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  • Writer's pictureCharles I. Guarria

We're baseball guys, my dad and I

Updated: Jun 13

We're baseball guys, my dad and I. Or should I say, we were baseball guys.

Leonard Robert Guarria, my father, passed in 2009.

It was he who gave me this love affair with baseball and, in particular, the St. Louis Cardinals.

How did he do that?

By taking me to my first baseball game. I was five and a half years old, 1968, Shea Stadium (Queens, NY), Mets v. Cards.  Years later, he told me the pitching matchup that day was Seaver v. Gibson. I don't remember that.

I do remember holding his hand as we walked through the tunnel to our seats. Stepping into the bright sunshine of day baseball. It was the first time I had seen a professional baseball field other than on television. The enormity of it amazed me at that young of an age.

Whenever I walked through a Shea Stadium tunnel towards my seat, I would think back to that moment with my father—just me and Dad at a ballgame.

It was at that time of my life that we would have a catch when he would get home from work. He wouldn't even change out of his work clothes. Still in a suit, we'd go the side of the house, he'd crouch down in a catcher's position, I was always the pitcher, he'd call balls and strikes. When I threw it hard enough, he'd say, "Now you're throwing smoke."

Sure, he imparted life lessons in many positive ways. When I was 12, 13 years old, he called to apologize. What for? I don't recall. He said a man has to admit when he is wrong and "I was wrong."

No more than two years after my parents got divorced, again around 12 years old.  I insisted he come from where he lived, 30 miles away,  to buy my baseball bat for Little League because I wanted to feel his warmth in that bat every time I touched it. He made the drive after work, we got the bat.

As you can guess, ours was the classic father-son relationship around the grand ol' game. When I became an adult, our 45-minute phone conversations started out with us asking if the other was okay. Then it was all baseball until we said goodbye. We'd talk the best minor leaguers in the Cardinals' system to what had happened with the big club since we last spoke.

My father, Leonard Guarria, Stepmother. Fran Guarria, in St. Louis, at the base of the Musial statue, Busch Stadium II. Around the turn of the century.

As the years went by, he, my stepmother Fran, and I would go to Spring Training and to St. Louis.

He never went to St. Louis until I did. Because, he said, as a child growing up in Brooklyn, NY, St. Louis seemed like a distant, far away place. That stuck with him in his adult life. Until I went in 1998. We went together twice between 1999-2002.

But for all those baseball moments with Dad, perhaps the most compelling was Shea Stadium, Opening Day, 1996. There was a commotion a few rows in front of us.

We saw the Cardinals' ownership family, the DeWitts.

And then we saw; Stan Musial.

Stan "The Man" Musial is the reason my father became a Cardinal fan. As a kid, he'd go to Ebbets Field in Brooklyn; one day, the Dodgers were playing the Cardinals, and he fell in love with how Musial played the game.

Back at Shea Stadium, with Musial sitting but a few rows ahead of us signing autographs between innings, my dad was a child again. The look in his eyes wasn't the man I knew. It was that kid who went to Ebbets Field, mixed with the awe of being so close to his childhood idle.

It was a look I never saw before nor never would see again.

I said to Dad, 'Go over, get his autograph.' At least he could have said hi to his childhood idle, right?

He didn't. Instead, he stared. We watched the scene as security would usher away autograph seekers when the game was on, allowing fans to talk to Musial between innings.

The game we went to on Opening Day, 1996.

I never asked him why he didn't speak with Stan Musial that day. Maybe it was nerves; maybe for him, Musial was meant to be an untouchable part of his childhood. Always to be bigger than life itself.

Nevertheless, that look in his eyes is one I will never forget.

So, what have I done in my baseball life these 15 years since Leonard Robert Guarria passed from cancer?

When the Cardinals are in a tight spot, I look to the heavens and say, come on, don't you have any pull up there to get us through this?

When the Cardinals do something well, I'll often raise my fist and look towards the sky to celebrate the moment with him.

Because we're baseball guys.

A brick I placed at Our Lady of Mercy Church in Hicksville, NY (Long Island).

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Photo credits: Baseball Reference, Time Magazine, Me.


1 comment

1 comentário

13 de jun.

A beautiful tribute!

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