Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Baseballs

Growing up the granddaughter of a sportswriter was never dull.  My grandfather, Pa, refused to allow ignorance or a lack of education to be an excuse to get out of knowing the answer to a question.  If we didn't know what the answer was, then we had to find it, whether that meant looking it up or asking the right questions.  As children, Pa would tell us stories as the answer to his seeming riddles.  Sometimes those stories were of the amazing longshot, Secretariat, or the consummate underdog, Jackie Robinson.  He would inform of us of the legendary athletes of our day, some professional, some still in high school, regardless of their age, they were worthy of attention in Edgar Allen's eyes. 

It wasn't until he passed away that I truly got to know my grandfather. Growing up I knew the man who allowed no slack in manners or fun.  In the same afternoon that we were paid a penny for ever stick we picked out of the yard, Pa would be there once we finished our chores, throwing the baseball with us or showing us how to build the proper snowman.  He was legendary in our eyes, but for totally different reasons than why I later learned he was a true giant in other's eyes.  Pa (Edgar Cornelius Allen, Jr.) was the Sports Editor at the Nashville Banner for years and later moved on to be the Director of Media Relations at Churchill Downs.  It wasn't until his visitation that my eyes were truly opened to the man my grandfather was to everyone else.  People loved and respected my grandfather as we all did, but what I learned was how he was a mentor, a father figure and a dear friend to so many more.  A true gentleman and giant among men...that was who I met in the memories of so many of my grandfather's friends and colleagues.  It was said by his peer, Ben Byrd (writer for the Knoxville Sentinel) when Pa stopped going on the SEC Skywriters' Tour,  "If Edgar's not going, then we've lost the last bit of class we had".  To so many people, he was a man of dignity, respect, integrity and honor....to me, he was the gentle man, who sat in the same chair telling tales to my brother, cousins and me of heros in baseball, legends on the basketball court, the beauty of a comeback and the humility of a true champion.  He was my Pa. 

I recently came across a few of his baseballs he had had signed as he toured as a sportswriter.  One caught my eye as it contained a name that flickered memories of Pa's stories.  The name was Hank Aaron.  As I looked through the box of autographed balls, I saw more signatures I recognized, including Pete Rose, PeeWee Reese and many more.  Here is a small treasure we found from a man who just had a few baseballs signed by a few folks he met and befriended along the way....
Bob Feller, HOF 1962
nicknamed "The Heater from Van Meter", "Bullet Bob" and "Rapid Robert"
Gaylord Perry, HOF 1991,
Winner of the Cy Young Award in both the American League and the National League.  Notorious for throwing, or at least making batters "think" he was throwing, a "spit ball".
Phil Niekro, HOF 1997
nicknamed "Knucksie" because of his usage and skill level with the knuckleball.
Hank Aaron, HOF 1982
nicknamed "Hammer," "Hammerin' Hank," and "Bad Henry," is a retired American baseball player whose Major League Baseball career spanned the years 1954 through 1976. Aaron is widely considered one of the greatest baseball players of all time.
Pete Rose
nicknamed "Charlie Hustle", is a former Major League Baseball player and manager.
Rose played from 1963 to 1986, and managed from 1984 to 1989.  On the same ball that Pete Rose signed was the name....
Pee Wee Reese, HOF 1984
It is said of his friendship with Jackie Robinson which began during the 1947 season, "During pre-game infield practice, Reese, the captain of the team, went over to Robinson, engaged him in conversation, and put his arm around his shoulder in a gesture of support which silenced the crowd....Their rapport soon led shortstop Reese and second baseman Robinson to become one of the most effective defensive pairs in the sport's history."
Robin Roberts, HOF 1976
Roberts' record for home runs allowed can largely be attributed to his durability and his tendency to pitch inside the strike zone. Roberts threw 4,688 innings over the course of his 19-year career, good for 21st on the all-time innings pitched list. Moreover, Roberts challenged hitters to put the ball in play, issuing relatively few walks (1.7 per 9 innings pitched) and strikeouts (4.5 per 9 innings pitched).

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