I wouldn’t be writing this blog if it weren’t for Dad. It was he who introduced me to major league baseball. I think about him every day wishing he had gotten a chance to see his son broadcasting for the Pittsburgh Pirates.
Dad was a Pirates fan growing up in Connellsville, PA just an hours drive east of Pittsburgh. His mother and father and all four siblings grew up big Buccos fans, attending games at Forbes Field and listening to Rosey Roswell and Bob Prince on KDKA radio during the days of Pie Traynor and Max Carey and Paul and LLoyd Waner.
Dad married a girl from nearby Greensburg, PA and, after spending time as a writer for a national sports publication in Chicago, he and Mom eventually moved to Washington D.C. where she could be closer to her family(Mom’s dad was a congressman).
Dad would go on to become a top lobbyist for the coal industry and though he enjoyed the opportunity to meet often with the country’s top politicians on capitol hill, he became weary of the disturbances around the D.C. area and decided our nations’ capital was no place to raise seven children.
I was eight years old when the family moved to the Harrisburg, PA area. I loved playing sports with my five older brothers and neighborhood buddies but hadn’t found an allegiance toward any professional sports team until one weekend, Dad brought me along on a business trip to Pittsburgh. We stayed at the Hilton hotel and the Golden Triangle in downtown Pittsburgh and we attended a game at the brand new Three Rivers Stadium in the summer of 1970. I was hooked!
For the next seven years, I’d make one trip to Pittsburgh spending time chasing down visiting major leaguers for autographs at the Hilton or the William Penn Hotel and attending a Pirates game at night at Three Rivers Stadium.
Dad loved asking me about the players from whom I had received autographs; and about what I liked best about the game. He would ask me about my favorite Pirates players (Parker, Moreno, Stargell) and I would recite their statistics and accomplishments.
Dad was pretty excited when, out of high school, I received an internship to work in the Pirates front office. Though he never admitted it to me, I think it surprised him and the rest of my family that this kid from Mechanicsburg, PA would wind up working for a major league baseball team.
I spent ten years in the Pirates front office working in various capacities. Mom and Dad would visit a couple of times each summer. I’d show them around the offices, take them down on the field, and introduce them to various members of the organization. Dad wasn’t one for showing his emotions but I think he got a kick out of it all!
Later, I’d land a job broadcasting play-by-play for the minor league team in Buffalo, NY. Over a five year span, I’d eventually broadcast Buffalo Bills football, college hockey and basketball, and host a sports talk show; all the while giving Dad almost daily updates and sending along tapes that would allow him to listen to his son and provide critiques when neccesarry (Dad was a stickler for proper grammar.)
In the summer of 1992, Dad fell ill. It was most difficult on my mother. She knew he wasn’t well but he had always refused to see doctors. He never wanted to be a burden. She was worried. I was never aware of the seriousness of his poor health because Dad would always put up a strong front during our phone conversations.
I’ll never forget election night in November of 1992. We would often discuss politics. Dad had an amazing knowledge of world events and history and national issues. He was a long-time speechwriter for a handful of congressional leaders in the ’60′s and ’70′s and I was so proud of his association with some of the top politicians of our time.
It was with great interest that I called on election night to get his thoughts on Bill Clinton’s victory over George Bush 41. I was so anxious to talk to him about where the country was now headed under a new leader.
But our conversation on this night was unusually brief. Dad was having some trouble talking and would try to suppress a cough before handing the phone back over to Mom. It was our last conversation together. I was in the room with Mom when Dad passed away on December 9, 1992.
During the last couple of hours at his bedside, Mom told me how proud Dad was of my accomplishments. Dad had never been one to express his emotions to his kids. He didn’t have to say anything…we knew it. And I hope he knew how proud I was of him.
Just a year after his death, I was hired to broadcast major league baseball games for the Pittsburgh Pirates. Dad wasn’t around when I made the call to Mom to give her the news. She was so excited….. she said Dad was too!