Monday, October 03, 2005

My Dad, the Captain of the Cincinnati Reds by Shawn Abnoxious

I don’t remember what year it was, but I know the ball game was a long time ago. Riverfront Stadium (as it was known). A hot Saturday afternoon, the Cincinnati Reds, hot-dogs, soda-pops, peanuts and everything else that makes a live baseball game complete!

I was a little kid at the time. This I know because I could comfortably still fit in the chairs at Riverfront Stadium with room to spare. Nowadays, as an adult, I can still fit in similar stadium-type chairs, but not like then. Nowadays, Riverfront Stadium is gone (made way for two new stadiums for football and baseball) and the last time I went to a game (last year, Cincinnati Reds vs Houston Astros; Reds won) I spilled into the seat next to me a little’ bit but hey, no shame in any of that!

If I want to be known for one thing, I want it to be common knowledge that I have no problem sharing and I am a fan of fun. I’m a fun-lover! Who can’t handle a little’ bit of fun? Everyone loves fun, right? Right! So just let me come right out and say it. I am not a fan (per say) of baseball. I don’t “follow it” but I do enjoy it. Always have and probably always will. Especially a few aspects of the game, like the statistics and the highlights on news programs. Even as a young boy baseball always did me right. I bought baseball cards to read the statistics and went with my dad any chance I got to see a game, played baseball video games any chance I got and I had fun while I did it all.

As I went back and forth from then to now to write this “piece,” I realized my memories aren’t as sharp as I initially thought so I called my dad to relive the day in question. There’s something funny about the fact my dad can remember a conversation we had when maybe I was 10 years old, but he still asks me if I play guitar. I don’t make a big deal out of it like I use to. I’ve given up fighting for him to be interested in something else besides what he is interested in. Playing bass guitar and doing shows around and out of town and putting out CD’s mean everything to me and nothing to him.

To me, writing, and playing music and doing art are my life. To him, they’re forgotten thoughts that never had a chance to earn “memory” status. Yeah, my dad might not give a shit about anything I care about but I love the guy. He is my dad and he was a great dad. An excellent dad plus, a really fucking cool guy to boot. I mean, fuck—he created hip-hop! But hey, that’s a different story for a different time...

I have worked through all of my baggage. Like I said, it’s funny. I came to the conclusion several years ago that my dad isn’t a bad guy, even if me holding down a regular job is a big deal to him. If he can’t be interested in what I do, then I decided a while back that I will compromise. Just so he could know that I find him interesting, and to give us both something to talk about, I bring up baseball as soon as he asks the same question twice about my job. It goes like this:

“Hey son! How’s your job? Machines running good for you? Hot in the factory isn’t it?” And to all these questions I answer “Yes.”

Then he usually asks if my car is running good, to which I answer yes again and then he goes back to the previous set of questions. It’s usually at that moment that I bring up baseball or he is libel to talk about his own parents, my grandparents, and their ailing health and how they (well, my grandma anyway) uses it to get attention.

Yeah, he likes basketball and football...but he loves baseball. So, every chance I get, I talk baseball with him. He likes it too. I can see it in his face. He is definitely a fan.

My dad—the captain of the Cincinnati Reds.

This is what I remember from the day he told me he could have been the captain of the Cincinnati Reds. Its funny how sometimes when you least expect it, you can leave something even so minute as a phone conversation with a whole new understanding of a principle, a man, and/or his idea of himself. At first, when talking about my dad and how sure he was that he could have been captain of the Cincinnati Reds, it was humorous. After my call to re-live the story, it was still humorous but when I asked him how sure he was that he could have been a big league ballplayer, I sensed a longing in my dad. I sensed a sadness at what he missed and I could feel his longing. Things took a serious tone.

Like I said, I was 10 or younger. It was a sunny Saturday afternoon. Not too hot, but sunny. Me and my dad and I can’t remember who else were about ten rows behind the Cincinnati Reds dugout. Dave Concepcion, the team captain of the Cincinnati Reds, took the field to warm up with some teammates. My day pointed him out with a nudge to my shoulder.

“Hey, see him?” he said as he pointed to Concepcion. I had seen him clearly.

“Why does he have a ‘C’ on his shoulder?” I asked.

He replied, “That is Dave Concepcion, he is the shortstop and team captain of the Cincinnati Reds.” He paused. “I could have been where he is today.”

I thought that was cool, and remembered it to this day, but I had no idea what my dad meant by it until I just talked to him several minutes ago and asked him about that day. I mean, I had an idea but now, as an adult, I have an understanding.

He remembered that day vividly. I got the feeling that he was a little bit uncomfortable with my questioning so I apologized but I needed to know, now, as an adult, what he meant that day, by saying that he could have been a Cincinnati Reds team captain.

My dad told me that when he was a young boy, he spent every chance he got on a ball field playing ball. In local leagues, in school, or whatever. He named a few big time players that he played with and against but the only one I remembered was Pete Rose. I know this because, as all Cincinnatian’s, my dad is an avid Pete supporter. Yeah, my dad, and me, for that matter, realize that what Pete did when he placed bets on baseball, and his own team was wrong. But in this day and age where you can only wonder how many people have used steroids or whatever else but still get inducted into the Hall of Fame, well that’s wrong too. It riles him up a bit when you talk about Pete. Some of these same ball fields that my dad frequented as a child, teen and young adult are still around today. My dad points them out to me whenever he can, each with its own great story.

