Given the fact that we will be celebrating Father’s Day this coming Sunday, I decided to reflect on how baseball has affected me, both as a son and a father. There is no sport that bonds a father with his family together like baseball. Hockey and football have that high energy “rah, rah” mentality and basketball has its showmanship an individual theatrics. Baseball, however, has that slow pace and lends itself to conversation during the game. There is the drama of anticipation, there is the thrill of a home run, the circus catch (as former Mets voice Lindsay Nelson use to call them) and the stolen base. It is also the sport where a child can ask his or her dad a question about the game or about its history.
Baseball is handed down from generation to generation, mostly by dads to their children. In my family there is the tale of three generations and five different teams.
Ebbets Field in Brooklyn, NY. Where my father spent much of his childhood watching his beloved Brooklyn Dodgers. This iconic ballpark was demolished before I was born.
My father grew up in Brooklyn, New York, and as most of the borough during his childhood he was a die-hard Dodgers fan. He spent quite a bit of his childhood years at Ebbets Field cheering on his beloved Dodgers. This is where he learned the grand old game. He never forgave the Dodgers for leaving Brooklyn for Los Angeles.
The Dodgers and Giants have a storied rivalry that began in New York City and continues to this day in California. My father in law grew up in Manhattan and rooted for the Giants at the Polo Grounds. As a result, my wife was exposed to the other side of the war between the boroughs.
The common ground that came out of the Dodgers-Giants rivalry was the fact that both fathers handed the game down to my generation rooting for New York’s new team.
Shea Stadium in Flushing, NY. Where I learned all about baseball.
The sting of the Dodgers heading to Los Angeles, and the Giants leaving New York for San Francisco following the 1957 season left a void for both fan bases. New York would be home exclusively to the American League Yankees from 1958-1961. This was little solace to the old National League fans, who frankly, were also rivals to the Yankees.
That all changed in 1962 when the expansion New York Mets took the field for the first time. Old Dodger fans, like my dad and old Giant fans like my father in law came together to rally around New York’s new National League team.
The expansion Mets became the team of my generation. Growing up in Queens, becoming a Mets fan was a natural. Shea Stadium became my school of baseball. That came courtesy of some fatherly teaching from the old Ebbets Field Bleacher Bum known as Daddy. The same was true for both of my brothers. My older brother took a liking to the Yankees, and has since passed his knowledge of the Pinstripes to his son. That old Giants fan would hand all he knew to my wife and brother-in-law in the same hallowed halls of Shea Stadium.
In 1989 my wife and I relocated to South Florida. After four years with only having big league baseball during Spring Training, South Florida was awarded an expansion team. As luck would have it, the new Florida Marlins would begin play in the National League in 1993.
The ballpark that has had many names in Miami (currently its Hard Rock Stadium) where I taught my children the game of baseball.
My wife and I passed the torch to our son and daughter during the late 1990’s. We would spend a couple of nights a year at Marlin games at their original ballpark. We were season ticket holders for three years following the 2003 World Championship run.
As a father, no baseball season stands out more than the wonderful year of 2003. My son, Justin and I attended many games together (just us, guys nights out). No night was more magical in that old ballpark then a late September Friday in that wonderful year. On that night we witnessed history. The Marlins defeated, oddly enough, the Mets, to clinch the National League Wild Card. The crowd was in such a frenzy following the game that the ramps from the concourses to the ground were literally shaking.
During the 2003 postseason our family attended games in the Division Series and Championship Series. Additionally, I was in the ballpark along with my wife and Justin for Game 4 of the World Series. Everyone was watching what they thought was Roger Clemens’ final start. When Clemens exited the game he received a standing ovation from the fans, the Yankees and the Marlins. I still get goosebumps recalling my explanation to Justin of what he was witnessing. “We are saying thank you to a legend” I told him.
With the birth of my granddaughter this past April, I can’t wait to see my son-in-law pass the game on to her.
I fondly recall going to see the Mets with my brothers, my father, and my grandfather. I can still hear the arguments between my father and grandfather over who was going to pay for parking. I cannot wait to join my children and grandchildren at the old ballgame!
I dedicate tonight’s blog to my father, David Karpel who taught me so much about the game of baseball, among many other life lessons. I also dedicate this article to my daughter Megan, my son-in-law, Matt, my granddaughter Madeline, and lastly my beloved son, Justin who we lost this past February. You guys are my world!