This past Saturday marked a milestone of the 6 and 1/2 years so far of my motherhood. I took my son to his first Yankee home game. Jack (and I for that matter) had not yet been to the new Yankee Stadium. Another milestone of a different kind was the passing of a dear man, Thomas Flanagan. The two events have, what I think, a poignant connection.
I started taking my son, Jack, to baseball games at an early age. His first game was a Long Island Ducks home game and he was 6 months old. He sat on my father’s lap, watching the game in amazement. The child did not budge his view from the field for 7 innings. He pooped during the 8th inning. A diaper change occupied his B7 and then he promptly returned to the seats to finish out the game. I was amazed. I was hoping this would be something special.
Next test was a big league ballpark. I lived in the Baltimore suburbs at the time, after moving from Baltimore City. I was a frequent visitor to Camden Yards, where I eventually became a season ticket plan holder. I’ll admit I did it mainly to get all the Yankees games and all in all probably attended 30 games every season. I began to take my son soon after his Ducks game. Other mothers thought I was crazy because I took him by myself. I saw it as a perfect opportunity to share my love for the game with a child that looked liked, even at an early age, that he enjoyed it too. And it turns out he really did. Every game we went to, Jack would sit on my lap and watch the game with intensity, muttering “ball” and “bat” every once in a while. This went on for 3 more seasons, until we moved to the Philly area. Then it was just a change of venues to Citizens Bank Park and the various MiLB parks within an hour’s distance. Last year he then told me that he wanted to go to a Yankees game “at Yankee Stadium”. Unfortunately, we didn’t get there last season.
This past Saturday, with tickets in hand, we arrived at the new Yankee Stadium via the D train. Jack had his hat and Matsui jersey on. Even though it was the only game the Yankees lost during their 10 game homestand, it was a wonderful experience. I was happy. My son was happy. I “upgraded” our seats during the potential comback during the 8th and 9th innings. Perfect day at a perfect place. As we were walking out of the stadium to leave we stopped infront of the old staduim. Covered in scaffolding and a boarded up perimeter, it looked ominous. Jack peeked inside, “Mom? Where’d all the seats go?” I told him they were for sale. He then promptly told me to buy one. Yeah, I’ll get on that, kid. He then asked me if I ever went to a game there. I nodded and told him that it was a magical place. He replied “wow”. While sitting on the D train going back to 34th St. station, Jack thanked me at least 20 times for taking him to the Yankee game untll we got there. Mission accomplished.
Last week, the father of my uncle, passed. Tom Flanagan would have been 93 in September. Tom was a wonderful man. He had retired from the FDNY in the 70’s, was an avid golfer, and a die hard Yankee fan. He was a man of stories and his love for the Yankees was evident in them. In his elder years he would sit out on the patio, with his radio tuned into 880am, drinking a can of Amstel, wrapped in a napkin secured by a rubber band, listening to the game. Even though we were not related by blood he was like a grandfather to me, and to Jack. He bought Jack his first Yankee T-shirt, with Johnny Damon’s number on the back. For this past Christmas he gave Jack his first Yankees jersey, Hideki Matsui, Jack’s favorite Yankee. It was hard to tell Jack that “Grandpa Tommy” had died, but I had to. Once I did, Jack’s first response was “can I go with you to say goodbye”? At first I was leary about taking a 6 1/2 year old to a wake. His response, I thought, was rather mature for a child his age so I decided to take him. Today was the wake.
We go into the funeral home. It is filled with FDNY. We made our way through the pockets of people and see that there are large collages of pictures of Grandpa Tommy with various friends and family. Jack saw that he was in 3 of the pictures. He thought that was really neat. One of the pictures was of him and Grandpa Tommy blowing out candles on a birthday cake.
We made our way to the coffin. Jack said “he does look like he’s sleeping”. That what I told him to expect. Luckily it worked. About 10 seconds later Jack then says, looking at Grandpa Tommy, “Thank you for giving me my Matsui jersey”.
Tom Flanagan was a wonderful man. I hope it’s not too late to tell him how much I appreciate him sharing his love with all of us, and sharing his love for the Yankees with Jack.