|Cat's in the cradle ...|
By Jim Caple
Page 2 columnist
We can't all be batboys for our fathers in a major league dugout. We can't all play in a major league outfield with our old man. We can't all phone dad and ask for first-hand advice on getting drafted by the NBA.
But that doesn't mean our fathers don't play crucial roles in our sports development.
They ran out of gas driving around the block repeatedly while searching for a free parking spot rather than fork over $10 for a lot across the street from the stadium. They sneaked so many bags of peanuts into the ballpark that the ushers asked when the baby was due. They bought us tickets in the back row of the bleachers and still were able to point out so many fine details of the batter that it was like sitting next to Vin Scully.
On crisp fall Saturday mornings, they walked us across campus before the game, pointing out the buildings and humming the school fight song until it was stuck in our heads like the Oscar Mayer wiener jingle. On weekday nights, they told our mothers that we were heading right to bed, then winked and let us stay up to watch the final innings of the World Series. On Sunday afternoons, they collapsed on the couch and ordered us to get the potato chips between plays.
They bought us our first gloves, shoulder pads, caps, Air Jordans, balls and hockey sticks. They marched off 60 feet, 6 inches along the side of the house, nailed the basketball hoop to the garage, flooded the backyard for the hockey rink and installed outdoor lighting so we could play night games. They handed out so many orange wedges at soccer practice that Sunkist invited them to the annual stockholders meeting.
In short, they helped us love sports even though they grew hoarse insisting that the games and the players were better in the old days.
We can't thank them enough for that -- and considering the gifts we buy them each Fathers Day, it appears that we don't even try.
Maybe this year will be different. Maybe this year we'll find a suitable present that adequately expresses our appreciation. Maybe this year we'll find a gift that pays the smallest fraction of the debt we owe our fathers.
But probably, we'll just send a card.
In the meantime, here's a look at fathers in sports ...
Best father/son pairs:
4. Joe and Kobe Bryant. An eight-year NBA veteran, Jellybean averaged 8.7 points per game, but his biggest contribution to basketball is one of the greatest players in the game.
3. Bobby and Brett Hull. Bobby scored 610 goals and is in the Hall of Fame. Brett will join him, having scored his 700th goal this season.
2. Ken Griffey Sr. and Jr. How's this for understatement? On the back of Ken Sr.'s 1986 Topps baseball card is this gem: "Ken and his wife have two sons.''
1. Bobby and Barry Bonds. They have nearly 1,000 home runs and 1,000 stolen bases, more than 2,700 RBIs and more than 3,000 runs, more than 4,000 hits and nearly 3,000 walks. And if those totals aren't impressive enough, remember that Willie Mays is Barry's godfather. The Bonds family doesn't have a family tree. They have the entire redwoods.
John Henry Williams. It wasn't bad enough that he used his father's right hand as his personal cash machine. Or that he turned him into the world's largest Popsicle after his death. No, the worst part is the shameless way he used his father's fame to get a minor league spot last summer (when he went 0-for-6 and cracked three ribs chasing a foul ball) and in the Northern League this spring (where he went hitless and struck out five times in seven at-bats) and with yet another minor league team last week at age 34.
Worst sports fathers:
2. Marv Marinovich. Do you think Todd ever had a single moment of fun on the football field?
1. Jim Pierce. We could name any of about a dozen tennis fathers, but Pierce's relationship with his daughter, Mary, is so ugly that he is banned from watching her play and there is a restraining order preventing him from getting too close to her.
"Tiger will do more than any other man in history to change the course of humanity.... He is the bridge between East and West. There is no limit because he has the guidance. I don't know yet exactly what form this will take. But he is the Chosen One. He'll have the power to impact nations. Not people. Nations. The world is just getting a taste of his power."
Earl, by the way, said this before Tiger even met Elin Nordegren.
Most prolific father:
2. Steve Garvey. Fathered several children out of wedlock, inspiring the classic bumper sticker on San Diego freeways: "Steve Garvey is not my Padre.''
3. Deion Sanders. Prime Time named his son Deion, and his daughter Diondra.
2. Clem Haskins. The former Minnesota Gophers basketball coach named his son Clem, and his daughter Clemette.
1. George Foreman. The former champ named his five sons as if they were Georgia Bulldog mascots, calling them George Jr., George III, George IV, George V and George VI. Then for good measure, he named one of his five daughters Georgetta.
Best father/child moments:
4, Jack Nicklaus won the 1986 Masters with son, Jackie (what else?), as his caddy. When they walked up the 18th green together that Sunday, even Martha Burk would have needed a Kleenex.
3. U.S. goalie Jim Craig searched the crowd for his old man after winning the gold medal. As if a cold hockey arena hadn't provoked enough goosebumps as it was.
2. Jim Redmond helped his son across finish line in 1992 Olympics. Derek Redmond tore his hamstring in the 400 meters, collapsed to the ground, picked himself up and began hopping in pain to the finish line. His father, Jim, forced his way through the crowd and told Redmond he didn't need to finish the race. When Redmond said he did, Jim replied, "Well, then, we're going to finish this together." And they did.
1. Ken Griffey Jr. and Sr. went deep. Already the first father and son to play in the same game in major league history, the two homered in consecutive at-bats against the Angels on Sept. 14, 1990. Who said there was no crying in baseball?
Best father/child scene in a movie:
4. "Hoosiers." After Coach Dale gets ejected from another game, Shooter the town drunk is forced to take over as coach. He tells the team to run the picket fence -- "Boys, don't get caught watching that paint dry!" -- and they do to win the game on a last-second shot. Having shown nothing but shame for Shooter up to this point in the movie, his son Flatch tells him, "You did good, Pop. You did real good."
2. "Field of Dreams." Roy Kinsella (played by Kevin Costner) asks his father, suddenly returned to life on the baseball field, whether he wants to play catch. If you don't cry at this, we suggest you return to your home planet and request that the androids re-program your circuitry.
1. "The Great Santini." After losing a game of one-on-one to his son in the driveway, Robert Duvall insists you have to win by two and then follows him upstairs to his room, bouncing the basketball off the back of his head and goading him into crying. It's like spending an afternoon at the Marinovich house.
And our final category ...
Jim Caple is a senior writer for ESPN.com.