Tampa Bay Sports Day

Darling, Branca, Kranepool, Other N.Y. Stars Talk Father’s Day

Baseball, maybe more than any other sport, connects fathers and their children.  Watching games, Recalling seasons and players, the great and not-so-great, bind across generations.

MLB celebrates Father’s Day with a variety of mostly cause-related events.  And baseball-themed gift ideas are always a big part of the holiday.

Empire City in Yonkers is offering fans a special opportunity on Sunday, when a few New York baseball stars of the past line up for a series of Q&A sessions, beginning at 11:30.  Ralph Branca, Ed Kranepool, Ron Swoboda, Roy White, Ron Darling and Darryl Strawberry will be on hand to share stories about their careers and what Father’s Day means to them.

A few of them discussed memories of their dads and Father’s Day with NY SportsDay this week.

On their fathers:

Swoboda: I’m lucky that at almost 68, my dad is still living and still sharp as a tack at 90.  We still have a full relationship.  He was a gunner in a B-29 bomber off the island of Tinian in World War II, and I have gone to a bunch of reunions, met a bunch of people who used to be in his fight crew.  It’s a strong memory for me, and a very strong connection between us.  I’ve researched a lot of World War II history, so I have a better idea of what he went through.

Branca: Mostly it’s about family. Father’s Day meant a house full of kids, grandparents, sitting on my father’s lap.  Memories of nieces and nephews and the rest of the family, that’s what I remember most.

Darling: I think the biggest memory for me is that he used to work three or four jobs. He’s a really hard-working guy. It didn’t matter how many jobs or how long he worked, he always would hit my brother and I 100 ground balls and throw 100 pitches for us to hit, so my greatest memory is how he was such an influence on my career. He always found time to play ball with us. And, since he’s such a blue-collar guy, he instilled in me how I approached pitching – never missing a start, never going on the disabled list, what blue collar people do – they go to work every day whether they like it or not. This was my shining example.

White: I have early memories of my father’s job, he was an artist and sculptor. I remember going into his study to see his new projects. He was a great artist and I always enjoyed seeing his new pieces I was very interested in art as a young kid.

On Father’s Day Game memories:

Kranepool: Well, we were on the losing end, but Jim Bunning’s perfect game [in 1964] put us in the record books.  I went 0-for-3 instead of 0-for-4 (laughs).  But that’s still a fond memory.

Darling: I don’t know if I have a memory of a specific game, but I do know that whenever the Father’s Day game was at Shea, my father would always come down. Every Father’s Day memory for me is that my dad was there at Shea, we would go to dinner. It made me feel lucky that I’m in a major league uniform, and that it was because of him and what he did for me.

On Father’s Day with their children:

Branca: Just having them there, celebrating Father’s Day, and how much they love their daddy.

Kranepool: Just anytime I see them, it’s a lot of fun, especially Father’s Day.  And seeing the grandkids and having fun with them.  My five-year-old granddaughter has a recital, it brings a smile to your face.

Darling: I have two boys, ages 25 and 18. My father’s day memory is that when they were young, whatever we were celebrating, a birthday, or anything, they always wanted to go to Benihana. For Father’s Day, they would ask me where I wanted to go and I would say Benihana, which would get screeches and yells. Nothing against Benihana, but it probably wouldn’t be my first choice for Father’s Day, but their being so happy about it made it special.

White: My son would be in the stands on father’s day, and it was always special know that he was there watching me play.