Sports Saturday--Grandpa Enjoyed Sports
I have a couple favorite sports stories about my maternal grandfather, Art Dean. Although, he was basically a rancher at heart; my grandfather was a man of many skills and interests. During his life he went to business school, worked in a bank, worked at the state capitol in charge of livestock brands, was a farmer and rancher, a butcher, Under Sheriff, the Postmaster, and was a letter carrier on a rural route. He was also a politician, served several years as the head of the Chamber of Commerce, and let the successful effort in Southeastern Colorado to get the John Martin Dam built, which included several trip to Washington D.C. and personal meetings with the President, FDR.
He enjoyed playing golf, had played baseball in his youth and was a fan of football, basketball and baseball. I think the only time I ever saw him wear anything other than cowboy boots was when he played golf.
When I was in high school, he would occasionally invite me to play golf with he and a couple of his friends. I was a fair athlete and could hit the ball a long way, unfortunately not usually where I wanted it to go. He and his playing partners were probably in their early 70s and, while they didn't hit the ball far, it was usually down the middle of the fairway. I can still hear him in a calm voice saying to me "Del you don't have to swing so hard". However, as a baseball and softball player, I only knew one way to swing--hard! I now know what he was trying to teach me, because the key to a good golf swing is a smooth tempo. However, I was going to show he and his partners how far I could hit it. I think he only invited me to play a few times, because they spent too much time trying to find my ball in the weeds or the adjacent fairways.
I have this photo of my grandfather and his baseball team. His is 5th from the left in the photo. When I was in high school, I recall that he still had his spikes and the glove that he has on his hand in the photo. They both hung from a nail in the cellar. One of my biggest regrets is that I didn't keep them, as they would be real treasures to have now.
I find it interesting that there were only nine players in the photo. Not sure whether a couple players weren't available for the photo or that is all they had. I also don't know where the photo was taken, as the backdrop for the photo doesn't look like any location I knew of in Las Animas, Colorado where he and I both were raised. I am assuming that he was in his mid-20 and that this is a town team of young men since the name on the uniforms isn't identifiable with the high school.
Generally, my grandfather was not an excitable person; but I recall one time when he showed as much emotion as I ever recall. I was playing American Legion baseball in the summer of my Junior year in High School and we had won our regional league and went to Grand Junction, Colorado to play them for the State Championship. It was the first game of a three game series and Grand Junction, being a much larger town with a very strong baseball program was heavily favored. I was scheduled to pitch the first game. The game was scoreless through the first few innings and then our best hitter hit a two run home run. I continued to shut them out and we won the game 2-0. After the game I recall walking over to the stands where my mother and grandfather were sitting and was amazed at how excited he was. He could hardly contain himself. I knew that I had made him very proud and that is probably why I still clearly recall that moment. Unfortunately, they beat us the next two games; but we had given them a scare and played them very competitively.
I later learned from my University of Colorado baseball coach that my performance in that game drew his attention and resulted in him offering me a scholarship a year later to play baseball for CU.