Blog Description

A French-Inspired Garden and Home by Judith Stringham

Love of Baseball | Part 1

Sunday, June 2, 2024

As with all of life, the story of my family’s Love of Baseball is filled with both triumph and tragedy.  Snippets from five generations outline highlights to keep alive memories of traditions in previous generations that shaped the future generations’ love of baseball.  

A love of baseball and softball in our family began with my dad in the 1940s, an era in the United States when baseball was the only national sport. And the love of baseball was fostered in succeeding generations to this day. 

For the past forty-six years I have lived in the Arlington, Texas area which is the home of the Texas Rangers major league baseball team, reigning 2023 World Champions. Daddy got to see his favorite major league team, the New York Yankees, play the Rangers one year when my family visited me around Father’s Day in the 1980s. 

Love of Baseball

through the generations

Tom - the First Generation 

Tom, my daddy, was in the US Navy during World War II. Like many servicemen looking for work after the war, he joined the US Army in peacetime. Stationed at Ft. Knox, Kentucky, he played baseball on a military base intramural baseball team. He won a trophy for being a player, shortstop and third base, on the best team on the base. 

Tom’s favorite professional team was the New York Yankees. But, he loved all baseball. While growing up, I remember the weekends when he would be watching a baseball game on the television and, at the same time, listening to two other baseball games on two radios. 

He taught all four of us, two girls and two boys, how to play backyard softball. Our yard was the neighborhood gathering place for impromptu ballgames. Home base sat in front of the well house with its wooden door acting as a back stop for pitches.  

Daddy Tom also coached summer Little League teams in our small town, where my two brothers first played on organized teams. Tom was calm, patient, and taught far more than baseball rules and skills. He taught sportsmanship. Respect the umpire. No arguing. No bad language. No slamming down bats and baseball mitts.  Everybody plays. You win some; you lose some. Daddy’s been gone for thirty years, but I still hear from old men who played Little League with my dad as a coach how much they respect him and what they learned from him. 

Judy, Tim, Tommy, Karen -  children

the second generation

My younger brother, Tommy, was the most talented baseball player in our generation of the family. He played on the high school baseball team all four years of high school. 

This photo is of three players from his high school named to an area All Star team in the 1970s. Tommy, kneeling in front, was named to several All Star teams during his junior high snd high school years. 

He was a left-handed pitcher, but batted right-handed. One of his teammates, Bubba,  credits Tommy for how he also was named to several All Star teams. Bubba was Tommy’s catcher, and laughingly recalls whenever Tommy was named on an All Star team so was he. Very few catchers could catch for Tommy because of how hard and fast he pitched. Bubba said he was selected as catcher on those All Star teams because it was guaranteed he could catch for Tommy. Now Bubba was crediting Tommy for getting him on the All Star teams, but if Bubba could catch for Tommy when others couldn't, that shows what an outstanding catcher he was. The two of them made each other stronger players.

Tommy played basketball and football in high school also. In small schools most boys play in all sports: baseball, basketball, and football teams. Tommy played on the basketball varsity team 10th-12th grades, and every year the team was in the Alabama state championship playoffs in their division.   

Tommy could not only pitch, He could hit. 

Until his senior year…

Tommy was scouted by colleges his senior year for baseball. I think we all thought he had the talent and potential eventually to become a pro baseball player. Very likely Tommy would have attended college on a baseball scholarship, but a sudden vision problem his senior year damaged one of his eyes permanently. His high school baseball coach noticed Tommy was not batting as well as usual. Tommy not only could pitch, he could hit. And he wasn’t hitting his senior year in baseball.  

The coach called my parents and suggested they have Tommy's eyes checked. He might need glasses. The eye exam showed he had histoplasmosis, a fungus spread by birds, in one of his eyes. He was treated at the University of Alabama in Birmingham medical clinic. Laser treatment killed the fungus in his eye, but left a permanent blind spot. I never heard Tommy complain about life being unfair. 
Years later, as a guest speaker in our childhood home church, he preached a sermon titled “You Play the Cards You’re Dealt.”

My sister Karen is a professional florist. Now living in Texas, she does floral contract work for large events.

Karen was a good softball player who played on school teams during 7th-12th grades. Beginning her 8th grade year, she played third base and short stop. Yes, the same positions our daddy played! 

Karen’s first year, in the 7th grade, on a school softball team she was the catcher. She preferred playing shortstop, but was a good catcher. How good? She caught for Tommy when he practiced pitching at home!!  

As an adult, she played on a community softball team. Later she played on a corporation team where she worked. 

I am Judy, the oldest of my daddy’s and mother’s four children. So how was I at softball? I played on elementary teams during physical education. Two student captains would alternately select members in the class for their teams. When I was a new student to a school one time i was the last one picked for a team. Using a borrowed glove, I was sent to play third base. Yes, Daddy’s position. 

Up steps one of the big boys on the other team to bat. He swung, connected, and a line drive was headed straight toward me. He started running to first, everyone was clapping, screaming, thinking it’s at least a base hit or better. Thinking new girl is scrawny and won’t catch that line drive. My thoughts also. But, I squeezed my eyes shut, stuck out my gloved hand, and to everyone's amazement, including mine, I caught the ball. Sheer luck. He’s out. All heads jerked around to look at me. Last time I was picked last. 

But, I was a girl, Mother’s first child in an older era. When I turned thirteen Mother said no more playing ball at school. You will get hurt.  I still played in the backyard, but not on any school teams. My baby sister was Mother’s fourth child and eleven years younger than I am. Times changed, and Karen played organized softball in school. She got hurt, but not as badly as our brother Tim playing football. He suffered from a separated shoulder. 

Tim, the brother just younger than I am, was born in Fort Knox, Kentucky when Daddy Tom was stationed there and played on a military base intramural team. Tim played Little League baseball coached by Daddy. When Tim was older and still in school, he helped Daddy coach Little League, including our younger brother Tommy.  

Tim preferred playing football in high school. A running back, catching the ball from the quarterback,  and sprinting across the goal line to score. And the object of defense linebackers’ tackles. Ouch! 

None-the-less, he followed in Daddy Tom’s footsteps by coaching his son, Dwight, in Little League baseball. 

Part 2 of the Love of Baseball through the generations begins with Grandson Dwight, the third generation.