Friday, June 23, 2017

Memories of Daddy, part 2: Daddy, Baseball, and Me
by Bill Jones
Trustee, T. B. Maston Foundation

Just a week after we moved from Dallas to Kansas City, Missouri, in 1962, Daddy took me to my first major league baseball game, the Kansas City A's hosting the New York Yankees of Mickey Mantle, Roger Maris, Bobby Richardson, Tony Kubek, et al., with Whitey Ford on the mound that day. That was the day I fell in love with baseball, its personalities, its ever-growing statistics, and especially its history. Growing up in KC, I spent many days and/or nights with Daddy at old Kansas City Municipal Stadium (which was, sadly, demolished following the 1972 season). We loved talking sports - especially the A's and their opponents, and the Chiefs, who came to KC in 1963.

On Father's Day 1963, Mother and I visited Daddy at Fort Leavenworth, where he was doing his annual two weeks of active duty in the Army Reserves. He was serving as the chaplain in the disciplinary barracks there. We went to the PX (Post Exchange) to buy Daddy a Father's Day gift, and bought him a transistor radio; unknown to me, he and Mother had worked it out where Mother & I would buy him a transistor radio, and they would buy me one. Matching GE transistor radios, except his cover case was black, and mine was cream-colored. I still have mine today. One of my favorite gifts of all time! I can't begin to count the number of batteries I wore out by going to sleep with that radio under my pillow, as I listened to one of those late games on the West Coast.

When I discovered I could pull in the St. Louis Cardinals' games on that radio - and the Cardinals won 19 of 20 in late 1963 to almost (but not quite) overtake the Dodgers for the National League pennant - I became a Cardinals fan. Still an A's fan, but they were pitiful, so the Cards became my first loyalty.

In time, each of us had his favorite player. In June 1964, the Cardinals traded for a speedster named Lou Brock from the Cubs and turned him loose on the bases. Within a week, I picked him as my favorite player (today he's in the Hall of Fame). Just a few weeks later, the A's called up a shortstop from the minor leagues, named Dagoberto Campaneris, nicknamed "Campy." On my transistor radio, I listened to Campy hit a home run on the first pitch he was thrown in the major leagues and add a second one later in the game. But power wasn't Campy's forte; as with Lou, Campy's calling card was speed. It wasn't long before Campy was Daddy's favorite ballplayer.

So through the years, as our two favorite players annually led their respective leagues in stolen bases, Daddy and I would say things like "Did you see what 'my guy' did today?" or "How did 'your guy' do today?" It was a fun rivalry, comparing Lou and Campy. (Sorry, Daddy, my guy's in the Hall of Fame, yours isn't!) 

For a few years in the mid-1960s, the Kansas City Baptist Association - where Daddy worked - had its offices in the Berkshire Towers, an old hotel that had been converted to space for offices and apartments. Several of the Kansas City A's lived there. One Saturday morning, after arriving home from an out-of-town commitment, Daddy went to the office to check his mail and took me with him. As we were getting out of the car, we saw Campy Campaneris drive into the parking lot. So Daddy and I went over as he was getting out of his car, and Daddy introduced me to Campy. We chit-chatted with him (Campy didn't know much English, so this was interesting), mainly about his having been out of the lineup the night before with a stomach problem. Anyway, pretty exciting to meet one of the A's in person, away from the field.

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