The World Series starts this evening, and while I am still in mourning over my Twins not getting past the Yankees again, it is still an exciting time in the baseball season. Also, last Friday was my grandpa’s birthday. He passed away about five years ago, but he’s still very much alive in me, I believe.
There is much I could say about him, but this post focuses on the baseball stories he shared with me, because baseball was such an important part of his life. His story, like so many others during that era of history, had a number of ups and downs, but baseball was a constant.
My grandfather was a pitcher from Armstrong, Iowa. He shared many great baseball stories from his youth, including his claim of an unassisted triple play. A tall tale, to be sure, but it was delightful to watch his share it with the twinkle in his eye that was uniquely his. He was coming up through high school just prior to the Great Depression and at one time, as I understand, had a scholarship to play baseball at the University of Iowa. Tragically, the Depression took hold and the scholarship was revoked.
Fast forward a few years, and baseball helped him find work during those really tough times. He shared a story about waiting in line outside the John Deere plant in Waterloo, Iowa where a former opponent recognized him and immediately pulled him to the front of the line and he was able to get work, and pitch for the company team. My dad once shared the story with me that Grandpa once threw three curveballs right by him while wearing his business suit.
I remember visiting Grandpa and Grandma in the 70’s during some pretty lean years for our Minnesota Twins. Even though they struggled mightily during that era, it was a treat to sit with Grandpa and watch the ballgame on his porch in Northfield, Minnesota. He always appreciated a pitcher who could perform his craft well, and he would often loudly laugh at the poor hitter when a pitcher snapped off a quality curve or a change-up.
In 1981, my cousin Matt and I visited Grandma and Grandpa in Florida. We got off the plane in Orlando, and Grandpa took us directly to Tinker Field where we got to see the Twins at Sprint Training and meet Calvin Griffith, the Twins owner at the time. Grandpa knew him through his connections resulting in many years of service in Northfield on the City Council and as mayor.
I recently got to spend a day at Target Field with my dad — I will share more about this later. It was a great day, and it inspired me to start writing down these family stories to save for my son. I am looking forward to getting this down on paper.
I miss you, Grandpa.