“A Quick Game of Catch with Gramps”

On what would have been my grandpa Fran’s 101st birthday — July 16, 2011 — I wrote about how he played catch, and our last time tossing the ball around.

TOWER GROVE — Whether we were tossing a baseball or chucking a football around outside his home in Sarasota, Fla., or at The Dells, the game with grandpa was always to transfer the ball from catch to throw as quickly as possible. He was a master at it. I remember how he could catch a football and throw it back all in one slick, swift motion – his left hand controlling and redirecting the ball into the right hand and then firing it back underhand, spiral and all. This wasn’t catch as much as it was a ricochet. Gramps would do this faster and faster and faster until, inevitably, I would laugh too hard to keep up, holding the ball until I caught my breath.

Grandpa would just stand there, grinning.

He won. Again. Continue reading

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Where Musial and Mantle Meet

DOWNTOWN — Early in this past baseball season, two books stayed snug together near my desk, on my nightstand or in my carry-on — constant tagalongs as I studiously picked through them for insights and inspiration. Both were biographies. Both were well written. One was a narrative frolic merrily skipping through a Hall of Famer’s past with the crystal-clear reverence of a fan. The other was more of a narrative ordeal, a no-quarter-given examination of a Hall of Famer, warts and glory, that shows what happens when the lens through which a fan views a hero cracks.

The books served as compelling companions during a season because not only did the writers take similar, intensely personal angles on their subjects — rather than the detached, stoic eye of a stodgy biographer — to arrive at different views, the books were also about two icons of the sport, one fading from his prime as the other shot to stardom: Stan Musial and Mickey Mantle.

These are the players that bind generations in my family.

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