My dad told me that he was a good ball player but his hitting wasn’t worth a shit. He needed a good coach for that. He said he was a sucker for a curve ball. Since he batted left-handed (which doesn’t make sense because he writes right-handed) he said a pitcher that knew him and his weakness for a curve ball once threw him three straight curve balls to the inside corner and he swung on each of them and struck out. He said this was a problem he could overcome, though, with the proper coaching and, of course, I believed him.

My dad said his strongest asset was as a defensive player. He said he played catcher, because at that time in Cincinnati, no one wanted to be a catcher. He said he stepped up when other people didn’t and in the process, got to be pretty darn good. He told me that Johnny Bench, and the work he would do with the Big Red Machine of the ’70s would change this. After that, he said, everyone wanted to be a catcher.

My dad said that even though his hitting was weak, he was still on the right track to be a decent, if not good professional baller. But one day, and he will tell you how stupid he is for this himself, he was taking some pitches from a warming up pitcher without his catching gear, and took a fastball to the temple.

He lapsed into a coma for three days and for 17 days after that my dad said that he didn’t know who he was or who anyone else was. He was left with permanent damage, as well as baseball threads imprinted on his skull (as the story goes) and shortly after that, he got a job at General Motors, met my mom, had my brother and then me nine years later.

I asked him to tell me the truth and if that incident changed his life and if he had any regrets by settling down thereafter. He lied to me. This I know because like I’ve been saying, the man loves baseball. He told me he has no regrets the way things worked out. So I told him that I believed him and then we talked about an outfielder that plays for the Indians with the same last name as ours, Sizemore. My dad tells me he is watching him and his numbers…

My dad has been retired from the General Motors Corporation since about 1998. His health isn’t all that good, but he has his good days and his bad days. Anytime we are out and about, he will point out different communities where ballplayers live. When we actually run into a Reds team member, whether it’s at a grocery store or restaurant or whatever, my dad always goes and talks a little game with them, and to be honest, I don’t know if its how my dad talks to them or what, but they all are really appreciative and enjoy talking to my dad. One time, when I was bowling a Reds pitcher walked in with his family and my dad got all excited and pointed out to me how this guy was suppose to be starting that night. My dad said something to the guy about it too. I know I don’t necessarily like how people tell me to do what I do best, but this guy, who I remember was with his family, came over to my dad and told him how he was just getting ready to go down to the field. My dad talked pitching with him a bit, and told him to maybe think about getting some left-handers on an inside curveball. This pitcher took time from his family to talk to my dad about the game that night.

Another time, while at a grocery store my dad pointed out to me that Dave Concepcion was in the frozen foods section with his family. So, of course I thought my dad would go up and chat it up with him but he didn’t. I asked why and my dad just got quiet and wouldn’t answer me.
Fairfield, Ohio is a suburb north of Cincinnati. That’s where I live and Joe Nuxall lives there too. I count my blessings that my dad wasn’t with me the other day when I was eating breakfast with my future father-in-law and my fiancée when old Joe walked in. I could think that the guy wouldn’t get a chance to eat his meal if my dad was around, but truthfully, Joe would have probably loved my dad, as most people do, and taken time to chat with him, which seems to be the thing when it comes to my dad and him running into baseball players.

I believed my dad that day, when I was a kid, when he claimed that he could have been the captain of the Cincinnati Reds. But now, as an adult and after writing this piece for Zisk, I can honestly say that I understand him as well as believe him.

Or maybe believe in him.

With him being my dad—the captain of The Cincinnati Reds!

Now I realize my dad loves baseball as much as life itself. The same way I enjoy writing, publishing, playing music, listening to music, doing art or taking photographs. And I’m glad that I made that compromise exactly when I did and quit being such a pompous ass and started talking about baseball as much as I can with my dad. I owe him that much for all he has done with me, and for me.

I am proud to say that I have become a fan of the Cincinnati Reds. Whereas they are definitely not the best team in baseball, they are my dad’s team. Yeah, it’s true that I tried to organize a day at the ball-park for the readers of my un-zine. I had plans to get some seats in he cheap seats, have everyone wear red, and hold up signs with sickles and hammers on them saying “WE LOVE THE REDS” but it never happened and nowadays, the new Great American Ball Park, the new home for the Cincinnati Reds, is so damn expensive to go to, I have to wait for free tickets to come along.

There is not as much room for me in the seat these days either.

If you ask him, my dad, the captain of the Cincinnati Reds, he will tell you he has been a fan of the Reds since the ’50s so he might as well stay one now, and how he played ball against Pete Rose back in the day and still thinks it is bullshit that the man isn’t in the Hall of Fame. My dad will tell you how a fast pitch to his head turned his life around, in one way or the other. How he is a fan of Adam Dunn and thinks the Reds should trade him so he could go to a club that can take him to a World Series or two. How he and I, this city, and really, the whole damn sport is awaiting a day when the Big Red Machine will run again. My dad will tell you how he invented hip-hop (amongst other glorious things) and he can even tell you how he could have been captain of the Cincinnati Reds but to me, he always was and ALWAYS shall be.

My dad, the captain of the Cincinnati Reds.

Shawn Abnoxious plays bass in The Socials, edits The Neus Subjex, has contributed to many different ’zines and was a member of the web-zine Blank Generation and the band Zero Craig. He continues to do art and take photographs and was recently included in the photo-book Where are the Kids Going Out Tonight released by Tokyo Rose Records. You can reach him at or The Neus Subjex, PO Box 18051, Fairfield, Ohio, 45018.

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