What Legends on Deck Means to Me: Connecting the Generations Through Baseball
In recent weeks, I’ve been giving some thought to the general theme and direction of Legends on Deck. When I first started writing for the site it was back in 2017. I was very interested in all the unique content they were providing covering (primarily) the minor leagues. As a Tigers fan, I thought it might be a great opportunity to dig into their rebuilding process and focus on their farm system. It was a fun way to track a team that I was well aware wouldn’t be competitive for years to come.
As time went on, I began to realize that LOD allowed me plenty of creative control over my content. David Conde has always said, “write what you want to write about, just make it about baseball.” So I began to expand the number of topics I was writing about to suit whatever baseball interest struck me at the moment. At the time, I didn’t quite foresee where this journey would take me.
An American Game
When my family and I moved to Florida in 2016, I soon began to expand my interest in baseball in a whole new way. I had always been a very attentive fan of Major League Baseball. Growing up in Metro Detroit, the Tigers had always been a major part of my baseball experience. I remember old Tiger Stadium, there at the corner of Michigan & Trumbull, quite fondly. And during the first several seasons at Comerica Park, my family had partial season tickets. While I was born the year the Tigers last won the World Series, throughout most of my childhood the Tigers were a tough team to watch. It wasn’t until my early adult years until they returned to prominence.
Yet, the lack of success on the field from my hometown team did not discourage my love for the game. I grew up in what I see as the “golden age” of the sports highlight. As a sports fan, I spent my mornings before school glued to ESPN’s Sportscenter. And on Sunday night’s and during the summer, it was Baseball Tonight. Many of these highlights consisted of Ken Griffey Jr. hitting a bomb into the right-field upper deck at the Kingdome. And while there wasn’t an MLB TV streaming service, there was TBS (Braves) and WGN (Cubs and White Sox) that allowed me to follow teams outside of my local market. It’s no wonder some of my favorite players from my childhood are Greg Maddux, Frank Thomas and Chipper Jones. And, I still think of Harry Caray and his lineup of empty Bud heavy cans every time I hear “Take Me Out to the Ballgame.”
If you want a well written recount of my youth baseball experience, check out my dad’s article from last summer, Raising Our Two Sons – Creating Memories Through Baseball. He documents some of his coaching experience with my brother and I, our family trips that involved visits to ballparks and our involvement in the early days of fantasy baseball. I was well versed in the game from a very young age, both from both a player and fan standpoint. These experiences shaped my memories and helped form my lifelong passion for baseball.
Along with my dad, my (maternal) grandfather helped cement my love for the game as well. George Andres grew up in a small town north of Pittsburgh (Lyndora) in the in the late 1920s and 1930s. He would tell us stories about going to Pirates games with his older brother at Forbes Field. The Pirates of that era included Hall of Famers Paul Waner and Lloyd Waner (Big Poison and Little Poison), Pie Traynor (player-manager) and coach Honus Wagner. Baseball in the Pittsburgh area also included the Homestead Grays and Pittsburgh Crawfords (Negro Leagues), where he was able to get a glimpse of the great Josh Gibson.
To cap it off, in nearby Butler (PA), the Yankees had a Class D minor league affiliate from 1936-1942; the Butler Yankees. As he recalled, the Yankees would bring in some of their big leaguers during the off-season and he got to see Joe DiMaggio play. He would say that he watched in amazement, DiMaggio grabbing fly balls in centerfield with such ease. These stories fueled my quest to learn the history of the game. He also loved to brag about how Stan Musial (born in 1920) grew up in a nearby Donora, PA.
Connecting the Generations
Beyond his recollection of his childhood experiences with baseball, my grandpa always had interesting insights on the modern game and played an active role in helping us improve as players. It’s not often you’ll find a guy in his 70s outside playing catch and pickle with his grandsons. Grandpa retired as a delivery truck driver the year my brother was born (1986) and spent countless hours with us growing up, including watching our games. My dad (and his buddy Jeff) took considerable time out of their schedules to coach one of our teams (if not both) and teach us the game.
