Links to our lives

I just learned the young lady to whom my family gave our first college scholarship has earned her degree. I got chills at the news. The best kind.

It isn’t like we funded her education, only a small part of it. Very small. But the thought that drove our modest gesture was to honor our father and mother, who lived and worked and contributed to the same little suburban-Philadelphia town their whole lives. My sister, brother and I, and our spouses, four years ago started a memorial fund in their names – Theodore and Dorothy. Dorie and Dottie. And each June we have awarded it to a student at our old high school who volunteers in some fashion and who, in a short essay, best explains how community service has impacted or otherwise changed their life.

We’ll get about 10 or 12 essays every spring. It is an honor to know those 10 or 12 have read a bit about my parents and their numerous contributions to their hometown. American Legion commander. July 4th committee president. Election official. Church choir singer and board secretary. Youth club founder. On and on. Each has been gone more than a decade, but their lives remain a local presence still with a bit of influence.

That’s gratifying, as it is to be able to help a young person in my parents’ mold to extend their own influence while tending to their own aspirations.

Our fifth winner will be announced Thursday night at the school’s awards assembly. We don’t yet know their identity, only their impressive credentials. But we do know the skip in our hearts, and the touch of moisture in our eyes, we will feel when that name is revealed.

It happens every year. For me, it heralds the bond that instantly forms, a lasting link from my life’s heroes to a young life full of hope and promise.

Truly, a chilly moment. The best kind.

Sifting through turned pages


  • The year my late father would have hit 100. We lost him 15 years ago, but most days something about him pops into my head – an image or a favorite phrase or a memory of a moment. My late mom turns up in there, too — she’d be 95 in May. That’s a great thing the way I see it. It means good memories from a strong, loving relationship. I know the latter where parents and kids are concerned is pretty much case by case, so I count myself very fortunate.
  • 40 years now since I took my first real job, as a sports writer in Norfolk. Actually, the first assignment kept me 10 months in Suffolk, covering high school sports, tractor pulls, recreation softball and who-knows-what-all. Rural is as rural does. No doubt it was a great education for a total know-nothing from the Philly burbs. I owe a couple of people big-time for the job. They know who they are. Went on and on at that paper for 31 years. Much of it was flush times, amazing to think about in today’s distressed terrain of “legacy” media. We had money, we did things, I got to do my own column and travel and call most of my own shots for a long while, for a wage liveable enough to raise two kids. A pretty good way to go.
  • Five years since I lucked into marrying the spectacular Deelyn. We met through a friend, as we were dealing with a bunch of stuff we’ve helped each other through. She said “Yes” in the Eiffel Tower. My, how we’ve grown. My, the things we’ve been blessed to do together – travel, pursue running and life-changing fitness, create a warm home with dogs and cats and laughter and chaos. And to enjoy improved physical and mental health unquestionably through eliminating meat from our diet. Forgive my few seconds here on the soapbox. I know going veg and/or vegan isn’t for everybody – though you don’t know till you try – but for us it has been magic. Happy fifth right around the corner, my dear.
  • The 32nd year for my oldest, the 29th for my youngest. Which makes their dad, well, we’ll get to that. These kids are the damn best; how’s that for original dad-praise? The girl became a loyal Californian — San Francisco, to be exact — almost a decade ago; the boy a mountains-loving Coloradan not long after. You raise them to fly and they flew; what’s to be sad about that? I like to think an image, a favorite phrase or a memory of a moment with me pops into their heads from time to time. Maybe even daily. That would make heading into my 65th year an even more wonderful thing.

Fair winds, old friends

This is a difficult day in the life of local media and in the life of many former colleagues. They have met their fate, as did I five-plus years ago, in the form of a buyout from a once-great newspaper cut and slashed to not even a husk of its recognizable self.

An empty office, on an empty day . . .

I share their ache as they pass bittersweet texts and photos along a digital chain of tears on their day of departure.

