’s a good baseball day.