Thinking about it, I can almost feel the summer heat. My grandfather sat on the front porch, smoking hand-rolled Bull Durham cigarettes, listening intently to the play-by-play of the St. Louis Cardinals as the distinctive voice of Harry Caray wafted through the open window. Like lightning bugs, fresh corn on the cob, and the swimming pool at Fassnight Park, baseball on the radio was a natural part of summer in my childhood.
The team pictured here includes my father, Paul (front row, second from left), and his older brother, Harold (front row, far right). They may not have had much in the way of uniforms or equipment, but these boys had heart. This photo was taken (about 70 years ago) because they were the city champs that year.
My mother, too, loved baseball, especially the Houston Astros. On a table next to her favorite chair, she kept a notebook in which she religiously recorded the stats of each game she watched. After she died, my brother honored her with an "in memorium" brick at Houston's Enron Stadium, where the Astros played. I couldn't imagine anything she'd like more.
Somehow, I missed the baseball gene that has blazed a trail through my family for generations. But I'm a carrier. I passed it on.
As I write this, my younger daughter and her family have just returned from Lafayette, Louisiana, where my grandson's high school team had a playoff game. My daughter loves baseball so much she would snort it if she could. She and her family follow the children's teams wherever they go, then spend the rest of their summer in Alex Box Stadium with the LSU Tigers.
My grandson, shown catching here, has played ball almost his whole life. His Dixie Boys League team made it to the nationals a few times, and his love of the game keeps him playing still.
Even though the baseball bug has never bitten me personally, I have to recognize and respect a game that's brought so much joy to so many people since the early 19th century. Today my thoughts are with all the boys and girls of summer in my family -- past and present. I love your spirit and enthusiasm.