For many, probably most, there is pain certainly, especially for those to whom it was suggested leaving was in their best interest. But somewhere buried there — and they slowly show their faces over time — are the best memories of working lives that paid for homes and college educations, careers that nurtured and thrilled, and of relationships formed and solidified, indelible to all forces.

It was the very best of times; in its prime, our mothership had money, abundant and staggering talent, ambition, local, state and national reputation, creativity, empathy and bottomless fortitude.

It has become the worst of times; skeletal resources, thin reserves, ceaselessly spinning exit doors, dreaded goodbyes.

It’s empty, I’m well aware, but I wish my friends fair seas — even as their brains are a clutter of emotion, trepidation, hope, fear, excitement and gratitude. It’s a hell of a combo platter. The business is in their blood. The rush of grinding today and seeing the fruit of their labor anchored in print first thing tomorrow — or ok, immediately online — remains in all of them. It is like few others they have known, and that they will ever know again.

They have served themselves and their families and their community well beyond words. Damn those who seek to sully their life’s work with rabid attacks and false narratives. Damn the tides, and derelict vision of leadership, that have created the roiling sea changes that continue unabated.

This is a difficult day. But know, my friends, that there are great things for you all ahead, because ambition, intelligence, diligence, humanity and grace are perennials. They travel well. They are in short supply.

So count your blessings. Look forward. And be well-pleased with the footprint you’ve left with your collective years, because it is true. It is real. And it is permanent.

Reading not even the fine print

Team of Rivals cover.jpg

This is a fine book about Abraham Lincoln and the political competitors he employed in his cabinet as our 16th president. And Doris Kearns Goodwin is a great historian, a Pulitzer Prize winner for another book about Franklin and Eleanor Roosevelt.

But I’ve cracked it open at least twice, put it down, picked it back up, fished around at different ends looking for an interesting bite, and ultimately shut it up and put it back down.

Embarrassed to say it, I can’t get into its 757-page travels, not including a voluminous index.

This bothers me, though. I like to think I am attracted to and can absorb this kind of dive into U.S. history. I like to think I want to know more about Lincoln, the civil war, all the challenges of his life and times. I like to think all that, but when eyeball meets page with this one, it just hasn’t stayed there long.

Which I’ve determined is really nothing against the book and everything about my scattershot and depressing reading habits. Because now that I come to think of it, a biography of Truman bought long ago sits in a box somewhere, barely touched. Same, I think, for the aforementioned Roosevelt book by the same author, No Ordinary Time, although I might have tossed that one in the move, I don’t remember.

Sigh. I chalk it up to too much stimulation, too many options, of course, and too much life in the way — not lack of interest or motivation, oh noooo. Too much to read and rabbit holes to explore on the infernal YouTube. So much within such easy access now, so many newspapers and magazines and web stories — long reads, deep dives, New Yorker profiles that go on and on for days — to scramble a brain and scrap every good intention to, classically, be better well read.

It’s enough for me to just get through a skim of the Wall Street Journal during breakfast many days, maybe follow an interesting Twitter link for a quick sports, entertainment or politics read later on, and if I’m lucky knock out a few pages of whatever actual printed book I might have designs on “finishing,” haha.

I don’t like it, but it seems it’s the current state of Laissez-faire that not even the starburst of a New Year’s resolution is up to reversing. That is to say, honest, earnest, team-inspiring Abe is heading back to the library tomorrow.

In my heart, I believe I’ll catch up with him another time, although the big fella shouldn’t call me. I’ll call him.

Born to . . . get this old

I remember as a kid, learning I shared a birthday with Lucille Ball. Lucille Ball is one of the all-time greats. I thought that was kind of cool. 

I have other “famous” shares: Andy Warhol. NBA Hall of Famer David Robinson (no relation, haha). Former First Lady Edith Roosevelt. Is that a typo? No. Edith (not Eleanor) was the second wife of Teddy Roosevelt, but she was First Lady from 1901 to 1909.

