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Chris Graham: A chance to relive summer nights with my grandparents

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(© Sean Gladwell – stock.adobe.com)

My grandparents died forever ago, but I’m about to do something fun in their memory with their help.

It’s taken until the past couple of weeks for their estate to be settled. I’m not going to go into detail on why, except to say, people sure do seem to be silly when it comes to relatively small amounts of other people’s money.

The bottom line for me is that I’ll be getting a small amount of money from my grandparents, and I’ve decided to have a little bit of fun with it.

The inspiration is the story of legendary UNC basketball coach Dean Smith, who upon his passing left each of his former players $200 with the instruction to “enjoy a dinner out compliments of Coach Smith.”

My grandfather was a hardcore baseball fan, and I was fortunate to be able to spend a lot of my weekends watching baseball with him growing up, which is a nice way of saying, my grandparents were gracious enough to open up their home to my sister and me so that my parents, after their divorce, could spend time with their new people.

It was Granddad’s stories to me about Joe DiMaggio and Mickey Mantle that impelled me to buy replica jerseys that hang in my podcast room/man cave in their honor.

(I’m not a Yankees fan. Not even close. That didn’t pass down.)

Granddad loved to tell stories about packing the kids in the station wagon to take them to see the Philadelphia A’s take on the Yankees, the Boston Red Sox, whoever was in town, back when the family lived in Lancaster, Pa.

I never did get the Yankees love from a guy who grew up near Philly, except that both of the Philly teams were god-awful back then.

In his memory, then, I’m packing myself and the missus – we don’t have any kids – into the closest thing we have to a station wagon – our Jeep – to see the Nats play.

And I’m going to get the good tickets – behind home plate.

I’ve only been behind home plate for an MLB game once, back in the mid-‘90s.

Crystal has never been.

We were guests of a friend who had reserved a luxury box at an O’s game once several years ago.

We had the time of our lives.

My grandmother was a big sports fan, too, enough that I’m well aware that she’s going to haunt me for doing anything inspired by Dean Smith.

She hated Dean Smith. Hated Coach K even more.

Thought they were both weasels.

She almost couldn’t bear to watch Virginia games, especially when the ‘Hoos were playing either UNC or Duke.

She’d sit in the kitchen and have one of us come in towards the end if Virginia was about to put the game away, and even then, she’d get … salty.

I’ll see if I can persuade Crystal to wear one or the other of my DiMaggio and Mantle jerseys with me.

My grandmother will want to haunt me for that one, too. Her husband of 67 years was from up north, but Granny was, while a reconstructed southerner, still of the mindset to refer to Granddad as a “Damn Yankee” on a moment’s notice.

Even so.

I miss them dearly, more than I can possibly put into words.

So, for one night, in their memory, I’ll be a Yankees fan in Nats Park, sitting behind home plate, pointing to the sky, a kid again, for nine innings.

Story by Chris Graham

Chris Graham

Chris Graham

Chris Graham, the king of "fringe media," is the founder and editor of Augusta Free Press. A 1994 alum of the University of Virginia, Chris is the author and co-author of seven books, including Poverty of Imagination, a memoir published in 2019, and Team of Destiny: Inside Virginia Basketball’s Run to the 2019 National Championship, and The Worst Wrestling Pay-Per-View Ever, published in 2018. For his commentaries on news, sports and politics, go to his YouTube page, or subscribe to his Street Knowledge podcast. Email Chris at [email protected].