Ronnie & Me

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PopWhen I was a young boy growing up on E.39th Street in Flatbush, most of my days were spent on wondering if the Mets dealing Tom Seaver to the Reds was somehow my fault.  Perhaps if I had spoken directly to M Donald Grant, I could have told him that Doug Flynn would never hit a lick, Steve Henderson was simply not good enough, Dan Norman a suspect, not a prospect and that Pat Zachry was made of paper mache.

Why the passion?  Blame my dad. After his first two sons showed little interest in sports, let’s just say that when I started to mime swinging a bat at two years old, he knew he’d have someone to watch a game with. Not that he loves me any more than he does my brothers or sister (he doesn’t; he’s a great dad to all of us), he just knows that when he wants to know who the Mets are planning on using as their left-handed specialist, he knows who to call. Otherwise, I’m just one of his four kids. That’s fine with me.

Maybe one of the reasons that my father is such a good one is because he grew up with nothing at all.

Ron Healey spent most of his childhood at St. Vincent’s Home for Boys.  My siblings and I don’t know much about those days for a myriad of reasons, not the least of which is that he likely doesn’t remember them too fondly.

Most of what I know about his times there are the good things; playing ball with his buddies like Hank, Sep and Sarge, and getting to – on the weekends – go to their houses from time to time for a taste of a real home.  I’ve often wondered what that must have been like, having to go back to the darkness after a glimpse of the light.  But to his credit, and my everlasting gratitude, he never complained about it, never was consumed with bitterness about it, and sure as hell never took it out on any of us.  He was adamant that his kids would have everything he didn’t.

For him, not being far from the shadows of Ebbets Field was an escape from loneliness.   Cheering for his Brooks was probably the greatest joy he experienced during those dark days.  It was during those rare afternoons of getting to go to a game that more than likely turned mere fandom into baseball fever.

He handed down that wonderful gift to me, the love of the Great Pastime, and it’s the main reason you’re reading these words right now.

Whether it was his story of running into a young, athletic “guy who looked like a ballplayer (Willie Mays) so we ran after him and got his autograph” or his taking me and my buddies (when he really couldn’t afford to do) in the 1974 Dodge Dart (Special Edition) to see the dreadful post-Seaver Mets of the late 70’s, I was hooked and hooked early.

My dad’s a Mets fan these days (and has been since the Dodgers left Brooklyn), and he still won’t read (or says he doesn’t) read anything I write about the Yankees.  “I hate the Yankees,” he says, quite matter-of-factly, as if it were a natural state.  “I want them to lose every game they play.”

It’s quite possible he might not read this, but I suspect that even if this piece was about the Bombers, he’d sneak a peak to see what his “Markito” has written.

We still talk as much baseball as we ever did.  He probably watches as many (if not more) games than I do, and given the fact that he’s a dead-ringer for Terry Collins, the Mets manager, I think he roots for the Mets just a little bit harder lately.


I don’t love my dad because we share a love for baseball. I love my dad because he went from being an orphan with nothing, to loving and supporting a family all of his life. He was a rough and tumble street kid that was never ashamed to hug his kids. Despite having a really good city job, still went to night school to get his degree from Brooklyn College, because he wanted to instill in his children the value of a college education.

I could go on and on. But all I really want to say is, Happy 75th birthday, Pop. You’re the best.

And thank you.


4 thoughts on “Ronnie & Me

    Tim Reid said:
    March 2, 2013 at 2:38 am

    What a tremendous tribute to your Dad, Mark. He’s clearly a great father. And you a great son. … Powerful evidence of how wonderful Baseball has been and can be. Thank you!

    Oh, how I would have loved to see The (real) Dodgers!!!

    metamucil said:
    March 5, 2013 at 8:42 am

    Mark, Great piece on your pops.
    Speaking of the Mets, can we have yopur thoughts on the latest Mets news below?



    #Mets just announced Nas, a foul-mouthed rapper (are there any other kind?) with a gun conviction, will perform at Citi after a game this summer.
    And, just like them, he has financial problems too!

    ……In September 2009 the U.S. Internal Revenue Service filed a federal tax lien against Nas for over $2.5 million, seeking unpaid taxes dating back to 2006.[99] By early 2011 this figure had ballooned to over $6.4 million.[100] Early in 2012 reports emerged that the IRS had filed papers in Georgia to

    garnish a portion of Nas’s earnings from material published under BMI and ASCAP, until his delinquent tax bill is settled.[101]

    Nas also glorifies the use of guns in his songs…

    #Wilpons shaft their security guards too. Thought they were in the money now according to Fred???

    Mets drop one in ‘overtime’
    Last Updated: 8:02 AM, March 3, 2013
    Posted: 1:39 AM, March 3, 2013
    Chalk up another Met loss — this time to the team’s security guards.
    The Amazins last week agreed to fork over $395,000 to settle a class-action lawsuit filed by security guards owed overtime pay, The Post has learned.
    “The Mets shouldn’t be allowed to blatantly flout the law and underpay these workers in violation of basic overtime wage laws,” said David Harrison, the guards’ attorney.
    Stadium security guards, who make $16 to $18 an hour, worked 40-hour shifts plus six OT hours per home game, but never received time and a half for their extra labor, the lawyer said.
    Besides shortchanging guards, Harrison said, the team also treated them like their own private chauffeur service, shuttling players and management around town after games.
    The Mets, who would not comment, admitted to no wrongdoing in the settlement.
    Under the agreement, about 345 guards are entitled to some payment, with the highest single check about $15,000, the lawyer said.
    Guards told The Post that they routinely drove around team owner Fred Wilpon, along with players such as David Wright, Pedro Martinez, and Carlos Beltran.
    “That’s a lot of responsibility driving players around,” said one former Shea Stadium guard. “Say you get into a car accident and David Wright breaks his arm — you can get fired over something like that.”
    Overworked guards cheered the settlement as a home run.
    “They want security to do everything, but they didn’t want to pay,” said one guard. “But if it wasn’t for security, there wouldn’t be any business.”
    The agreement, which awaits final court approval, includes guards who worked at either Shea Stadium or Citi Field from August 2005 to the end of the 2011 season.

    idraft2012 said:
    March 11, 2013 at 11:53 am

    Great piece, Mark.

    The connections this great game can provide us with family is one of it’s gifts.

    Larry Novak (@TheBiggestToe) said:
    April 1, 2013 at 2:48 am

    Wonderful piece. Couldn’t help but think of my Dad, Joe Novak, who passed 27 years ago tomorrow. Opening Day. Play ball!

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