August 6 is most famous, though, for the atomic bombing of Hiroshima in 1945, the first use of the weapon, long before I was a gleam in anybody’s eye. (Nagasaki was nuked a few days later.) There’s little doubt that makes August 6 among the most infamous dates in world history. So, as Caddyshack’s Carl Spackler says, I’ve got that going for me.

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is 1920px-AtomicEffects-Hiroshima-1024x1024.jpg

However it was calculated, and the estimate changed over the years, Hiroshima’s death toll was around 170,000, split roughly among those who died immediately and those who eventually died from the radioactive exposure.

On that pleasant note, here’s some other stuff that happened on this date, both in the olden days and while I was busy aging into the debacle you see before you: 

  • The Constitutional Convention began debating the first draft of the Constitution in Philadelphia in 1787. I am born in the same city less than two centuries later. 
  • Henry Sullivan of Massachusetts in 1923 becomes the first American, and third person overall, to swim the English Channel. He completed his 27 ½ hour journey the night of the 6th in Calais, France. 
  • I guess there was something in the water because, oddly, three years later to the day, Gertrude Ederle, 20, of New York became the first woman to swim the Channel. It took her 14 hours and 34 minutes, swimming from France to England. New York City threw her a ticker-tape parade. I swim a mile in a river or lake to start a triathlon. No parades are forthcoming.
  • And then . . . ! Marcus Hooper became the youngest person, till that time, to swim the same damn Channel in 1979. He was 12. This Channel fixation with Aug. 6 is weird. 
  • A cool baseball thing here, ‘cause I love cool baseball things: Denton True “Cy” Young made his big-league debut on Aug. 6, 1890. 1890, people! Pitching for the Cleveland Spiders, Young three-hit the Chicago Cubs for the first of his 511 career victories. The Cy Young award has gone annually to the best pitchers in baseball since 1956. Young died in ’55.

  • The Beatles’ album “Help,” the group’s fifth, was released in the United Kingdom in 1965. It included “Ticket to Ride,” “Hide Your Love Away,” the title track and “Yesterday,” by any and all accounts one of the greatest pop songs of all time. I don’t know, but I’d guess that, with Paul McCartney still touring at 77, “Yesterday” has to be the most performed song in the history of recorded sound. Who’s with me? 
  • Speaking of great music, when Jon Stewart did his last “Daily Show” four years ago today, the final guest was a surprise. Stewart said a poignant thank you and farewell from his desk, then the camera shifted to Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band, unannounced, ready to crank up to full throttle. They played Stewart off the air with “Born to Run” as the floor in front of the band became a huge dance party for Stewart and his staff.

That was boss.

A passing, and a lasting moment in time

I hate that this will make consecutive posts, albeit two months apart, about death. But I feel moved to comment briefly on the passing of Joe Miller, a college baseball teammate of mine at Widener University a very long time ago. 

Joe, who recently died in Florida at age 64,  was the son of my Widener coach Harry Miller, a legend in amateur baseball in Delaware County outside Philadelphia. The Millers were a rich baseball family, and Joe was a good enough outfielder and hitter out of high school to go play Division I ball in North Carolina. Later, he was a draft pick of the Houston Astros and played in the minors.

But by the time I got to Widener, a small Division III program, as a freshman for the 1977 season, Joe had transferred in to play for his dad. I only got to play with him that one year, but what I saw in Joe upon meeting and watching him immediately shocked me into the reality that I’d better get to work. Because if men of his caliber – and he was a strapping specimen – were what I was going to encounter in Division III, I could get swallowed up if I didn’t knuckle down. 

Work ethic turned out to not be a problem; I wanted to play pro baseball, and I became a gym and fieldhouse batting-cage rat. Trying to become as good as Joe Miller was motivation, ultimately unfulfilled, but the effort alone helped me become a four-year starter and a 14th-round draft choice of the L.A. Dodgers after my senior season.

