Excerpt: 'The Best Seat in the House'

"Because the ball can come off the bat of a hitter really fast down there at third?"

"Exactly," Dad replied.

Another time, Gilhooley talked about a double play going 6-4-3, and, because Dad had taught me how to keep score, I knew that meant the play went from the shortstop to the second baseman to the first baseman.

One night, Gilhooley announced a contest to name an all-time Mud Hens roster, position by position. A couple of weeks later, he took time away from calling the game to read one submission. As he read the names, I listened very carefully: "Tom Timmermann. Ike Brown. Bob Christian. Don Pepper..."

Every name he read was a player who had been with the team that year or the year before, when the Hens won the International League pennant. Brown and Timmermann were playing in the game I was listening to that night.

As the list was being read over the air, my father walked into the room. He stopped and stood over me, listening intently with me as Gilhooley finished.

"Must be from a young fan," Gilhooley said to his listeners. I could hear a smile in his voice.

"But there's no name on it," he said, "so we'll never know who sent it in."

I don't remember what Gilhooley said next, although I do know he chuckled. I looked straight ahead. My father started to leave the room.

"Dad?"

My voice stopped him.

"That was me."

As I thought about it years later, I didn't put my name on that piece of paper because, at eleven, I thought voting for an all-star team was the same as voting in an election. I thought you were supposed to remain anonymous. I remember feeling embarrassed until Dad looked down at me and smiled.

"You know that was yours," he said softly. "That's all that matters."

From that moment on, I put my name on anything I ever wrote. As for my all-time Hens, they didn't fare too badly.

Pitcher Tom Timmermann and infielder Ike Brown were called up by the Detroit Tigers on the same day later that season. They both played their first major-league game on the road, in Yankee Stadium. Timmermann, who was six-foot-four and wore thick, black-framed glasses, played for Detroit and Cleveland for parts of six seasons. In 1970, he had twenty-seven saves as a relief pitcher for Detroit and was named Tiger of the Year. Brown, who always seemed to be laughing on his way out of the dugout, played for the Tigers for portions of six seasons.

Outfielder Bob Christian led the Mud Hens in hitting in 1968 with a .317 average. He was in his early twenties, but every picture I saw of him made him look younger. He had a sweet smile. Christian played parts of three seasons in the majors with Detroit and the Chicago White Sox, and I followed him in the box scores. But in February 1974, I opened the paper and was shocked to read that he had died of leukemia. He was just twenty-eight. I found out about Don Pepper many years later. While covering a golf tournament, I stopped LPGA star Dottie Pepper to ask if she was related to the Hens' old first baseman.

"Related?" she said. "I'm his daughter."

I soon asked Dad if I could see the Hens in person, if we could go to some games. Dad said yes, and he bought season tickets along the first-base line.

Page
Join the Discussion
blog comments powered by Disqus
 
You Might Also Like...