It is baseball season, which has always had a special place in our family because my Dad, Delbert McAmis, was a fine athlete and a semi-pro ballplayer who turned down the opportunity to go into the pros. Still, ball was the center of his existence from then until now, as he approaches 97.
In his youth, Dad was such a natural at sports and a force to be reckoned with on the diamond. He played catcher and outfield, but his real worth was at the plate. It was nigh-on-to-impossible for a pitcher to get him out and as a home run hitter, he was a constant threat.
In 1939 he got his big break – an opportunity to go into the big league system – but he turned it down. By then he had a wife and a baby on the way and he couldn’t afford to take this blind chance for success. After all, back then there were no big contracts, no signing bonuses. His only premium would have been a bonus for each home run in a stadium where he would have been hitting against the wind.
Dad worked hard as a roofer in those days, supporting a growing family, but still he played semi-pro ball and in city leagues. He instinctively understood the strategy of baseball and knew the rules by heart, so in later years he managed teams and umpired.
Our household was geared to baseball season – we lived on the ball fields for years and believed every family did. I always thought the most handsome man in the world was my Dad in uniform, striding to the plate and poling the ball across the fence. At dinner, in and out of season, Dad quizzed us on the game. “There’s two outs and a runner on third base,” he would begin, spooling out a game challenge.
Eventually Dad became an armchair coach, which he continues to this day. Since I moved to Hempstead to be near him, we have been avid followers of the Texas Rangers. He is not a mere observer, offering a stream of coaching and criticism from his chair. “You bunt the lead runner down to second – you BUNT,” he screams at the TV. “It’s basic baseball.” The Rangers would do well to listen.
— Jonnie Martin