I’m proud of those latter achievements. But I still marvel at how good that first Widener team was, with my skinny butt at second base surrounded by Joe and a slew of upperclassmen I knew I couldn’t let down. 

I (mostly) did not . . . but the memories of that season are still flavored with  angst, as happens in sports, or hell, everywhere in life. 

We, the Pioneers, won our conference and actually entered that ’77 postseason as the top-ranked squad in Division III. Our regional tournament, for the chance to reach the D-III World Series, was held in Wooster, Ohio over the Memorial Day weekend. We practiced before piling into our vans for the long drive from Chester, Pa., and a bad-hop ground ball broke my nose toward the end of that practice. 

I got it immediately set by a local doctor – I still shudder at the ridiculous crunch of cartilage as he pressed it back into place. They stuffed my nose with cotton, and gave me a little taped-on protective guard to use while sleeping and playing.

And yep, we played well. I think we lost our second game in the double-elimination tourney, but we won our way back to where we and Marietta of Ohio, a D-III power at the time, were the lone survivors. That meant we’d have to win twice on the final day to advance.

With the looming presence of Joe Miller in center field, we took care of job one, the first victory. But when the second game was tied in extra innings as dusk approached, on a field without lights, the umpires suspended play. I remember us and our fans/parents loudly protesting that decision — we felt the momentum was ours. But we were ordered to return the next morning, Memorial Day, to decide the game.

I remember making an error somewhere in that second game that helped Marietta tie the score. That felt bad. I felt worse when, in the bottom of that first restarted inning, we gave up a home run and lost the game. I collapsed into the arms of our first baseman, also a departing senior, even before we left the field.

I write all this to say Joe Miller, who went on to make a career of mentoring troubled youth and addicts, and those first college teammates obviously had an indelible impact on me. They helped set the course of my ensuing years as a developing athlete and baseball player.

In that context, it was surreal for me to see Joe’s obituary, and sad to learn Harry and Doris, still alive and living in Florida, now have to bear the pain of outliving their son.

I honor Joe’s memory and the too few days I spent in his orbit. 

The time gone by

Yep, I still have this blog. I’ve ignored it, which I hate, and which also is ironic because I’ve had more to write about in the last few months than probably the last couple years combined. Here’s the update, for those of you keeping score of my life, ha.

Sold house. Moved to Williamsburg. Traveled through (another) part of Europe. Got engaged in the Eiffel Tower, you bet. Traveled to Vancouver. Ran a triathlon in Boulder, Co. and visited my awesome Coloradan son. Helped my then-fiance, the incredible Dee, pack up and move to a great, new house the next street over. Carted so much to the dump. Kept a slew of local tradesmen in business at the old house due to cracked pipes, no heat, drywall and paint needs, electricians for swapping out light fixtures. Ch-ching ch-ching. Fell down a slick dog ramp one frozen, oh-dark-30 morning. Took my breath away. Felt lucky I didn’t get a concussion or worse. And oh yeah, got married before about 160 family and great, great friends two weeks ago.

Hired one of the best party bands I’ve ever seen, BJ Griffin and the Galaxy Groove, out of Virginia Beach, and threw one of the best wedding parties I and many of our guests had ever seen. BJ even let me sing a song with the boys (and lady). Jesus, was that a blast! Thank you, thank you, thank you, BJ.

Got hammered at the after party, endured a bleh-bleh drive to Richmond early the next morning, but totally enjoyed our first trip to an all-inclusive Mexican resort in Playa del Carmen. A note on that: until late in our trip, we had NO idea a ferry in Playa del Carmen had recently been bombed and that cautionary bulletins were issued about being careful in PDC. Glad we didn’t know, for sure. Ignorance totally contributed to our bliss.

All around that, I got to write some very cool stories, among them: a Q&A with golfer Marc Leishman, a piece on the PGA Tour Champions coming to Richmond, a feature on three Eastern Shore artists – MamaGirl Onley, Moe Spector and Clarence “Black Elvis” Giddens — that I loved.

