Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Anyone for Baseball?

Baseball was a big part of the life of the grandfather that I never knew and the great grandfather who I knew the longest.  Both played in their youth and only my great grandfather lived to enjoy the game in during his long lifetime. 

Richard Tannahill was an athlete.  I've been told that he would run down from Webb Ridge where he lived which is over 20 miles.  I’m don’t know that he had much opportunity to participate in a high school or college athletic program – but from what I've been told, Richard was a great runner and baseball player.  When he married my grandmother in 1934, baseball became a bone of contention.  From what I understand – both individuals were exceptionally hard workers and worked long hours…however, Richard would often take time at the end of a long day and play a baseball game.  Knowing my grandmother, she could look at most of his activities such as hunting and see some value in it…I’m sure that she thought baseball was a waste of time.  I've even seen newspaper articles that talk about Richard organizing a baseball team in the Lewiston Orchards.  My mother has few memories of her father, but she did remember him often around kids and playing baseball with them.  Richard never reached the age where he could be a fan watching the game – he was killed in a hunting accident when he was 36. 

Like Richard, Granddad Gage was probably a natural athlete.  Both his parents died when he was 15, and he took his siblings west from New York to live with their maternal grandmother.  Soon after, he took off and got a job and actually joined the Army.  My uncle tells me that he actually rose in the ranks pretty quickly but he wasn't sure if that was because he was a good soldier or a good baseball player.  When he left the military, he met and married my great grandmother and soon after he had a farm and many children.  However, he would take off in the evening and go in and play baseball with his town team.  My uncle tells me about the time that he was in college trying out for the University of Idaho baseball team.  He had a good swing and could the hit the ball far.  The coach was impressed and told him so.  My uncle told him that he had remembered with the coach played as a young man back in Iowa.  The coach looked at my uncle with some surprise and proceeded to tell him a story.  The coach said that he had known a Gage back in Iowa.  He said one day they were playing a baseball game and the pitcher was having some problems.  They called in this rangy fellow from the outfield who came in and pitched seven innings and shut them down.  He was told that this Gage did this after working out in the fields all day.  My uncle told him that he remembered that game well and that that Gage was his father.

Granddad Gage moved to Lewiston, ID in the early 1950’s and took advantage of something that no other town offered him where he had lived before.  Granddad went to just about every Broncs game that he could.  When he retired, he went to every home game.  When my cousins visited from Iowa in 1957, they told me that they went to a baseball game nearly every night while visiting with Granddad.  I know that he took his grandchildren to games as well.  Everyone knew that Granddad didn't want to miss a game.  The Lewiston Broncs were a minor league baseball team that played in Lewiston from about early 1950’s to the mid 1970’s.  There were some famous players such as Reggie Jackson who played here in 1966 and Granddad would often talk about watching Reggie Jackson.  At the time, Lewiston was the smallest city in the United States to have his own professional baseball team.

So, as the World Series starts today, I will think of the grandfather I never knew and the great grandfather that I adored.  I’m not a big baseball fan, but perhaps I always pay attention to the World Series because there is a part of me that gets excited about baseball in October.  It might be in the blood!