Friday, November 6, 2009

A season ends...

(FOOTBALL NOTE: Louisiana Tech fans anticipate for different reasons next weekend's trip to Tiger Stadium, where the Bulldogs will play LSU. But an interesting note is that tonight, Tech faces what is right now a better team than the Tigers in Boise State. If Boise and LSU play tonight on a neutral field, is the favorite LSU? At Tiger Stadium, probably so, by 2 or maybe 3. Boise State is favored if they play on the Smurf Turf. I'm just saying...)

Now...a tribute to the dad of four sons, one of them a sportswriter...

Just before baseball season ended, so did the life of the dad of one of my sportswriting buddies. Mash writes down in Biloxi for the Sun-Herald. He sent me this story this morning; I'm grateful for his dad, because I've been brought a lot of laughs through his son....Also, I talked to my dad for a minute last night, over in Georgia. He continues to recover from early summer heart surgery and I thank all of you who continue to ask about him. He's doing well.

Hug your folks.


When I was six or seven, I got my first chance to play organized baseball. I was born in August 53 years ago so I was always one of the youngest kids in my class. Anyone whose birthday falls in that month can probably relate.

I couldn’t wait, really. My mom and dad, Sara and John Mashek, had four boys to raise in the ‘60s, and to say we were an active bunch is akin to observing that the sun rose in the East and the heat that it brought to summertime in Houston was fairly intense.

We lived close to the high school and had plenty of opportunities to play ball. First thing in the morning. During the long, lazy afternoons. With dusk approaching. By the time I was in fourth or fifth grade, organizing a pick-up game at Westchester High School only took a couple phone calls or a short bike ride down the street.

The kids in my neighborhood were down.

My passion for sports carried over to football, too, and since we were living in Texas, nothing compared to Friday nights at Tully Stadium, where Westchester and Spring Branch and Memorial all played high school games. We also had college football at Rice and the University of Houston and the Oilers, who played in the AFL in those days.

I was the oldest of the four boys and pretty much reined herd on my kid brothers — Dave, Tom and Bill. Mom had a tough gig, keeping a kind yet mindful eye on the four of us and making sure we paid enough attention in class to get to the next grade. (At least in my case.) Dad loved baseball and befriended a young executive with the Houston Astros, Bill Giles, and the Giles family happened to have three boys who were my brothers’ age. Trips to Colt Stadium and then the Astrodome became frequent.

The Giles family moved to Philadelphia in 1969 and we followed them to the East Coast one year later. Tom would go on to work for the Phillies after college, starting out in Clearwater, Fla., and joining the big club in the early ‘90s.

My parents became the biggest Phillies fans south of Wilmington and were on hand for their World Series championship last year, when they silenced Tampa Bay in five games.

Dad taught Dave and Tom how to throw a curveball and showed Billy, a left-handed hitting catcher, the value of hitting the ball to the opposite field.

I was the pulling guard of the group and Dad always encouraged me to discover the literary side of sport, from Jerry Kramer’s “Instant Replay” with the Green Bay Packers to the sports pages of the Houston Chronicle and Washington Post and even Jim Bouton’s off-color “Ball Four,” which told us that boys would definitely be boys in big-league clubhouses.

A sense of humor, I learned, could always come in handy.

Dad worked for the Dallas Morning News, for U.S. News and World Report, for the Atlanta Journal-Constitution and finally the Boston Globe.

He covered national politics for more than three decades and served on presidential debate panels in 1984, ‘88 and ‘92. He traveled a good bit but still found a way to get to our ballgames, and more important, make sure we actually did some homework.

(Again, at least in my case.)

Mom and Dad made it back to Washington after Game 5 of the World Series and went to watch my nieces, Emily and Rebecca, play high school soccer for the Whitman Vikings on Tuesday night.

We lost Dad that night, after sharing his wisdom, warmth and wisecracks for a lifetime. He will, of course, always be with us.

Jim Mashek can be reached at 896-2333 or