Now, we’re into high school baseball, where as a head JV coach I’m trying to wrangle some semblance of baseball skills from a group of kids with a wiiiiiide range of ability, to say the least.

God, am I lucky. Touched. Blessed. Grateful – to be loved, to love, to parent, to coach, to write, learn, live and run.

Ain’t it all grand?

Why yes. Yes, it is.





The layover

Way back in the day, when men were men and newspapers minted money, I’d fly a lot for work. Many times, I would intentionally route myself from Virginia through Philadelphia with a longish layover, two hours or more.

I grew up in a house about 10 minutes from the Philly airport, the home my parents lived in until about 10 years ago. I’d give them a heads-up when I’d be coming through town, and dad – mom never learned how to drive – would meet me outside the terminal, behind the wheel. I’d pile in to the little green Escort wagon and we’d be off for the house, a quick lunch and a great and timely visit before the dash back to my connection.

I am thinking of all of this now as I sit in the Philadelphia airport, an hour from boarding a connection to San Francisco, one of my top-five places to visit. That could be because my daughter lives there now, although I think it was in the top five anyway. Nonetheless, I haven’t seen her since February, so I plan to royally enjoy the next four days in the Bay Area. Catching up, hanging out – at the Giants-Rockies ballgame tonight, incidentally – just being.

Family. That is what I’m thinking of as I wait. My parents, my daughter’s pop-pop and mom-mom who died in 2008 and 2012, respectively. My two siblings who live not far from here. We have neglected each other. We should correct this. Also nearby, close to that tiny Cape Cod that built me, my nephew and his wife, a week away from being parents themselves for the second time.

I feel I drift too much in this world, untethered and aimless. I occupy far too much of my own headspace. It hurts me and others close to me who don’t deserve the drag of my fears, conceptions and preoccupations.

In an odd bittersweet way, as I sit and watch the people and think, my first pass-through Philadelphia in many years has helped bring me back to the ground. It’s where I have to stay. In my mind, I see my father outside the terminal and my mom busy in the kitchen as we walk through the back door 10 minutes later. She shouts “Tom!” as she always did. They are healthy. They are happy. They are proud of me.

I need to make them proud of me again.


To Rosie, green grass and blue skies

I’ve been ruminating today in the wake of Dave Rosenfield’s death last night at 87. The legendary Tidewater/Norfolk Tides general manager was among the first

Norfolk sports figures, and longest-lasting by far, I met in my first week at the Norfolk newspaper in 1983.  

I liked his gruff, kindly, impatient, intelligent, know-it-all, generous, cheap, arrogant, bombastic, infuriating, scowling, needling, racist-joking, filthy-mouthing, kid-hating, never-ever-wrong, hilarious, snarky, deaf-as-a-post, totally genuine, contradictory self well enough — without really knowing him well at all, if that makes sense.

I think in 34 years I saw him once outside of a ballpark or a sports banquet, at a very long-ago lunch. I hadn’t spoken to him in more than two years, although I emailed him a couple of times over that period after he’d had some health scares. I never got a response, but I trust he received my well-wishes.

After leaving the regular sports ramble, I regret I didn’t drop by his office at Harbor Park to say hi, or make it a point to happen upon one of the weekly round-table lunches he enjoyed with other local sports figures. Wrapped up in my own woes and worries, I suppose.

I will miss Rosie – my preferred spelling of his nickname — like so many in Greater Norfolk, and today I riffle through vivid memories of our professional relationship.

It was early August and they gave the really green greenhorn a weekend assignment to cover some summer-league baseball championship at Met Park – known, of course, as Old Met Park since that dump was wrecking-balled in 1993.

I skulked to the far corner of that narrow press box low behind home plate, all of about 30 feet long, to set up shop for the game. It wasn’t a minute before I felt eyes from a hulking and, um, very portly man sizing me up. I gave a sideways glance as that form slowly approached.

