When I was in elementary school, my Mom married a chap I called Fred Fred—because his name was alFRED FREDrick. (He never asked me to call him “Dad” or any other such nonsense.) But to his face I called him Mr. Davis—the entire time he lived in our house.
Fred Fred was an OK sort. But as I mentioned before when I first started blogging, there isn’t a kid in the world that would rather have a step-parent than the real one.
But there’s one area that Fred Fred outshined my parental units—he loved baseball.
He was an exec with a steel company, and as such, had access to season tickets to the L.A. Dodgers. The seats were located right behind the Dodgers’ dugout. (That was enough to let him live in our house!)
I loved going to the ballpark. Back then we called it Chavez Ravine. (The Beatles played there!) I loved the ride in Fred Fred‘s Cadillac to a destination that seemed so far far away (Orange County to LA). I loved the food, especially the Cracker Jacks, as under ordinary circumstances I was not allowed to have them (the sugar thing).
My Mom never wanted to go to the games so Fred Fred was stuck with me! (Even on a school night!)
One time Fred Fred bought me a Dodgers hat. It was not a baseball cap. It was a blue alpine hat—with a giant feather on the side and Los Angeles Dodgers embroidered on it.
I used to wear it to school and my classmates made fun of it. Didn’t bother me a bit. I thought, “O ye of so little coolness!” Besides, they weren’t going to games like I was. I got to see UP CLOSE Drysdale, Koufax, Wills, Fairly, Gilliam, Lefebvre, and Moon.
My favorites were Tommy and Willie Davis because I got a kick out of the fact that I was going to the game with Mr. Davis and cheering for other Davis people. I used to tease Fred Fred (a very white prim-and-proper German). “Are you shuuuure you’re not related to Tommy and Willie Davis?” Tee hee hee…
Fred Fred liked to get to the stadium early and watch batting practice and the players warming up. So did I. We were so close to the field that I would holler to the players and swing my arms like a human windmill. They would WAVE BACK AT ME! WOW.
I loved the Dodgers (and playing softball at school) so much that the nickname given to me in a class directory was “Sports Fan.” Rosalie’s was “The Brain.” I would have rather have had her name, but nothing wrong with “Sport’s Fan.” It was way better than my friend Patty’s—“The Worrier.” (Funny, but she didn’t mind it, as she knew it suited her.)
In August 1965 the Watts Riots erupted in L.A.—as the result of a routine traffic stop—and as a result of the 1964 Civil Rights Act and the on-going racism in California. (34 dead, 1000+ injured, 3000+ arrested, 600 buildings destroyed)
I was too young to understand the “why” behind this event and the ramifications. No one explained anything to me.
I attended a Dodgers game shortly after the rioting. My Mom thought it wasn’t a good idea. Mr. Davis would not hear of it (TG) and he and I went anyway.
As usual, we sat behind the dugout. But something was NOT usual about the ballpark that day. It was weirdly quiet. There was no excitement in the air. There was no fun and frolic atmosphere. Even as a youngster I picked up on the gloominess.
It didn’t matter to me if everyone else was bummed out. During the pre-game practicing, I continued my usual routine of hollering and waving at the players.
But it was different this time. None of the players responded. None turned to look at me. NO ONE waved back. I was the only kid yelling at the players that day. I couldn’t figure out why I was being ignored.
Fred Fred nudged me and said something like maybe I should just sit still. (When did that ever work?)
“Hey, Willie, hey Willie!”
“Hi, Willie. Over here. Hi, Willie!”
FINALLY another player (I don’t remember who but I was close enough to hear perfectly) said, “Willie, she’s just a LITTLE GIRL.”
Willie (24 years old at the time) looked in my direction and spotted me. (Hard to miss in the dorky alpine hat.) I waved and smiled my biggest smile ever. He hesitated for a second. Then he gave me a slight wave—and went back to throwing the ball around.
To this day it makes me sad that racism polluted baseball that day—and throughout baseball history and beyond.
The Dodgers lost to the Pirates. Oh well, can’t win ’em all. (But the Dodgers did win the World Series that year, 4-3 against the Twins.)
Mr. Willie Davis was an incredible player. He had fantastic lifetime stats. He played 19 years in the Majors. His last year in 1979 was with my beloved Angels.
Mr. Willie Davis was a true sportsman. Like with me, I’m sure he was a hero to countless baseball fans. I used to think that since I was sort of related to Mr. Fred Fred Davis, that maybe I was sort of related to Mr. Willie Davis. (I am forever trying to ingratiate myself into a different family.)
Mr. Willie Davis died earlier this year. I have wanted to write about him ever since.
So to you, Mr. Willie Davis, this one’s for YOU!
Thanks to you and the other Mr. Davis for the great memories at the ballpark.