Some of my favorite memories from my early childhood are of going to watch my dad play for the I.B.E.W. Local Union 164 softball team. In addition to going to games throughout the NY/NJ area, I travelled with him to tournaments in Chicago and Indianapolis. He was a pretty good pitcher and played the game hard. I remember him coming home with bloody, broken fingernails, bruises, and even the imprint of the softball’s stitches in his skin.
Apparently, his skill and love for the game was hereditary. His father was good enough that he was drafted by the Dodgers in the 1940s, when they still played in Brooklyn. Players made so little back then, however, that his dad encouraged him to get a “real” job instead so he became a union electrician instead, and thus missed an opportunity to possibly play with the likes of Jackie Robinson and Duke Snider.
But the baseball genes go even further back. A few months ago while looking up my family on Ancestry.com, I found the following listings (among others) for my great-great-grandfather in the city directories for Pottsville, PA and Jersey City, NJ in the 1880s & 1890s:
My dad’s aunt has since confirmed that Frank was in fact a professional baseball player. Apparently he went by the nickname “Snapper” and played for teams in Harrisburg, PA and New Haven, CT, and this article I found on Newspaper Archive indicates that he also served as a replacement umpire of sorts, though a far-from-impartial one in the opinion of the team from Lebanon. He is also listed as a tinsmith in the city directories during some those years, another sign of how little money professional ball players earned in the early years of the sport.
Unfortunately, none of these genes were passed down to me. My baseball career ended in 8th grade. I was ok in the field and on the base paths, but I could never hit a lick. I guess that’s one thing for which I can blame my mother.