Remembering Wee Willie.

Dad played CF for the 1928 St. Edward's Broncos. He loved this card I made for him a few thousand years ago.

“You’re the baby, Bill! – You’re the baby!”

One of my earliest memories trails back to the year 1939, when I was only about one and a half years old. I’m stomping around the right field wooden grandstands of the old ballpark at the Bee County Fairgrounds with my mom sitting nearby. My dad is coming to bat from the  left side of the plate and his Beeville Bee teammates are yelling encouragement to the baby on the team. Then I see Dad swinging the bat and lacing a base hit to right field. There is cheering. Then all goes to black down memory lane. That little snippet is all that remains, but it is as clear as the bad lighting of the old field back home allows it to be.

Of course, all my descriptions of what just happened came later. I didn’t know baseball from base hit back then. I just knew that people were cheering for my dad and that he had done something to make most of them happy. I saw it all happen.

Three and one half years later, on my New Years Eve fifth birthday, we would move from Beeville to the place that would become my home forever – a place called Houston – and I would learn a lot more about baseball from my dad, the Houston Buffs, and almost endless summer days on the sandlots of Houston’s East End.

Dad was first and best ever teacher. Then he got out of the way and allowed me to learn the rest of the game on my own with my summertime sandlot buddies. None of us had eager parents leaning over our shoulders or buying us things back in the day. In the East End, at least, we either inherited bats, balls, and gloves or we got little jobs to buy them over time. Uniforms, even caps, were a luxury we didn’t even dream about possessing.

One year my mom made me a Houston Buffs uniform. In fact, she steam-ironed those letters onto the front of the jersey, “Houston Buffs.” It came with a little blue cap that had four red stripes evenly descending from the button top of the cap crown.

I wore the homemade Buffs uniform at home. Even paused long enough for Mom to take a picture of me in it once. I simply wouldn’t wear it to the sandlot. None of my teammates had one and I didn’t want to be different from them. I only wanted  to be one of them, as I already was. Knowing in our hearts and minds that we were the Pecan Park Eagles was good enough for us. We didn’t need a Houston Buff uniform Christmas present to play baseball.

We once got into a turf war with the kids from Kernel Street over the use of our field on Japonica. We had even taken to using pipe guns that shot gravel (made for us by one of our adult machinist neighbors) to defend our territory. I can’t believe we took it that far, but we did.

When the war broke out, my dad came flying out of the house and put a stop to all of it. I never learned what happened to our pipe guns, or how he handled it with the neighbor who built them for us, but we never got any more “help” from the machinist after this episode. That much I know.

Dad made us all assemble on the sandlot and play out our differences in a game of baseball, Japonica versus Kernel streets. We did. And we whacked ’em pretty good. After that, we all played together on the same field with no further trouble.

I had further trouble. Dad still wailed the tar out of me at home after the game for my involvement in the production of those pipe guns, but I deserved it. How he put up with my shenanigans as well as he did, I’ll never know. I’ll just always be grateful he was there.

“You were the baby, dad. Thanks for being in my life for as long as I was privileged to have you here with me. I’m old now, but I’ll never grow too old to say thank you. You taught me much more than baseball. You taught me tough love, honesty, integrity, loyalty, and commitment.

The one thing you didn’t teach me is how to get over missing you.

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4 Responses to “Remembering Wee Willie.”

  1. Ken Dupuy Says:

    I now can see why baseball is in your veins!

  2. Ken Dupuy Says:

    A touchhing tribute to someone so special in your life!

  3. Ted Leach Says:

    Really touching, Bill. Thanks for sharing. Baseball was not something that came to me from my father — other things I get from him.

  4. Doug Stewart Says:

    Great piece – shows lots of love of both Dad and baseball.

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