Guest Post, Ben Brien: Jimmy who??

My agnatic (a fifty-cent word meaning on my Dad’s side) grandmother hailed from a long line of West Virginia coal-crackers on Dad’s enatic (another half buck, meaning his Mom’s) side. Nana (Dad’s Mom) married a guy (Dad’s Dad – we didn’t have an affectionate name for him, sadly- he died in ’37, long before his grandkids were born) whose people were all from Amish country but were part of that heterodox bunch known as Mennonites, meaning they drove jalopies rather than buggies, used zippers instead of hook-and-eye, and sported beards which included mustaches, if they went about unshaven at all. Anyhow, Nana’s folk, tiring of toil beneath the soil, made their slow way to Norristown, PA, at some point in time between the great wars, and while there she, at yet another of fate’s umpteen intersections, made the acquaintance of Jimmie Dykes, a guy who knew his way ’round a diamond a little more than somewhat. He wouldn’t have been able to say if the little chip she wore on her ring finger was from Kimberley or Cracker Jack but he knew whether, with men on second and third, down three in the bottom of the ninth and bottom of the order up with one out, a suicide squeeze was a good move or a fool’s errand. He hadn’t just fallen off any turnip truck. That he was, mid-century, the skipper of Philly’s American League franchise was very much to his baseball credit, given that the last chap who’d plotted the times and tides of men from that selfsame wheelhouse, the legendary Cornelius MacGillicuddy, had been at the helm for half a century (yes, the very same Mr. Mack who’d sold off Dykes, Al Simmons and a couple other future Hall-of-Famers to kick off his yard sale of high-value members of the team when the vicissitudes of Depression-era economics obliged him to honor certain little IOUs the banks were holding over his head). Jimmie went on to manage any number of major league franchises before hanging up his own spikes and becoming Norristown’s eminence grise of the hardball. Anyway, during his days managing the A’s he proved neighborly enough to recommend my Dad to scouts in the organization. Dad, however, had the misfortune to sustain an eye injury in a dugout mishap, the result of which was that he never did play so much as an inning of professional ball. None of this is in any way the stuff of history books but it was definitely part and parcel to what passed for legend around the dinner table when my family was bragging about this one or that. Every family is rich in such material and it’s only for interested progeny to root it out and write it up.

That means you, Dear Reader, so you’d best get to it. As the inimitable Lord Buckley used to say, “If you get to it and you can’t do it, there you jolly well are, aren’t you?”

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