A father, a son and a lifelong baseball bond

Courtesy of Jim Caple

This will be a difficult Father's Day because I won't spend it the traditional way, watching the Mariners with my dad and talking about yet another disappointing season in Seattle.

My father and I talked about baseball and the Mariners all the time, including the last time we spoke. The night after Christmas, Dad talked at length about Seattle pitcher Erasmo Ramirez. No surprise. Ramirez was part of virtually every conversation we had the last two years. While Ramirez had been inconsistent, Dad firmly believed he still had as much potential as Seattle's Big Three of Danny Hultzen, James Paxton and Taijuan Walker, and was younger -- Ramirez just turned 25 -- than all but Walker. Dad just couldn't understand why the Mariners so undervalued Ramirez.*

My father passed away the night after that conversation. His passing was inevitable. He was 92 with congestive heart failure. If that hadn't killed him, the Mariners trading Ramirez at the end of spring training certainly would have.

Dad had been a passionate baseball fan since his boyhood during in the Depression. His father, William Roy, struggled for work while his mother, Mae, suffered from severe asthma. One day, when Dad was 11, he was concerned about his mother's health and thought he should stay home with her rather than go play a baseball game. She insisted that he go play baseball as planned and win the game for her.

He did, but when he returned home, he found that his mother had died.

Life was not easy for Dad, or most of his generation. Midway through college, at 21, he was called to serve during World War II, flying hazardous missions over Europe as a B-24 navigator. There was no heat in the bomber, and temperatures inside could sink to 30 below zero. Casualty rates were high. In addition to the threat of Germans shooting them down, a bomber exploded on the ground the morning after my father arrived at the base. They still were picking up body parts days later.

And I complain about the lack of leg room on my flight to cover a World Series game?

As tough as life was at times, Dad always had baseball. He especially loved listening to games on the radio, from Leo Lassen, voice of the old Seattle Rainiers, to Dave Niehaus, the first voice of the Mariners. He would turn up the radio in the family room whenever something interesting happened, driving my mother crazy while she tried to watch TV.

Dad coached my Little League teams, took me to ballgames, brought me to the library several nights a week to read the out-of-town sports sections and let me stay up late listening to games. (Or at least he pretended not to hear me tuning into games on the transistor radio hidden under my pillow.)

He also might have started the Caple family down the sportswriting path. My sister Margaret tells me he wrote a letter to the local newspaper in the mid-1950s stating the country should take a lesson from Jackie Robinson and hire more African-Americans and show they were just as able as whites -- that people are equal and should be treated as such. That made him the first in our family to write about baseball in a newspaper, but not the last. In addition to me, his grandson (and my nephew) Christian Caple is a sportswriter for the Tacoma News Tribune.

When the Mariners printed their media guide each spring, I would give one to Dad and he would page through it every day until it was as worn as his WWII mission log. He loved those guides, keeping them by his bedside and the radio. Tears welled up in my eyes when I got this year's media guide, knowing that Dad was no longer there to enjoy it.

While sorting out Dad's possessions with my siblings, I saved a "My Oh My!'' placard that Niehaus signed for him, along with the radio he kept by his bed so he could listen to the Mariners games. I keep the radio in my garage so I can tune in while riding my stationary bike. I think of my father, how he passed his baseball passion along to me and how that played a crucial role in my career and life. I asked my wife out on our first date at the Metrodome while I was covering the Twins.

And while I listen, I know he is up there telling St. Peter and everyone else that Seattle never should have traded Ramirez.

*Ramirez is 6-1 with a 2.52 ERA in his past seven starts for Tampa Bay. Meanwhile, Paxton is hurt again and Hultzen is still in the minors.