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Cigars in the outfield

Recollections of unwavering support and a father and son yelling at the tube

July 6, 2012
B.J. LISKO - Salem News Sports Editor ( , Salem News

It's fitting the absolute very first memory I can recall has to do with sports. My father, brother and I were playing baseball in the yard. I was around four years old and I remember slugging a tennis ball with an Easton Ultra Light aluminum bat - one of probably a dozen such bats my dad would buy for my brother and I during our childhood and adolescence.

Many of my childhood memories revolve around my father and sports - baseball specifically. "Swing level," my dad would say. "Don't pull your head out. Hit it the other way."

Even when my dad was working, it was still baseball all the time. Whether my brother and I fought in the yard over one-on-one games of wiffle ball and which "ghost runners" were out or safe, or me pretending to be in the major leagues pitching that tennis ball off the garage door for hours on end - we pretty much spent all our time practicing the lessons he taught us.

The constant thudding of balls hitting the garage I'm sure was an annoyance to half the neighborhood, but I was far too busy winning the World Series to care about whether anyone was trying to sleep in on the weekend.

I think my dad thought it was funny. Especially when same said neighbors blared music at full volume, yelled at their own kids or their pet goat got loose and terrorized the lawn. (To this day, I still don't understand the origins of that goat).

Sports were king at our house. When we weren't playing them, we'd watch them. The Indians, the Browns, Ohio State and without question the Reds and Cardinals if they were actually televised as we tried to catch glimpses of Eric Davis and Ozzie Smith, our favorite players who eventually we would actually meet as kids thanks to our parents.

Everyone has early memories in their collective consciousness, and for one reason or another certain ones really stand out.

Whether he was buying us packs and packs of baseball cards or watching us play little league, Babe Ruth and high school games from far away from other parents in the outfield smoking a cigar, my dad's undying support for my mother, my brother and I absolutely taught me to persevere no matter what hurdle might stand in the way.

And boy did we have fun watching television together.

When Ohio State played Miami for the BCS Championship in 2003, my dad and I rejoiced as one of our teams finally won it all (I was once an Ohio State football fan believe it or not). We yelled at the television for hours, second guessed practically every play call and both nearly hit the ceiling when Ken Dorsey's pass fell incomplete under pressure from OSU's Cie Grant to give the Buckeyes the victory.

On the flip side of that, we also watched later that same year when Browns quarterback Kelly Holcomb torch the Pittsburgh Steelers again and again and again en route to a playoff regulation record 429 yards. Of course, all Browns fans know how the story ends, and when the final seconds ticked off the clock my father and I said absolutely nothing - the first moments in more than three hours we weren't cussing at the tube. My mom strategically avoided the front lines that afternoon. Afterward, I quietly stood up, left the house and we've never spoken about it since.

It's impossible to put into print in one article all the memories I have and all the lessons I've learned and continue to learn from my father and mother.

My dad turned 60 this week. Wednesday afternoon when my brother, his wife and son arrived into town to celebrate his birthday, hanging out at my parents house it dawned on me it won't be long before my nephew is the one with a bat in his hand knocking tennis balls into the weeds at my parents' house with us all telling him the same lessons our dad told us. I can't wait.

Happy birthday, dad. Here's to another 60.

E-mail B.J. Lisko at



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