Remembering My Dad and His Baseball Hats
"People ask me what I do in winter when there's no baseball. I'll tell you what I do. I stare out the window and wait for spring."— Rogers Hornsby
Did You Know...?
The first team known to wear a cap we might see as similar were the Brooklyn Excelsiors. In 1860, they appeared in uniform with caps with a long brim. Uniforms have changed and so has what they wear on their head. I wonder if any of the players ever wore theirs backwards?
He Never Left Home Without a Hat
My Dad passed away in 2010. If you asked me what one thing would remind me of my Dad long after his death, it would have to be his baseball hats. He had stacks of them from different eras of his life, but only a couple of those hats were special.
One of those hats was a tournament hat from Little League. He never said much about it, but that hat meant a lot to him. The hat was covered in a multitude of pins each representing some honor bestowed upon him at Little League.
Another was his Oakland A's baseball hat. He was a big fan of the team and he wanted everyone to know that he was an A's fan and not a Giants fan. He won his green and gold hat to every game.
Another favorite was his #1 Grandpa hat. His oldest grandkids gave him that hat and he wore it to family get togethers and any time he wanted people to know he was a proud grandpa.
After he died, I decided to keep two of his hats as mementos. These are the two that I selected. I will always think of him when I see them.
You Wouldn't Recognize Him Without One
These are two of the baseball caps that I saved that belonged to my Dad. They were the ones he wore the most and the only ones he put his special pins on.
The darker colored hat was from Little League. He got it during one of the All Star Tournaments. He had a whole collection of hats from Little League, but this was his favorite.
The green and gold one is, of course, an Oakland A's hat. The A's were his favorite team. He wore it to every game. On the side is a large paper clip he used to hold his game ticket and his BART ticket. He was always frantically searching for his tickets outside the BART station. So, he clipped them inside his hat for safe keeping. I decided to leave the paper clip there as it's one of those quirky things my Dad did and it makes me smile to see it.
There were others. He had a whole collection of Grandpa hats. He saved everyone his grandkids gave him.
These hats were synonymous with my Dad. He would have gone unrecognized if he went out in public hatless.
My Dad on the Ball Field
Did your Dad wear something that was part of his identity?
This is my Dad in his home away from home, the Little League field. He spent most of his days from Spring through Summer, and some time during the Fall and Winter, standing near that fence lining the Senior field. He could stand there for hours talking.
During his 30+ years with Little League, he tended the fields, managed a couple of teams, and coached kids. Many times I'd look across the street to see him hitting balls to fielders during practice. I could hear the sound of the aluminum bat.
This is how most folks would remember my Dad. He's got on his baseball hat and his Little League jacket. He rarely left home without either, especially when he was heading over to the ball field. At 84, he was the oldest person in the league. I think he liked the attention he got when he wore his Little League stuff over at the ball field.
Bartholemew Cubbins had Nothing on Him
I wish I had a photograph of all my Dad's hats. He had a sizeable collection.
He had so many hats that sometimes he needed help finding the right one. This would seem a simple task. But, you can't imagine how many baseball hats my Dad owned!
There were his favorites that sat on his dresser--about 20 of them. Then, there was the nightstand drawer filled with hats. There was a part of the closet shelf dedicated to his hats. My Dad never threw anything away. He probably had every hat he was given. I bet he had over a hundred baseball hats.
I look back and smile at how as he got older and was losing his hair. He never left home without a hat. It was part of his uniform.
Certain hats were worn for certain occasion. A special occasion like his retiree luncheon meant he was wearing his #1 Grandpa Hat. Any time he was at Little League he wore the All Star hat. If he was off to an A's game, he wore his A's hat. Other hats had different purposes that I never fully understood. I guess it meant something to him.
It's funny to think that someone would need so many hats. They became a part of who my Dad was. People wouldn't recognize him if he went hatless.
Besides being the biggest baseball fan, my Dad was a devoted grandfather. He had a whole slew of #1 Grandpa hats and t-shirts. And, you know what? It was the truth!
My Dad was chauffeur, soccer fan, and best buddy to all four of his grandchildren. Whenenver he showed up at a soccer, basketball, or other event, he proudly wore his grandpa gear. He wanted everyone to know how proud he was.
I honestly have no clue how he decided which ones to wear, but there was a method to his madness.
