My father was not around much when I was a child, sadly enough. Over the years, our constant connection though was always through sports. We could always talk long-distance on the phone, always being physically separated by countless states, about baseball and football. It was the sturdy cement foundation of all of our conversations, and it was the glue that held our relationship together, no matter how strained it truly might have been.
I will always recall one story more than others: upon reflection it seems to capture a special magic I shared with my two brothers and our father. It was the summer of 2007.
It was not a perfect relationship that we all shared with Dad. As a kid, personally I had wished Dad could attend some of my baseball games, y'know in Little League and in High School. That never happened. Dad was an alcoholic troubled by his demons. Nonetheless, I do know, however, in my heart and mind how much he loved all of us kids, and the special place he always had in his heart for us kids, and sports.
Me and my family would always listen with great interest to my youngest brother Scottie, whenever he would share with us his rare and wild sports predictions (only when the spirit struck him so; he would never predict anything unless he “had that feeling”). His curious, unprovoked predictions historically had always turned out to be spot-on correct. So, when he spoke about his premonitions, we all listened.
My Dad started referring to Scottie as "the Guru" during Barry Bonds homerun race to catch Hank Aaron's mark of 755 homers. (None of us were every Bonds fans for sure, but we were all sports history buffs, and we did fully realize the magnitude of that moment and the importance of that baseball record.) Scottie scratched his head and threw out a prediction that Bonds would hit homerun number 754 on July 27, 2007. He “felt it.” My Dad laughed and expressed his skepticism. Bonds prior homerun, number 753 was hit nine days earlier.
On the night of July 27, 2007 though, sure enough, Bonds hit homerun number 754, as was predicted by the Guru. Dad seemed to become more interested in Scottie’s predictions. He demanded that Scottie predict when the next Bonds homerun was going to happen. After a little bit of thought, Scottie informed Dad that Bonds would tie Aaron at 755 on August 4, 2007. When making his predictions, he would never say “I believe that . . .” and then state his prediction. Instead, he would always say, “X will happen, on Y date,” as though it were previously written in the stars, or the bible or something.
True to form, Bonds slugged 755 on August 4, 2007. The prediction came true, again. Dad simply could not believe it! He shouted to his boys, "Wholly Shit! My boy's a fuckin’ psychic!" "When is Bonds going to pass Aaron?," Dad asked of the Guru. Scottie scratched his head, then looked up at the sky. "Tuesday." "Tuesday, August 7th, he'll get homerun number 756!" My Dad replied, "You're damn straight I'll be staying up for that one. No more falling asleep for me on that night. I have to watch history in the making!" Dad was so excited on the phone, stating how it was going to be so great to see. "You can predict it all Scottie! "Bet everything," Dad had said. "Bet the farm on this!"
Sadly, on the morning of August 7th, me and my siblings received a phone call from the complex Dad was living at in Atlanta, Georgia. The kids all learned that Dad had died that morning. He had lived to only 62 years of age.
As that painful day slogged along, and the reality of our father’s death slowly settled into our collective minds, me and my family all wondered if that night Bonds would actually hit that 756th homerun. And, as if this were written by some twisted Hollywood scribbler, Bonds indeed hit that record-breaking homerun, on August 7, 2007--the same day my father died, the same day Scottie had predicted the record would be made.
We had sports. We had baseball. It kept us away from all of life's unpleasantries. We shared that final moment without Dad with us, but he sure was in our hearts that night and thereafter. We cried when it had happened. I can only hope he watched the feat from his eternal seat within the clouds.
We still love you Dad. We miss you. Happy Father's Day to you.
Cheers, love always your son Stephen