Archive for Wednesday, February 6, 2002

Chinstraps and Mouthpieces: DiMaggio and Mantle can hear Grandpa’s tales now

February 6, 2002

The local sports world was frozen in time, or more accurately, iced over, last week because of the winter storm.

But my world stopped for a different reason.

My grandfather, Victor Linenberger, had an apparent heart attack Jan. 29 and died later that morning.

I pondered writing a sports column on this subject, but realized my fingers might have never touched a keyboard to type a sports story if it weren't for Grandpa.

Though he was an agriculturalist most of his life, my grandfather loved baseball. In his later years, he had some health problems, but his face would gleam at the mention of DiMaggio, Mantle or Berra.

Grandpa didn't have the same passion for basketball or football, but the love for sports was passed down in all forms to his children and, in my case, grandchildren. A Labor Day weekend doesn't go by without the "Linny's" family softball team competing in a co-ed tournament.

It was obvious that my grandfather loved America's pastime. Autographed baseballs by Buck O'Neil and Joe Carter were in a prominent position when visitors entered his front door, along with a picture of Cal Ripken Jr. and Buck O'Neil at Kauffman Stadium. He also had autographed cards by Yogi Berra and Joe Garigiola, but those were kept in a more secure place.

Grandpa only saw the Kansas City A's play at Municipal Stadium, but saw many other games from his recliner. His most recent furniture was a lift chair, but he was quick to point out that he didn't need the chair's full assistance to get up.

Now, though, he can watch games from a better view.

I'm not sure that my grandfather was a Yankees fan, but he was a fan of many former Pinstripers.

He even had his own uniform, so to speak. Overalls were vintage Victor until his last few years when the uniform changed to one-piece jump suits that were easier to manage because of a bad arm and back.

Like a major league pitcher, he also had rotor-cuff surgery. But his injury didn't stem from throwing pitches. Instead, it was from tossing bales and scooping grain most of his life.

He was a fountain of knowledge, stories and jokes. My grandfather was pretty successful at telling things plainly.

When my father and uncle were very young, they were tearing around the house. One of my grandfather's relatives, who was also a nun, told him he needed to have more control of his children.

"Sister," Grandpa said. "When you have kids, you can tell me how to raise them."

When a fellow grandchild told Grandpa she was going to name her first-born, Kennedy, my grandfather had a simple assessment.

"There's nothing wrong with that," Grandpa said. "As long as you don't name her Nixon."

Most of his jokes might not be printable, and because of space, they'll be omitted, but he could put a smile on most people's faces.

A friend, whose family created Grasshopper lawnmowers in Moundridge, met my grandfather a year ago.

"What does your family do?" Grandpa asked.

"We make Grasshoppers," my friend said.

"They caused a lot of problems during the Depression," Grandpa said.

My friend started explaining his situation before a sly grin appeared on Grandpa's face.

I hope that most people have or had someone like Grandpa a person who is an intricate part of their lives.

The toughest thing about life is that the rewind button never works. Because of this meal or that errand back home, I didn't see Grandpa at Thanksgiving or Christmas. Luckily, I spoke to him on Christmas Day and the conversation included a joke.

Grandpa's favorite player was by far Yogi Berra. My grandfather liked to quote Berra, and with that in mind I'll finish with two of his favorites.

"If you don't go to somebody's funeral, they won't come to yours."

That's a pretty good point, but Berra's most famous quote is the most truthful.

"It ain't over 'til it's over."

For Grandpa, it's just begun.

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