I can see him now, in the Seveth
Heaven with his baseball cronies hashing and rehashing every play of the
World Series. He was up there coaching right along with Mike Scioscia - telling
him who will make the best pitcher for the day, what strategy
to use on each Giant player, encouraging each player when
a Giant's ball went out of the park. He would be doing no
different in heaven than he did on earth for the man was obsessed with sports,
When times were
hard and troubles came his way, baseball was a passion so deep
he would forget all his worries by worrying about the failure
of the team he chose to call "his team".
He lived through
seeing Lou Gehrig come and go, Mickey Mantle at his best, Joe
Demaggio and all the unknowns whose dreams came true as they
made it to the "big leagues". He knew them all by
name, their batting average, how many games they won, what
years they played, their idiosyncracies. He coached more games
than any one coach who was paid to do so. It was a common
sight to see him sit before the television watching the
game and the radio playing, listening to the announcer call
each play. And then, he just had to read the sports page
to see what he might have missed or read another person's
analysis of the game.
While living in Wisconsin, the Milwaukee Braves
were "his team". He groaned and agonized over each play.
He cheered the players on to victory - suffered when they
were disappointed in their performances. And when we moved
from Wisconsin to California, he made the unthinkable
from the National League to
League and the Los Angeles Angels became "his team".
When he had both
legs amputated, it did not hinder him from going to several
games a year and, of course, the same commitment he had made to
the Braves he now made with the Angels. The amputation
of his legs only heightened his love for a sport he could
play from his wheelchair.
His love for the
game rubbed off on all around him. He would draw attention to
simple things going on in the game one would ordinarily miss.
Each play was a new experience for him and made all who
watched with him get into the game as if it were the last
wonderful experience one was to have on earth.
When it was his
time to leave and go to the seventh heaven, his prayer was,
"Lord, let me live to see one more World Series." He
was in intensive care, tubes coming out from all parts of his
body with a television transcending him to the playing field
and, yes, he got to see the World Series before he went
to the seventh heaven in January of 1996.
This lover of
baseball was not Gene Autry; it was my husband, Ray. Thanks,
Ray, for cheering the Angels on to victory from a box office
to each and everyone of you during this Thanksgiving season,