Friday, October 19, 2012

DAD, LET'S CHECK THE RECORD

AS A 10-YEAR-OLD, I WOULD'VE CAUGHT A BUZZ
STARING AT THIS COVER.
I WOULD'VE TREATED THIS AS A GIANT BASEBALL CARD.
I went to an antiques and collectibles show with my wife last weekend. I don't go to too many of these things because I rarely find any sports collectibles worth buying.

I did find a couple neat things this time: Two MLB Players Voice of the Professionals record albums featuring Brooks Robinson and Ernie Banks.

Robinson's Theory of Fielding and Banks' Theory of Hitting were both mine for $5. I just listened to my hero prattle on to interviewer Len Johnson for about 45 minutes on the finer points of defense.

Let's just say if I would've had this record when it came out in 1972, when I was 10, I would've worn it out in a week. And it would've created a riff with my dad.

Not because of playing it loudly, which I would've, but because some of Brooks' advice ran counter to Dad's extensive sandlot experience.

I think I would've sided with the multi-time Gold Glover, as much as I respected Dad.

In his down-home folksy way, Brooks covers just about everything a 10-year-old boy who fancied himself as a future major-leaguer would want to know about defense. I would've considered this my personal road map to the majors.

And a potential wedge between Dad and I. 

"Why you listening to this junk from that punk?'' he might've said. "You trying to tell me he knows more about playing the infield than Pie Traynor?''

It's that kind of comment that would've made me run away from home and join the Orioles.

Because I was middle infielder, Brooks telling me about picking a glove that's not too big would've been an eye-opener -- and dismissed by Dad -- who believed bigger was better. Brooks says your glove should fit like, well, a glove.

My Sears Ted Williams model glove fit -- and looked -- like a cesta.

Also, Brooks said to oil your glove sparingly and that some models might not need any. Under Dad's orders, mine was soaked in a vat for a week after purchase and subsequently oiled at least a few times a year. Our two cars and all the lawn equipment put together were lubricated less.

Brooks' advice on getting in your set position before the ball's hit? Glove low, weight on the balls of your feet. 

Dad's?

Hands on knees, weight evenly distributed.

They did agree on practicing fielding as much as hitting and working your weaknesses more than your strengths. Brooks said his backhand was a weakness. Funny, if you saw him in the '70 World Series, you'd never know. Obviously, he practiced what he preached.

Despite their contradictory advice, I doubt Brooks and Dad could've ever turned me into a professional. But they did help me appreciate the game and the skill it takes to play it.

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