One of my favorite days on the baseball calendar is the Hall of Fame Induction Ceremonies in Cooperstown. Every year, when you hear the players give their speeches, you’ll hear one common theme throughout; family and primarily, fathers. There are certainly other traditions with longer roots of being passed on through the generations (fishing and hunting come to mind). But, in the modern world, baseball has been one of those traditions.
Consider the impact of baseball in my family for over the course of a century: my grandfather (born in 1923), my father (born in 1959), myself (born in 1984) and now my son (born in 2015). It goes beyond this as well. My grandmother told stories of her father (John Harvey or Hordishinsky), who played in men’s leagues in the 1920s. I never got the full story, but I imagine these were teams organized by autoworkers in Detroit. They told me his best friend growing up ended up playing in the Washington Senators farm system; unfortunately the name escapes me.
“The one constant through all the years Ray, has been baseball. America has rolled by like an army of steamrollers. It’s been erased like a blackboard, rebuilt and erased again. But baseball has marked the time. This field, this game, is a part of our past, Ray. It reminds us of all that once was good, and that could be again.”
The Passion Continues
In recent years, the impact baseball has had in my life has grown even stronger. First, there’s Legends on Deck and the body of writing work I’ve produced since 2017. And, there’s the podcast that David Conde and I co-host, where we’ve now conducted dozens of interviews with a wide variety of guests all involved in the game. This has invigorated my interest in the game in a whole new way.
Then, there’s my son, George, and his passion for the game. George is 7 years old (8 in September) and has a ferocious appetite for baseball. He’s a serious competitor – loves to hit, loves to get dirty in the field and on the base paths and loves to be around other kids who play the game. He’s also enthusiastic about watching and studying the game. George has developed a affection for the Atlanta Braves, who are on our TV most nights of the week. George enjoys learning about the players (past and present), statistics and the history of the sport. Not to mention, he’s built an impressive baseball card collection over the past couple years (see Rediscovering Baseball Cards).
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Additionally, my father-in-law continues to make big contributions to his own passion for the game that he will soon share with the world. During the beginning of the COVID outbreak, he was treating patients and decided to isolate himself at home to avoid risking others getting sick. In that period of time, he wrote a baseball novel called, The Kid, which has recently been published. In this book, he packs decades of baseball knowledge and history into an entertaining story about a teenage phenom who makes the big leagues. A future podcast interview, full book review and links to purchase the book coming in the near future.
The Meaning of Legends on Deck
This article offers just a glimpse of some of the things that fuel my passion for the sport of baseball. As I mentioned at the beginning, I’ve been thinking a lot about what LOD means to me and our audience. I would like to thank David Conde for allowing me to take on such a big role with the site and help shape the creative direction of LOD.
David has his own personal story about his passion for the game, why he loves to write, talk about and coach baseball. He’s also done an amazing job covering players and coaches over the years and staying connected with them. Those relationships have blossomed into some of our best podcast episodes. He’s also making local contributions to expand the game down in Southwest Florida. He continues to coach his son’s team and pull together camps with local ballplayers, coaches and sponsors.
In summary, Legends on Deck has always been a platform for writers to share their love for the game of baseball. It’s expansion of content into everything from youth, to high school and college, through professional baseball offers our audience a full-scale view of the game. Recently, we’ve been fortunate enough to expand our coverage into women’s softball as well. We’ve heard from baseball voices around the globe, from Africa to England. We’ve explored the game from the perspective of in-game hosts, to a front office managers, to baseball card collectors. If you’re involved in the game of baseball, Legends on Deck would love to share your story!
Call to Action
I believe we have just begun to scratch the surface of what Legends on Deck can be for the sport. We invite you all to hop onboard for the ride in the months and years to come.
- If you haven’t done so already, follow us on social media: Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and YouTube. Our podcast is also available on audio through Spotify. Share our articles and podcasts and leave your comments. Let us know what your interested in by joining the Legends on Deck Fan Group on Facebook.
- If you are an aspiring baseball writer (or photographer) looking for a platform to share your work, reach out to us. We are always looking for passionate content creators like ourselves, who want to be a part of our expanding team.
- Finally, you can show us support for everything we do by purchasing some of our unique designs at the LOD Merch Shop. And don’t forget to display your swag and tag us on social media.
Thank you for your support!