From the Sidelines

Published 12:00 am Saturday, June 17, 2000

MICHAEL KIRAL / L’Observateur / June 17, 2000

When he won the U.S. Open title last year, rolling in a 15-foot par putt toclinch the title on the 72nd hole, Payne Stewart’s first reaction was not to celebrate his accomplishment. It was to go over to Phil Mickelson, whofinished second and whose wife was expecting any minute, put his hands around and his head and tell him “You are going to be a father. That is themost important thing.”The date was most appropriate – June 16, 1999 – Father’s Day.

Stewart knew that winning the national golf title was nice but nothing could beat fatherhood. Mickelson realized that too, going to the tournament with abeeper. He said that if that beeper went off, telling him that his wife was inlabor, he would leave no matter where he was or where he stood in the tournament.

As it turned out, had Stewart missed that putt and the match gone into an 18-hole playoff the next day, Mickelson’s beeper would have gone off around the 10th hole. You have to believe he would have kept his promise.It would not have been the first time that a father would have made a sacrifice for his children. It happens every day, whether it be a multimilliondollar athlete like Mickelson or an everyday Joe working overtime to help support his family.

The sports world is filled with stories about the bond between father and son. In golf, who could ever forget Davis Love III thinking about his father ashe walked down the 18th fairway on his way to the 1997 PGA Championship with a rainbow shining brightly overhead? There was Stewart remembering his own father when he won his first U.S. Open. And the usually stoic DavidDuval got a bit misty eye on learning that his dad, Bob, had won on the Senior Tour the same day he won in Atlanta, becoming the first father-son duo to do so.

One of the great moments in baseball was Ken Griffey Sr. and Griffey Jr.Hitting back-to-back home runs for the Seattle Mariners a few years back.

And wasn’t it something special to be able to see Cal Ripken Sr., Hal McRaeand Felipe Alou be able to manage their sons in the Major Leagues.

Baseball, of course, has created one of the best images of fathers and sons (and today, it is not uncommon to see daughters as well), that of a game of catch. For many, it is their first experience in athletics, reaching out to graba baseball (or softball) tossed by their dads with an oversize mitt.

Among the many gifts I have received from my dad and grandfather is a love of baseball. With that came a love of the Twins and Braves. Now every time Ihear that Minnesota has pulled a game out, I can’t help but think of my grandfather listening to the game on the radio with a smile on his face.

My dad and I are always trying to scoop each other on sports news. He’s alsousually the first one to let me know when one of my fantasy baseball players has been injured (a common occurrence this year). And we play in the samefantasy football league although I’m something like 0-for-10 against him in head-to-head games.

Tomorrow is Father’s Day. Happy Father’s Day to all the dads out there. Andto you dad and grandfather, thanks.

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