What do you get your dad for his 90th birthday?
I’ve been pondering that question for the past few weeks. I kept striking out.
Then, as I perused the web, I came across a cool T-shirt. Cardinal red, the shirt displays the image of Stan Musial, leaning on a baseball bat. The script simply reads: The MAN.
How many sports-related T-shirts, sweatshirts and books have I given my dad over the years? I’ve lost track. It doesn’t matter. My dad’s going to love his “Stan the Man” T-shirt.
A father and son bonding over sports is not unique, but it is different for every father and son.
Walter Patrick “Dusty” Saunders was born on Sept. 24, 1931, in Denver. He was a lonely kid. His father died when he was 9 years old, and his mom died when he was 10.
In the 1940s, my dad’s companions were the radio, books and sports. He became a St. Louis Cardinals fan because he could pick up the strong signal from KMOX radio in St. Louis. Musial was his favorite player.
In 2006, my first full year on the Rockies beat, I took my dad to St. Louis for Father’s Day to watch the Rockies play the Cardinals in the first year of the new Busch Stadium. He chatted with Clint Hurdle and Todd Helton. After the game, my dad, MLB.com Rockies beat writer Thomas Harding and I had dinner at former Cardinal Mike Shannon’s restaurant. Thomas and I still talk about that day.
My dad, as some of you might know, wrote for the Rocky Mountain News for more than 54 years. Someone once calculated that he wrote more stories and columns for “The Rocky” than anyone in that now-defunct paper’s long and storied history.
What you might not know is that my dad was a skinny 6-foot-3 center with a wicked hook shot. He was a star at Holy Family High School, and during his senior year, a Denver Post sportswriter wrote that my dad “was the best hooker in Denver’s high schools.” Interesting description, don’t you think?
Fifty years later, when I would go on the radio to talk Broncos or Rockies with the late, great Irv Brown, he would inevitably lead off with, “Patrick, how’s your dad? Tell you what, Dusty had a heck of a hook shot. He could flat do it.”
What you also don’t know is that my dad was the assistant coach of my Arvada youth basketball team when I was eight. We were sponsored by Shoe Corral and we won the championship. I still have the tiny trophy displayed in my home office.
My dad bought season tickets to the Broncos in 1962, in the team’s second year of existence. We had those tickets in the family for nearly 50 years.
On Jan. 11, 1987, when John Elway led “The Drive” in Cleveland, my dad was on assignment in Southern California. He watched the game, alone, in his hotel room. When the Broncos beat the Browns to go to the Super Bowl, my dad got so excited that he picked up a startled housekeeper and gave her a bear hug when she entered the room.
Few things in my dad’s 90 years of life have given him more pleasure than Saturday mornings playing tennis at the Gates Center. Bob Threlkeld, Ned High, Gene Johnson, Cal Raines, and my dad formed a core group of players. On occasion, I would fill in.
Then we would go over to Rick’s Cafe (Now Chopper’s Sports Grill) for lunch and a couple of beers. My dad and his buddies would shamelessly, and harmlessly, flirt with the cute young waitresses. I’m 62 now, so I get it.
I could go on and on as the memories flood back. But mostly, I wanted to say thanks.
I love you, dad. Happy 90th. I hope you like the T-shirt.
This content was originally published here.