I’m going to think about my daddy today

Published 9:47 pm Saturday, June 17, 2017

I’m going to a baseball game today. That’s the best way I can think of to honor and remember my daddy.

My daddy loved baseball. He loved all sports, really, but baseball was his thing.

At the tender age of 16 and in his hometown of Chattanooga, Tenn., he signed a professional contract with the St. Louis Cardinals and began touring the south on its farm league circuit.

He played all over — Andalusia, Ala., Greenville, Ala., Montgomery, Ala., other places I don’t know about.

His last place to play was with the Natchez Indians in the early 1950s. That’s when he met my mother, and that was the end of baseball for daddy.

She was 16. He was 23 by then.

Mama and Daddy had three children. They divorced when I was 4, my younger brother Bubba, his only son, was a little over 2 years old. My older sister, 11.

That was the beginning of the end for Jim Griffey.

Mama quickly remarried — you can fill in the blanks yourself.

Daddy never married again, or seriously dated anyone that I know of. He loved my mother until the day he died. He was angry with her, but he loved her.

Once he told me I looked like my mother, and I scoffed at him. Then he said to me, “Your mother’s the most beautiful woman in the world. She’s more beautiful than Miss America.”

That’s when I realized his heart was broken beyond repair.

He lived his life for his children. He always lived close to us — within walking distance. He picked us up every afternoon and we went with him in his beloved black, two-door Ford LTD while he ran his errands.

He worked the graveyard shift at first International Paper and then Armstrong Tire and Rubber Co. He would get off work and go home and sleep, waking up in time to pick us up after school.

He shared his love for baseball with my brother, and coached him in his first couple of years in Dixie Youth’s littlest league. No tee-ball back then. It was the real thing, and Bubba was a natural.

One afternoon in 1972, when I was 10, a policeman came knocking on our door.

Daddy was dead.

He had gotten off work, and in the wee morning hours, as he reached to open his apartment door, he had a heart attack. At age 42, daddy was gone, found lying by his front door, keys still in his hands, by a neighbor boy who was out riding his bicycle.

My life, nor that of my Griffey siblings, would ever be the same.

I was a daddy’s girl, and I’ve wondered for years what my life would have been like had he lived a little longer. I needed him. All girls need their fathers.

And, truth be told, I never forgave my mother.

Today, I’m going to a baseball game.
Jan Griffey is general manager of The Vicksburg Post. You may reach her at jan.griffey@vicksburgpost.com.