Just for a moment, Buck Showalter stepped away from his inexhaustible reflections on baseball and shared a special memory of his dad on this Father’s Day.
The Mets manager’s dad, Bill Showalter, died in 1991, shortly after Buck was hired as Yankees manager. And decades later, a meaningful Christmas morning stays with the skipper because, one year, he couldn’t figure out what to get his dad for the holiday.
At the time, Bill Showalter was 70 years old. His college football playing days were just about 50 years behind him when, as Buck described it on Saturday at Citi Field, “a lady called.” Her father was a professor at Milligan College in Tennessee, where Bill Showalter also attended college before his education was interrupted by World World II, where he served in the 1st Infantry division of the US Army with over three years overseas. He took part in the invasions of Algiers, North Africa and Sicily, and the Omaha Beach landing on D-Day, where he received the Bronze Star for valor and bravery under fire.
The professor had just uncovered Milligan College football game film which had captured some video of Bill Showalter in “the single wing” formation, as Buck vividly described the play on the field that took place in the 1940s. That’s what “the lady” had called Buck about days before Christmas, just as the skipper was racking his brain for a gift for his dad.
“I said, excuse me? I was interested in them, so I got ’em, and worked hard to put them on VCR,” Showalter said.
He converted the film onto a videocassette and after his family got through opening gifts on Christmas morning, Showalter pulled his dad aside and sat him in his usual armchair.
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“Can you imagine being 70 years old and all of a sudden going back to 20?” Showalter said. “That was right before he went over to World War II. Seeing your teammates and everything. Can you imagine?”
When asked if there’s one quality Showalter inherited from his dad, the Mets skipper just said: “That’d be a tough act to follow.” Showalter got a bit emotional a couple of weeks ago on the 78th anniversary of D-Day and the Battle of Normandy. For a moment, Showalter allowed his dad to escape all that came after Milligan College and relive his athletic past.
Those old college football tapes were a hit for the Showalter family that Christmas, at least until Buck’s mom noticed a certain cheerleader who came into the shot.
“It’s funny at the end, they kept running the film, and he was coming off the field with his leather helmet with no face mask and he had his arm around some cheerleader,” Showalter recalled. “And my mother was sitting there, and she goes, ‘Bill, who’s that?’ So we turned it off real quick. That was before he met my mother. But that was cool. I still got those tapes.”
The Mets entered Sunday a season-high 21 games over .500. The last time they were 21 games above .500 was on Sept. 29, 2015 when they were 89-68. The last time the Mets were 22 games over .500 was on Sept. 27, 2015, when the club’s highwater mark for the year was 89-67. This is the third-fastest the Mets have reached the 20 games over .500 mark. The 1986 team got there in 42 games (31-11) and the ’88 team reached the mark in 54 games (37-17).
In celebration of Juneteenth, the Mets donated 500 tickets to local organizations in Queens for Sunday’s game. Citibank also sponsored a pregame luncheon in the Bullpen Plaza for all attendees. Right-hander Taijuan Walker, outfielder Nick Plummer and first base coach Wayne Kirby dropped by the luncheon to speak to the group about the importance of Juneteenth.
Juneteenth is a holiday commemorating the end of slavery in the United States. On June 19, 1865, two and a half years after President Abraham Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation, soldiers touched down in Galveston, Texas with the news that the Civil War was over and the enslaved were now free.