Every year towards the end of the year Sports Illustrated has an issue that looks back at the year that has past in sports. I always enjoy reading it and remembering the moments that made each year great. And at some point of the issue they have a section to those in the sports world who have passed away. So there is a little thing about Chris Henry, Steve McNair, Mark Fidrych, Chuck Daly and many more. So in that vain (maybe vein or vien) I am writing a post about a sports fan who died this past year; my dad.
My father passed away on July 14th at the age of 51. He grew up in Cleveland and was a fan of the Indians, Browns & Cavaliers. His favorite player of all time was former Browns running back Leroy Kelly. He watched Red Right 88, The Drive and The Fumble. If you are not a Browns fan then I'm sure if you check on wikipedia or something it will tell you all about it. He watched as Michael Jordan traveled and hit a game-winning shot against Craig Ehlo and the Cavs. He saw David Justice hit a home run in game 6 of the 1995 World Series as well as Jose Mesa blow game 7 of the 1997 World Series. He enjoyed playing sports as well. At a younger age when he was a little faster he could run, hit and throw a ball very far. In baseball he played Center field and in football he played running back just like his idol Leroy Kelly. He enjoyed watching College sports as well. We would often watch College Football together when coming home from shul on Motzei Shabbos. Of course we rarely saw Ohio State play because most of their games are around noon time.
The last time I spoke to him was that Tuesday morning that he died. That evening the Major League Baseball All-Star game was on and I was telling him how the MLB Network was showing a bunch of old All-Star Games. He remembered some of the key plays in some of those games.
A couple of weeks ago the Browns played their hated rivals the Pittsburgh Steelers. The game was on the NFL Network and I was able to watch it. While watching the game and seeing a bunch of no-name backups & practice squad players sack Steelers QB Ben Roethlisberger eight times I thought about how much my dad would have loved this game. After the 13-6 win by the Browns a cousin of mine e-mailed me saying, "somewhere right now your father is smiling" to which I replied that this game was "my father's Chanukah present to me".
The truth of the matter is I wasn't planning on writing this post until Friday. Friday afternoon I was flipping through the channels and "Field of Dreams" one of my favorite movies was on. I caught the last half-hour of the movie and that is definitely the best part. After Ray Kinsella (played by Kevin Costner) does all these crazy things like building a baseball field in his corn, or go to Boston to find an old writer (played by James Earl Jones), or go to some other small town to find a Doctor who was already dead that used to be a ball-player who never got a Major League at-bat (played by Burt Lancaster) he finds out whose pain he's easing. It's not that of "Shoeless" Joe Jackson (played by Ray Liotta) but rather of Ray's father John Kinsella who had been a catcher in his playing days and was now dead. The final scene has Ray & John Kinsella having a catch on together on the field. It reminded me of one of the last Sundays I spent with my father. I had needed a new baseball glove so we went together to buy one and when we got home my father insisted that we have a catch to "check out the new glove" as he said. That happened about a month before he passed away and is one of the many wonderful sports related memories I have of him.