Our family tradition starts with my grandfather, Fred Seaver (1876-1942), who lived in Leominster MA. He played ball with a local sandlot team. One story is that when he married Bess Richmond he told her that summer Saturdays were reserved for the baseball game and a night out drinking with his teammates.
My father, Fred Seaver (1911-1983) grew up in Leominster and played baseball as a boy, in school, and in college before a knee injury shut him down. When he had kids, we all played in sandlot games, and my two brothers played in Little League, Pony League and Colt League, which my dad coached and managed. I kept score, pitched batting practice and coached. As we grew up, my dad rooted for the Red Sox and loved it when their game was on the radio or TV. His hero, and ours, was Ted Williams. Teddy Ballgame grew up in San Diego, and went to school with my mother for several years. She remembered going to North Park to watch his teams play high school ball. Ted went on to Boston, of ocurse, but never forgot his San Diego roots.
Being in San Diego, I grew up rooting for the San Diego Padres - my team through thick and thin. They were in the AAA Pacific Coast League until 1969, when they were an expansion major league team. My brother and I would take the bus to the games from 1953 until 1963 or so, but my father rarely took us to a game. The major league Padres didn't have a winning season until 1978, and didn't win a pennant until 1984. Our high hopes for a World Series championship were dashed in 1984 by the powerhouse Tigers, and again in 1998 by the Yankees. Linda and I have a 20-game season ticket plan, and rarely miss a game on TV.
Our girls, Lori and Tami, were born in 1974 and 1976, and grew up going to Padre games and hearing them on the radio. They went to the Padres games with us in the '80's and '90's. They played softball from age 8 through high school. They have both coached younger girls in their adult years. They are raising their children with baseball play, attending games and watching on TV. In 1985, they met and got autographs from Tony Gwynn and have cheered him all through his career.
Now our girls have children - Lori has Lucas and Logan, Tami has Lauren (Lolo). Whenever they come to San Diego, we get tickets and take the little ones. They love the excitement, the food, the music, the scoreboard, the ads, and what happens on the field is secondary right now. We had Lolo with us this last week, and her parents came and got her yesterday, but not before she went to three Padres' games this week. The tradition continues. If we continue the tradition as they get older, they will pass it on to their children and grandchildren.
We got Lolo a pink Padres shirt, taught her to cheer "Go Padres!" and taught her how to do the wave. She had a hot dog, popcorn, pretzel, and ice cream last night at the game. I'm sure the tradition will continue!
The San Diego Padres have also tried to build traditions around ballplayers and team successes. It has been difficult due to player transitions, losing seasons (decades?), and few real stars in a city that can only support a low-budget team. The Padres' mainstay for 20 years (1982-2001) was Tony Gwynn, who played right field, smashed over 3,000 hits, hit 0.394 in 1994 (the highest since Teddy Ballgame hit 0.406 in 1941), won the NL batting title 8 times, and was an NL All-Star 15 times. Tony was elected to the Hall of Fame this year, and will be inducted on July 29th in Cooperstown NY. One of Tony's heroes was Ted Williams and he escorted Ted onto the field at the All-Star Game in Boston several years ago.
We celebrated Tony's induction into the Hall of Fame last night at Petco Park - with testimonials from players and fans, a video tribute and a 9-1/2 foot statue of Tony swinging the bat. Three generations of our family were there to honor Tony and witness this event. I'm not sure that Lolo will remember much of it, but my daughter and I will. The tradition continues.
Some wise person (Yogi?) said that baseball is just like the game of life. There are emotional highs and lows, but everybody moves on to play another game. We remember the good times and forget the bad times. We honor heroes and encourage our children to emulate them. Winning is important in a competitive world, but playing fair, trying hard, and being a gracious winner are still valued in our society. The challenge for us as individuals, parents and coaches is to instill those values and enjoy the competition, but to not let it define us.
I am proud of my family, my team and my city. They all try hard, play fair within the rules, and are thriving. The baseball tradition is living and growing in all three.