When I first started seriously watching sports on television, the people who played the games were men, larger than life, and I was just and awe-struck kid.
They seemed like giants; fit, trim and so cool in their uniforms. They would gracefully glide through a perfectly manicured outfield to make a sliding catch or reach out for a football that landed gently in their hands. Others raced up and down a basketball court, soaring through the air before dunking the ball.
It all seemed so magical, like these athletes were gods living among mere mortals and little boys who dreamed of being one of them some day.
Now, that little boy is years and years older than the athletic gods he watches these days. They no lonegr seem like gods, but just men and women who were given a gift, worked to hone their skills and turn them into a career of playing games.
Friday, one of those players passed away.
Henry Aaron, a graceful, soft-spoken home run hitter died at the age of 86. His passing was one of many over the past few months.
The baseball players I grew up marveling at, whose baseball cards I coveted, have gone away to what I really hope is a real Field of Dreams in heaven.
Aaron, Tom Seaver, Don Sutton, Joe Morgan, and many others are all gone.
I remember them, all of them, just as they were on my TV screen, their swings and windups ingrained in my memory.
Sutton was the bushy-haired pitcher, who made his mark for the Los Angeles Dodgers, but also made a stop in Oakland for my A’s toward the end of the his career.
Seaver, “Tom Terrific,” was a star for the 1969 Amazing Mets, who shocked the world by winning the championship. He had the perfect pitching motion, and worried me greatly when he faced my A’s in the 1973 World Series.
Thankfully for the younger me, we won despite Seaver’s efforts.
Morgan flapped his arm — most for the Cincinnatti Reds — like a bird, and was one of the best to ever play.
But Aaron, “Hammerin’ Hank” was the king, and even though the stats say Barry Bonds has the career record for most career home runs, to me, Aaron is No. 1 because he played without steroids.
I remember before the 1973 baseball season walking into a store with my parents, maybe Gambles, and there were Hank Aaron folders and notebooks, and I had to have them. It was to become the season he would pass Babe Ruth’s record of 714 career homers, and I was excited.
I was going to support Hank by buying school supplies with his picture on them, and the season was going to be amazing.
On national television, Hank lined an Al Downing pitch over the left-centerfield wall. I watched the ball sail out of the park and Hank run the bases. Fans jumped out of the stands to congratulate him as he made it around the bases, and he brushed them off.
His fans and mom and dad greeted him near home plate, and it was a baseball moment that will forever be etched in my memory.
Now, he is gone. As they say, time is undefeated and catches up to all of us. It doesn’t necessarily make me feel old, but it is proof time marches on, and even the baseball gods have to take one final bow.
Patrick Murphy, editor-publisher of the Humphrey Democrat and Newman Grove Reporter in Nebraska, is a former assistant managing editor at The Telegram.