"Little League baseball is a very good thing because it keeps the parents off the streets."— Yogi Berra
The Pins that Adorned His Hat
My Dad had two different baseball pin collections. The first collections was Oakland A's commemorative pins. These were pins that he got when he went to a game. You know, the ones they hand out at the gates on special days.
His second baseball pin collection was from his time he spent at Little League. He earned many different pins while he was a volunteer. They ranged from recognition for his work as a volunteer to getting his teams into the championship.
I sometimes wondered why he didn't get injured from wearing so many pins. You can see from the photo how many there were. The hats were heavy from the weight.
My Dad was proud of his pins. I remember how each time he got a new pin he would get out his hat so he could put the new one on. He'd sit in his recliner shifting pins around until he got them just right. Sometimes I'd see him take out a box full of pins. He'd take some off his hat and put some on. I guess he like variety.
He wore the Oakland A's pins with pride as well. They were his favorite team after all. Baseball was in his blood. He loved it almost as much as he loved his grandkids.
He wanted everyone to see those pins. I think that part of it was because he wanted to make sure everyone knew he didn't root for the San Francisco Giants. No self respecting A's fan would.
The Coach Pin
Each of these pins represents a different era of my Dad's volunteer work with Little League. He started volunteering in 1966 and stopped in 2008.
More than any other pin, this one probably describes my Dad most. He coached teams from the Minors to the Super Seniors to the All Stars for over 30 years. I don't think there was a kid at Little League that didn't know my Dad. They probably recognized him by his hat and the large green bags that he carried the equipment in.
I can remember going shopping with him. At least once a month, someone would yell out his name from behind the counter or the back of a line. My Dad called them kid, though many were well into their 30s and 40s. He couldn't remember anyone's name though. Sometimes he got his kids confused, too. These people sure remembered him, though!
Sing This One For My Dad
"Take me out to the crowd
Buy me some peanuts and Cracker Jack
I don't care if I never get back
So, it's root, root, root for the home team
If they don't win it's a shame
So, it's one, two, three strikes you're out
At the old ball game..."
(Lyrics excerpted from the work "Take Me Out to the Ball Game" by Jack Norworth, 1908, public domain)
This song will always remind me of my Dad. The chorus is a simple refrain for getting away from every day life and having fun at the ball field. I can see my Dad standing in the stadium. It's the seventh inning stretch and he's belting out these lyrics in his off key way.
The Rickey Henderson Pin
My Dad treasured his baseball pins. He'd been collecting them for decades. Each one brought back fond memories. He had many from his many visits to the Oakland Coliseum. There was one pin he cherished over all the others: The Rickey Henderson Pin.
Rickey Henderson was one of the most exciting players to ever set foot on a baseball field.. He had a natural talent for base stealing. It was thrilling to watch him after he got on base. That low crouch, the finger wiggling, and then he'd burst full speed to the next base. It is no surprise he set the base stealing record.
He loved Rickey Henderson. He got this pin one year at an A's game when Rickey was honored. You can see that it was one of his favorites. He placed it right under the A's logo in the middle where everyone would see it.
My Dad was crushed by the steroid scandal. So, I suspect that pin reminded him of the times before steroid use when a player was the sum of his talents and tenacity.
"Baseball was, is and always will be to me the best game in the world."— Babe Ruth
Dedicating a Life to Kids
My Dad was one of the most dedicated volunteers for Little League. Sure, he moaned and complained about having to do stuff, but that was just my Dad.
He started back in 1966 coaching his oldest son's team in the Minors. When his children no longer played baseball, he still volunteered. He was 82 the last time he walked over to the school yard to prepare the fields for a tournament.
He was honored by the league a couple of times. In the 1980s, they named one of the tournaments after him.
In 2003, the league honored him again. They had a special ceremony on opening day where they named the Senior field after him. They hung a sign with his name on the back stop fence for everyone to see. The Senior field had special significance because he dedicated most of his coaching time to Senior teams.
Unfortunately, the Senior field no longer exists. The back stop was torn down a year ago to put in a soccer field. My Dad died a year before this happened, so he never had to see his beloved field being dug up. I am sure it would have disturbed him deeply.
The sign was moved to one of the other back stops. Over time those fields may be removed, too. The sign may one day disappear but my Dad won't be forgotten. He's memory will linger in the memories of all the children he helped out on the ball field.
I hope you enjoyed reading about my Dad and his love of baseball and his grandkids. What reminds you most of your Dad? Tell me in the comments.