Lane: A special day to share with your dad

Editor’s note: Retired Mirror sports editor Jim Lane wrote this column after his dad passed away in 1987. It’s reprinted every Father’s Day.

Today is Father’s Day. It’s a chance to tell your favorite guy thanks for all he’s been and done for you over the years. It’s usually celebrated with a small gift, perhaps a shirt or tie or wallet.

In many cases, few words are expressed. And that’s a shame.

I wrote this Father’s Day column a couple of weeks after my dad died because I missed him. I still do. A day doesn’t pass that I don’t think about him.

He was special.

From the beginning, he instilled in me it isn’t physical size that makes an athlete or person. It’s the size of one’s heart.

I remember trying to muster enough courage to tell him and Mom that I wanted to drop out of college my junior year and pursue a career in sportswriting. I shouldn’t have been surprised that, after a heart-to-heart discussion, they gave their blessing.

As the years went by, he always was impressed I was able to meet and rub elbows with well-known athletes and to see sports events few people did.

He never once asked me if I ever regretted not becoming a teacher. Of course, he knew when I married Jean, I had the best of two worlds – a wife and a job I both loved. Only the addition of a couple great kids could make it better. They did and have.

Dad thought if you wanted something badly enough, you should go for it. That’s why he and Mom gave their blessing – even though it broke their hearts – when my sister and her family moved to California.

Dad was a little man in stature, but he was big in other ways.

Even though he often was furloughed from the railroad during the holidays or at graduation time, we didn’t miss much.

One of my fondest childhood memories is of a miniature golf course he constructed in our backyard. It wasn’t miniature golf as we know it today. Soup cans were placed in the ground for cups, and sticks were shaved into golf clubs.

But it was like Augusta to me.

I couldn’t begin to estimate the number of hours he and my late uncle, Don, spent in the baseball field with my cousin, Tom, and me. We’d hit and take infield until he thought we’d drop, and we loved every minute of it.

Thanks in part to the Pennsylvania Railroad, I grew up rooting for the Yankees. PRR employees got trip passes for their families and were able to ride trains free. Our allotment usually was set aside for ballgames in New York and Philadelphia.

I remember sitting through nine innings of rain in Philadelphia, and a young slugger named Micky Mantle emerged from the Yankee dugout to pinch hit a grand slam over the roof at old Shibe Park.

And there was the time Dad speared a line drive in the stands behind first base and handed it to me as the fans cheered. He never flinched, although the hurt in his hand must have been almost unbearable.

But he never talked about pain, and he had his share.

Cancer took my mother from him before they could enjoy retirement, and he never questioned why, at least not to me. Even in his final days, when all his strength had been drained, he didn’t complain.

We had our share of laughter and tears, our share of ups and downs, but he was always there when I needed him.

I just wish I had told him more often. So, take a moment today to tell your dad you love him. And give your mom a hug while you’re at it.