Monday, March 02, 2009

Happy 100th To Two Famous Men

Forrest Pitcher would have been 100 today. Same with Mel Ott. But Ott was considerably less famous, as far as I'm concerned.

Forrest Pitcher was my grandfather, and he didn't quite make it to 100, though he came a helluva lot closer to it than Ott, the Hall of Fame baseball player who was killed in a tragic car accident in 1958.

Both were born on March 2, 1909, and the similarities don't end there. Ott died in '58, which is also the year that Forrest married my maternal grandmother. Oh, and it was the second marriage for both of them -- Forrest and my grandmother -- because both were widowed, Forrest due to a car accident that took his first wife. So another connection to Ott, who was the Tigers' radio announcer at the time of his death.

Ott was only 49 when he died. My grandfather -- though not by blood but I wasn't even a blip on the screen in 1958 -- passed away on April 30, 2005. He was 96, almost twice Mel Ott's age.

There isn't much more to today's post than this connection between my grandfather and Ott. I'll admit that. But I will also tell you that my grandfather was quite the sports fan. And he was a good cheerleader for a 14-year-old Little Leaguer -- one of the loudest at the sandlot field.

Grandma is still doing it -- 92 and watching the Pistons whenever she can, which isn't as often as she'd like. The ole body is giving her fits, and it's cutting into her basketball-watching time. But believe you me, if you want to know what's ailing the Pistons, just ask grandma. She has yet to adhere to the notion that you can't win 'em all. So you can imagine what this 29-29 season is doing to her.

Grandpa Pitcher was 96 when he passed, but he was sound of mind. And sound of body, too, just before pneumonia finally overtook him at U-M Hospital. He was one of my heroes, for no one treated strangers with the same affection as I saw with Grandpa Pitcher. He could, and would, engage anyone in conversation -- and listen to what THEY had to say, too. He even picked up a hitchhiker once, which scared the bejeebers out of me, a 12-year-old who sat in the backseat while grandpa and the utter stranger chatted. It was sweet, but also the longest two miles of my life.

So Grandpa would have been 100 today, as would have Mel Ott. Funny how both men kind of relied on their loquaciousness to make their mark on the world.

Happy Birthday, gentlemen.

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