This month’s DodgerKramer blog posts have been a celebration of my lifelong love of baseball.
When I think back to my childhood, it amazes me how everyone I knew was a big baseball fan. Nowadays, it seems hardly anyone fits that description. But growing up in Dubuque County, almost every single family was nuts about baseball.
I’ve been thinking about how my baseball obsession began and evolved, and the people who contributed to my appreciation for the game.
Here’s a look at some of the key players, and the roles they played.
TOMMY LASORDA: Lasorda has been a Dodger for seven decades, managing the Dodgers for 20 years during that span. His teams won four NL pennants and two World Series. Lasorda laid the framework for my intense passion for baseball. His fiery and infectious enthusiasm for the Dodgers was the driving force in shaping my devotion to baseball and the Boys in Blue.
LEON KRAMER: My love of baseball started with my dad. He’s the one who brought me to Wrigley Field and Milwaukee County Stadium, who drove me all over Dubuque County to watch the Farley Hawks play in tournaments, who taught me to love baseball for the sake of loving baseball (because it was the American, Iowan, Kramer thing to do). He never turned down a game of catch, a phone conversation about the Cubs/Dodgers/etc, or a baseball road trip. Goodness, that man was a great baseball fan.
ROSALYN KRAMER: My mom and I are kindred spirits in so many ways, not the least of which is our enjoyment of baseball. When I was a kid, mom always had the TV in our living room tuned to the Cubs game — not soap operas or talk shows. She never discouraged my rabid enthusiasm for all things baseball (How could I forget all of those trips to Comic World in Dubuque to buy baseball cards?). To this day, nearly all of our phone conversations have at least a brief mention of something related to the boys of summer.
STEVE KRAMER: One of the first heroes of my life was my brother Steve. I idolized him when I was a youngster because he seemed to know everything about sports, particularly baseball. He taught me the proper way to keep a scorebook and the proper way to show respect for the game. When I was 8, I was going to skip a game because I couldn’t find my glove. Steve heard about this, placed a backup glove in my hands, and drove me to the park just in time for the game. “No brother of mine is going to miss a game because he can’t find his glove,” he said.
HUB KRAMER: My uncle Hub is Iowa’s biggest Dodger fan. Thirty-one years ago, I decided I wanted to be just like Hub, so I started cheering for the boys in blue. Talking Dodger baseball with Hub is one of the great joys of my life.
TERRY/CYNDI MCDERMOTT: When I was a young boy, my best friend was John McDermott from down the street. His mom and dad were serious sports fans, and baseball was king in the McDermott home. John and I became friends in second grade, and that was my first exposure to the joy of competition. John was always way better than me, but goodness we had some heated competition in his large back yard and my driveway. The McDermotts taught me how to play winning baseball, and how good it felt to beat the other team.
PAUL RAUEN: My other best friend growing up in Farley was Matt Rauen. His dad, Paul, was perhaps the most dedicated coach I’ve ever known. He was always available to help Matt and his teammates get better, and his keys to the Farley Park came in handy when Matt and I needed the pitching machine on a daily basis. Paul taught me the significance of mentoring young players and how that could develop into a lifelong love of baseball. I’ve tried to emulate Paul in recent years as Maisa has started playing sports.
DON MOONEN: My friend Nate’s dad taught me about baseball’s great history and tradition. Don is a legitimate baseball historian who took an interest in me because of my burgeoning interest and knowledge of the game’s past. His baseball memorabilia collection is legendary in Farley.
PAUL SCHERRMAN: The longtime Farley Hawks manager was the best player to ever come out of the tiny northeast Iowa town. He played briefly in the minor leagues and was a dominant semi-pro player well into his 40s. Simply put, Paul is my greatest baseball idol. He allowed me to get involved with the Hawks, keeping the scorebook/scoreboard during league games and tournaments. And it was quite a shock and compliment for 14-year-old James Kramer the night Paul called the house and said “We’re short a player. Why don’t you come down to the park and play for the Hawks tonight.” Paul taught me the importance of carrying yourself in a dignified and professional manner on and off the field.
MIKE HEALY: A former Farley Hawk and my teacher/coach, Mr. Healy had a giant voice and personality. He commanded respect at every turn. Mr. Healy taught me the importance of representing your hometown and school with class. Two lessons from Mr. Healy that I’ll never forget — 1) “Keep the ball in front of you. Anybody can catch the easy ones” and 2) “In football and basketball, you need to be big and tall. In baseball, all you need is dedication and hard work.”
RANDY BRUBAKER/GARY LAKE/CHAD LEISTIKOW/GREG SHRIVER: My intense love of baseball wavered a bit during my college years. Lots of distractions! When I got to Des Moines, these four co-workers re-ignited the baseball flame inside of me. Many, many great baseball conversations with these guys.
JILL KRAMER: My passion for baseball has exploded in the last 10-12 years, and my wife has been a big factor. She encourages my interest in the game and enjoys it nearly as much as I do. Watching Dodger games together is one of our favorite activities.
MAISA KRAMER: This little girl has allowed me to see the game through a child’s eyes once again. I’m extremely motivated to share my love of the game with her, and it pleases me greatly to see her becoming quite the dedicated fan/player.
I know I’ve probably forgotten a name or two, so apologies to those folks I should have included on this list.