Fathers and Sons

I read an article today from the NY Times about Mike Trout, MLB’s quiet super-duper star.  One thing that stuck in my mind was that the article stated that Trout is most comparable at this point in his career to Hank Aaron and Mickey Mantle and also that his father was a former minor league player.

I don’t know if Hank Aaron’s father was a ball player, but part of the legend of the Mick was that his father was a frustrated ball player, who channeled those dreams to his son, who was the perfect chalice for those dreams.  Sort of like Tiger Woods and his dad, who loved golf for whatever reason and had a son who had the natural ability and the love of his father and the game to become a legend.

Mike Trout’s dad, Jeff Trout, was a four year minor leaguer, who was probably the best baseball player to come out of Millville Senior High School in 40 years (the now longer remembered Steve Yerkes was the best player out of that school before the son).  Jeff apparently played four years at the University of Delaware before his professional career began.

Jeff could hit, slashing .321/.406/.451 in his last minor league season, but spent three years in AA ball because he couldn’t catch the ball enough.  He was a 2B/3B prospect who fielded a minor league career .956 at the former position and .915 at the latter.  Jeff had enough talent to have a reason to be frustrated when his professional baseball career ended well short of major league success.

The dynamic I’m talking about is best described in detail in Gaylord Perry‘s autobiography Me and the Spitter, probably the most entertaining baseball autobiography I read as a kid.  Evan Perry got an offer to play Class D baseball when he was 19 years old.  However, his wife was either pregnant with or had already given birth to Jim Perry, a great major league pitcher who is only remembered today as Gaylord’s older brother.

Class D baseball paid in the mid-1930’s what the low minors pay today (little more than nothing), and Evan Perry did the sensible thing of continuing to share-crop tobacco in East Carolina.  It was as bleak as that sounds — Evan was proud of the fact that he didn’t send his boys to work in the fields until they each turned 7, since he had been about 5 when he started working the plow or picking the tobaccy.

Evan was a semi-pro stud in East Carolina, and he raised his strong sons with an intense love of baseball.  It was what you did when you had finished in the fields and church had let out Sunday morning.

Mickey Mantle’s father was a wannabe professional ballplayer from rural Oklahoma few years earlier than Evan Perry.  Those were the days when real men married their pregnant, teenage girl friends and went to work in rural, depression era dead-end jobs because it still paid better than the lowest levels of minor league baseball.  In those days, the dream of major league riches was just as real to dirt-poor rural Americans as it is to dirt-poor, teenage Latin Americans today, and paid accordingly.

Gaylord was technically a cheater, Mickey became an alcoholic, and Tiger had personality deficiencies of which those who have been paying attention are now well aware.  However, all did receive the many awards and benefits that come from the most elite athletic performance.

There is probably a lot of pressure attendant with living out someone elses dreams and becoming the absolute best at one’s chosen profession.  Andre Agassi is member of this group who has publicly spoken about the misery that can come with trying to live out his father’s dream.

Even so, I like to imagine that there can be a situation where it’s more true than not that the child lived out the dream of the parent to the satisfaction of both.  I certainly hope that my child will have a better life than I’ve had, whatever that turns out to be.

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Explore posts in the same categories: Anaheim Angels, Atlanta Braves, Baseball History, New York Yankees

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