You see, my dad is close to being the ultimate sports guy. At least in his younger years he knew everything there was to know about the big three sports. He went to as many games as he could while growing up in Los Angeles. Numerous times he has regaled me with stories of watching the Rams play in the Coliseum or seeing UCLA beat up on the University of Spoiled Children (whoops, I meant USC).
Not only did my dad watch sports, he played sports. And from what I remember, he played sports quite well and of course, ever since his own athletic career ended he has been coaching.
That said, I'll return to my uncle and relate the story of one of our first meetings and the exact moment I realized my uncle was nothing like my Pops.
I guess I had met my uncle when he had come to visit us in Dallas one summer. I remember a plastic surfboard and beer stew, but little else. He was on a trip around the country collecting ghost stories. Even then I was fascinated by the stories he would tell me, but perhaps those stories would be better related in a different forum.
I want to tell you of our subsequent meeting at my grandmother's house in Los Angeles. It was during one of those fine summers that I spent each and every year in L.A. and my uncle had come to visit (again I think he was touring the country looking for ghosts) at the same time we had. My father was off with John Wooden teaching basketball and my mother, sister, aunt and grandmother were all gone doing their daily business.
This left my uncle and I alone in the house he had occupied as a child, where I made my annual summer pilgrimages and always wished I never had to leave.
As he was not so big on entertaining me and as I have always needed some form of entertainment, I asked him if he'd like to go out in the street and play a little stick ball. I seem to recall that it took much prodding on my part, but eventually he consented and we took an old wooden bat I had found in the garage and a tennis ball and ventured onto Oakhurst Avenue to have a little bit of summer fun.
In those days you could play ball on Oakhurst Avenue for the better part of the early afternoon. The only traffic you ever had to worry about was the ice cream man (and he was always welcome) or some housewife returning home from the market. Thus with no worry of interruption we began to play.
I'm not sure how you play stick ball, but for me and my friends, the only way to play was to pretend that you were some team (I was always the Red Sox) and then imitate all your favorite players each time you hit. This meant I spent a lot of time twirling the bat like Yaz and squatting like Dwight Evans. In fact, I was probably better at imitating the players than I was at hitting the ball, but that was fine with me. So after I (I mean the Red Sox) had their at bat, my uncle traded places with me and prepared to hit.
A moment before I threw him a pitch I asked, "What team are you?"
He thought for a minute and replied he was the Hollywood Stars.
At first I thought he might be trying to trick me. My dad had told me of the days he used to go watch the minor league Stars play in a stadium that looked like Wrigley Field somewhere in Hollywood. Thus I asked him, "So what player are you."
He answered, "I'm Ronald Coleman."
Knowing nothing about ancient film stars I threw a ball and he hit an out. His next hitter had an equally obscure name, but his third one was even more curious. His third hitter had some sort of woman's name!
You can imagine my outrage. How could he think that a team with a woman playing (a team made up of old Hollywood actors, he later explained) could beat the Boston Red Sox? He quickly told me that he didn't really know the names of any baseball players (past or present) and as I stared at him in disillusion, I came to realize that my Uncle Glen was just not a sports guy.
In an ironic footnote to this story, my uncle told me a few years ago that he had written the biography of some University of Hawaii football coach. I guess, sports guy or not, no matter how hard he tried he just couldn't completely escape the national mania.