Tuesday, October 11, 2011

A farewell to my father

Ben Thoma and little Eddie, circa 1958.
My father died Monday evening. This is a baseball blog, and I'll write a little bit about him, me and the game, but the truth is that connecting Ben Thoma to baseball is a stretch.

He was a biology instructor at the community college in Willmar during the school year and the park naturalist at Itasca State Park during the summer. He spent much of his adult life connecting people to the world of nature. He had little time or inclination for what he called "jock-like behavior," and whatever affinity he felt toward baseball was almost certainly linked to his eldest son's obsession with the game.

(Dad wasn't a fan; his mother was. Woe betide the grandson who interrupted Hildegard Thoma's enjoyment of Halsey Hall's broadcasts.)

Baseball and dad: I remember his 1940s glove, a relic of his youth that he used to play catch with his boys, a pancake that required two hands to catch the ball. When I imagine baseball in the 1940s and earlier, it's Dad's glove that informs that vision. Why are there no .400 hitters any more? One reason is that the gloves of the past half-century allow more catches.

I remember, too, a Twins game the family attended in the early 1970s and how my father somehow struck up a lengthy conversation with a vendor. It may have been a multi-piece talk, with the conversation resuming whenever the vendor's route led him past our seats. My brothers and I came home from the game talking about the plays; Dad came home with the story of the Griffith family, how Calvin Griffith and his siblings were taken in by Clark Griffith. Calvin and a sister were formally adopted; the others were not, but they were all involved in running the Twins, and one of Calvin's brothers ran the concession operations. How dad elicited the vendor's stories about Jimmy Robertson (or the details of those stories) are lost in the mists of my memory, but I know he got more enjoyment out of talking with that vendor than from the game itself.


  1. Ed,

    My condolences on the passing of your father. I am a few years older than you, and I lost my father about three years ago. I miss him and miss taking him to the occasional game as I had done for several years before his passing.

    My thoughts are with you.

    Mike (a Twins fan living near Chicago)

  2. My thoughts and prayers are with you, Ed

  3. You and your family have my thoughts, prayers and condolences, Ed.

    I lost my own father almost exactly 20 years ago (during the Twins/Braves WS, as a matter of fact) and not a day goes by that I don't recall some terrific memories.

    Keep him in your heart and you will never be alone.

  4. Ed,
    Your dad was a good uncle and good human being.
    We'll miss him.
    take care, we'll see you soon
    John Heille

  5. Thank you for telling us of this, Ed. My condolences. In the midst of the sadness, sometimes it can be a good time to experience the particular humor you share as a family, and I hope there is some comfort in that.

    My father passed away last year. Not having grown up in America, he knew nothing of baseball. Nor did we grow up anywhere near the Twin Cities, but he did his best to show some interest in our obsessions. He would ask, “So how is ‘Ron’ Carew?”

  6. You are in my thoughts and prayers, Ed.

    Your baseball remembrance of your dad may not seem too important, but it adds an important piece to the tapestry that is baseball, because baseball isn't just about the game.

    God bless.