“Hi,” he said, extending his meathook paw once employed as a college and minor-league catcher. “I’m Dave Rosenfield.”

Humma-da humma-da humma-da.

They’d told me to look for, and look OUT for, Dave before sending me onto his turf. It was totally like walking into a fiefdom. Dave was already a fixture, 20 years into his local minor-league baseball tenure. He owned a place and a career and a passion as much as anyone I have ever known.

I returned his hello, explained just a little bit about how I came to be in his presence that afternoon, and a relationship was struck. It was one that grew more familiar, and occasionally contentious, when I took over the Tides beat – then still a full-time, traveling, exhaustive grind — from George McClelland in 1988.

It was a fortuitous, for me, and rewarding association. Rosie loved to hear himself talk, and so he enjoyed holding court with coaches, major-league executives and reporters. For the latter, he was forever a go-to guy for honest commentary, unvarnished opinion and franker still, off-the-record truth as he saw it about sports, politics and scads of matters far-afield.

The remarkable, underlying constant was the knowledge that Rosie was one-degree-of-Kevin Bacon from pretty much any individual who ever played professional baseball. Ev-er. Think about that. It’s a hell of a thing. He knew everybody and everybody knew him. His kind is down to a precious few.

I know I pissed him off many times with my reporting and writing. I scooped the Mets’ announcement of September call-ups once and he and the Mets’ GM tore me a new one. He lectured me early in my coverage tenure about describing the Tides’ play as “miserable” in print after they’d played a particularly miserable game.

During a week of rainouts, I quoted the groundskeeper about what a stink dead earthworms beneath the field tarp created around the home-plate seats. Rosie was not pleased.

Another reporter and I bought plane tickets and invited ourselves along to Shea Stadium when he and the Tides president went to talk about the Mets’ demand for a new Tides stadium or else. Rosie harrumphed and vowed to give us no information, but he didn’t ban us from the Shea offices. We ended up sharing an airport cab both ways. And I’m certain he shared plenty of information.

I disappointed him badly at least once, too, although he never said so. I forget the occasion, maybe his 50th year in the business, and I wrote a profile of him that did not emerge as the puffery he expected, but a more warts-and-all recasting of his local omnipotence and contradictions. When I saw him, I could tell it had hurt him. But no one ever said the story wasn’t accurate and fair.

Throughout, and even thereafter, Dave remained a friend, a supporter and an unforgettably engaging character. He cracked himself up with story upon story, usually punctuated with his huge thunder-crack of a laugh. He ripped into employees up and down. It could not have been easy to work for one so demanding and temperamental, or even to be his close friend. I know people who were estranged from him for years before mending fences.

Yet he somehow fostered surprising loyalty. Rosie being Rosie, if you knew him even a little bit, was a great, never-dull and stunningly consistent show. During his full-time run as GM – before emeritus status the last few years – he missed a very small handful of games. I am fuzzy on this, but I think he missed just one – if any at all — in the late ‘80s when his first wife died. The ballpark was his solace and his sustenance, through every workaday chore. He even created and hand-wrote the entire International League schedule for decades.

What the hell? That’s crazy.

I enjoyed seeing him around the ballpark. I enjoyed his pontifications. I enjoyed Rosie being Rosie in its entirety, and I file it as a highlight of my journalistic life.

Regards, and sympathy, to his family, friends and the entire Tides front office.







Christmas presence

Merry Christmas and thank you for stopping by my humble and, too often, ill-attended personal blog, whenever you do it and wherever you are.

My hope is to drop by here myself more often (!) to exercise thinking, writing and story-telling muscles that I have allowed to lapse.

I am grateful for our history and your support, for our interactions on Twitter, and for blessings throughout my life.

Please, cherish those you love most, nurture a mindful presence, and maintain a sturdy faith in humanity against the tides that would pull and rend and rip it apart.


See you soon.