There isn’t enough space available for me to even begin to detail how much my father and mother have meant to me throughout my life. They both long ago joined their Savior in heaven, but they are always with me every day of my life.
Today marks the 31st year since I lost my father to a cerebral aneurism. He was only 59. Now, I am 58. Over time, for those who do come to this blog, I hope to give you some idea of how blessed I have been by the Lord through my parents.
I’d like to remember this day with a story I wrote while working for the Topeka Capital-Journal in 1995, shortly after the death of Mickey Mantle, my all-time favorite baseball player. You’ll get the point.
On August 13, I lost the only real hero I had in life. The greats of the game and baseball fans of the world now eulogize Mickey Mantle the man who to so many was a mythic hero. August 13 will always mark the death of my hero. Seventeen years ago to the date, I lost my father, my real life hero.
It is strange that both Mantle and my father would pass away on the same date. The two men were so different yet somehow so intertwined in my childhood memories.
My father was not athletic or a sports fan. My love of sports came from my mother. Yet, my father always realized what Mickey Mantle meant to me. When I would yell out Mantle was coming to the plate while watching the Yankees on television, he would always stop and watch his at bat. Never did he stop because it meant anything to him. He knew it meant something to me.
That is why my father always allowed me the forbidden pleasure of skipping school one day of the year. Long before night World Series games and VCRs, I could pick one day during the World Series to stay home and watch the Yankees and Mantle.
That is why my father would take the family each summer to the old Muehelbach Hotel, where the Yankees stayed when in Kansas City. I could float through the lobby with my sister gathering autographs of all the Yankee stars. Berra, Ford, Kubek, Boyer, Richardson, Skowron. I have them all, but none of more importance than the autograph of Mickey Mantle.
That is why in the heat of the summer my father and mother sat with me in Kansas City’s old Municipal Stadium the day Mantle hit three home runs in a double header, with the final clout clearing the stadium and landing in Brooklyn Avenue. It remains my most treasured baseball moment.
As fans reflect on the accomplishments of Mantle, I am glad I grew up to realize who really was the hero in my life. My father died far too young, but he didn’t die before I had many opportunities to make sure he knew just how much he meant to me.
In some ways, I have Mickey Mantle to thank for that realization.