Thoughts on Baseball and Family from Bill Currie of the Livingston Dodgers
As a boy of about eight I was in awe of the pitching skills of the very first pitcher out of the hundreds I would catch in my career. The speed of the ball was frightening, although I would later learn it was only half as fast as he could have thrown. The “nickel curve” or as we now all call it, the slider, broke hard and late. I was always surprised to see it break since I had no idea about reading the spin. Lucky for me that this pitcher always told me what was coming. But the overwhelming magic was that the ball seemed to always hit the target. Pitch after pitch after pitch, hitting the glove no matter where I moved it.
This was my hero. A man who could make a baseball do what he wanted, who loved this game that I was beginning to love. A man who knew everything about baseball, could play the game, and wanted to teach me how to play. A man that people would pay to pitch and others would pay to watch. It was unbelievable to me that I was so lucky, because this man was my Dad. My dad had been an orphan since he was five. He made himself an All State Baseball Player, he was named one of the top players of his decade in NJ, played Minor League Ball, and was selected to the Bergen County Hall of Fame in NJ. I got him out of retirement at age 55 and caught him in several semi pro games.
But what I finally figured out, was what made me so lucky was not all the great things this man had done, but who this man was. This man worked for 30 years in a factory running a milling machine, to support our family. He was always out the door at 6:30 in the morning to go to work and he was always home for dinner by 5:30 pm. He never had more than 10 bucks in his wallet, but every one of the seven children in our family completed college. He helped all of us with our homework, especially math and spelling. He fixed everything around the house and most things with the car. He coached my brother and me in baseball, my sisters in softball, and when we moved up and out of the lower leagues, he coached other people’s kids in both. Small children and dogs loved him.
Where did he develop this life work ethic? Where did he learn that working hard should be satisfying and rewarding, because best effort doesn’t always mean you will win? What molded him? Was it the game? Pitching when he was sore or tired, when he had his good stuff and when he was flat. Being the lead dog but realizing it takes a team to win.
Baseball offers so much. Thanks Mr. Doubleday.
Bill describes his opportunity to play with his own son, also named Bill, ten years ago as “completing a double play” when they were the Battery for their team in a Father-Son tournament.
Click here to see a newspaper clipping from 1971 when he caught his father, Sonny, for 5 innings.