"Baseball is for sissies."
And with those four words, Dad had made his feelings clear on which sport he preferred.
Dad was a football guy. And why not? In south Texas, football was king. Don't plan a wedding, a funeral, a concert tour or anything on a Friday night in September, October or November.
Because you will be competing with a high school football game.
And you will lose.
"Boring! I don't know how these guys get injured. All they do is stand around."
So, with our one color television in the living room, we watched Starsky and Hutch, Charlie's Angels and the Six Million Dollar Man.
Go watch it on the small black and white tv in the back room.
That is, if the Astros had a road game. Home games weren't televised.
"Don't know why you would watch a Houston team anyways. All they do is get a good player and sell him."
Dad had two favorite teams in the NFL. The Dallas Cowboys (of course) and the ... Oakland Raiders? He never said but I get the feeling Dad was a George Blanda fan and followed Blanda from Houston to Oakland and his loyalty stayed with the Raiders even after they moved to Los Angeles.
Me? I liked baseball and Houston. Dad must have thought I was an alien or something.
Dad and I had a lot of conflicting differences besides just that. Dad wanted to stay in the garage all day and work on cars. I'd rather spend it outside fishing. Dad was a die-hard Democrat. I just so happened to like Ronald Reagan. Dad was a country western fan. I loved rock and roll. Dad preferred the written word. I loved playing with numbers.
Dad was a football guy.
My love was baseball.
"Baseball is for sissies!"
*****I had signed up to join the Army during my senior year and so, on August 2, 1985, I sat on the runway aboard a plane in Dallas Texas when this happened:
Delta Air Lines Flight 191 was an airline service from Fort Lauderdale, Florida's Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport, bound for Los Angeles International Airport in Los Angeles, California, by way of Dallas-Fort Worth International Airport. On the afternoon of August 2, 1985, Delta Air Lines Flight 191 crashed while on a routine approach to Dallas-Fort Worth International Airport, killing 8 of 11 crew members, 126 of 152 passengers on board, and one person on the ground. Two people also died more than 30 days after the crash, bringing the total fatalities to 137. This accident is one of the few commercial airline crashes in which the meteorological phenomenon known as microburst-induced wind shear was a direct contributing factor.
It's an eery feeling to be seated on an airplane on a runway and watching a plane in front of you become engulfed in flames. But I survived the flight to Fort Jackson, South Carolina, then survived my time in Basic Training and AIT, although I was unable to witness the atrocity that allowed the Royals to win Game 6 of the 1985 World Series.
After a brief time period back home, I was off to Germany to spend just a bit over two years overseas. In that time period, Houston Wrestling (one of my favorite shows) ceased to exist, the Rockets got whipped by the Celtics in the NBA Finals and the Cowboys had their first losing season in 20 years.
But the most painful of all was the 1986 NLCS.
Especially Game 3.
I still can't say the name Lenny Dykstra without addid "blankety blank blank" in between Lenny and Dykstra.
If only they had gotten to Game 7. Mike Scott would have been pitching and he had beaten the Mets twice in that series, both being complete games, having allowed just one run in 18 innings.
But for that Lenny Blankety Blank Blank Dykstra!
The NFL went through their strike and replacement players and somehow the Houston Oilers made the playoffs.
And the Astros had a terrible year.
And my time in the Army was coming to a close.
On January 15, 1988, my debt to Uncle Sam was paid.
It just so happened to be my 21st birthday.
That'a what you call proper planning.
Now, I was legal to drink in the states. In Germany, if you could see over the bar, you could drink. And I had developed a liking for one Jim Beam. And also became acquainted with the Marlboro Man.
So, as I walked back into the Houston airport on January 15, 1988, with a lit cigarette in my mouth, Dad took one look at me and said, "I should slap that thing out of your mouth." Then he lit his own Marlboro and off to the car we went.
*****The reason for the military service was simple: GI Bill. College funds. While my grades hadn't been the best in school in certain subjects (Geography especially), I seemed to just have an ability to knock out the match classes and scored fairly high on the ASVAB. Now, that I was home, it was time to look into heading to college. I had to move fast, though. Semesters were scheduled to start on the 18th. I figured on going to Victoria College, just a 30 minute drive from our house. Dad had another idea.
"Me and Uncle /ray been thinking. Want to try Alvin Community College?"
Uncle Ray lived in Alvin and quite frankly we couldn't stand each other. In the summer of 1980, my grandpa was staying with them in Alvin when he had a stroke. So my family trekked up to Alvin and we all stayed there for a few days. My cousin was in this 4H thing and raising chickens. Uncle Ray, apparently, expected me to stay out all day and help her with her chickens. I went in, instead, and watched an Astros game. On a color tv! Later, Uncle Ray came in and had one autographed baseball. Signed by Nolan Ryan. "People who work get these things." He gave it to my cousin. He said he could have gotten two bit didn't.
Sadly, eight years later, my cousin not only doesn't know where the ball is, but doesn't even remember getting it.
"You know, Uncle Ray knows Nolan Raysn," Dad said.
Yeah, way to rub it in my face.
"And Nolan Ryan said he could get you a small job with the Astros for home games if you went to school close by."
I looked at Dad and shook my head. Seriously, I began to wonder just how much Jim Beam I had drunk my last night in Germany. "I thought baseball was for sissies, Dad."
Dad laughed. "It is.Baseball is for sissies."
"So what gives?"
"Well, Uncle Ray's been bragging on his soldier-boy nephew and Nolan Ryan wanted to do something to show his appreciation for your service overseas. Plus, they have dorms so you can live on campus."
"Good." The thought of living with Uncle Ray and Aunt Hazel and their younger two daughters was beyong frightening. "So, any idea what kind of job I'm going to get?"
*****"And this is the laundry room. Be sure you leave it the way you found it."