It’s my birthday, so… more baseball pictures!


I want to thank all those dozens of folks for wishing me joy of my birthday on Facebook.

I like the picture one of my cousins posted to mark the occasion. That’s it below at left. That’s me with my grandfather, Gerald Harvey Warthen, when I was about 4.22195386_482392475480410_9175248831617986939_n

This shot is meaningful to me because my grandfather was a serious baseball player. As a young man in Kensington, Md., that’s what he was all about. He had a job with the Postal Service at one point, just so he could pitch for their baseball team. He was offered a contract by (I think) the Senators’ organization, but ended up working in his father’s construction business instead.

But his legend endured in Kensington. My Dad grew up there being known as “Whitey” Warthen’s kid. That was his baseball name — like Ford and Herzog.

I did not, I regret to say, get to grow up with my grandfather, as he died of lung cancer within a year of the photo being taken.

Above, you see him as a young man with one of the teams he played for. He’s squatting at the right of the photo, with a steely gaze that says to me, “Enough of this stuff! Let’s play ball!”

Looking much less intimidating, you see me below with the only organized team I ever played on, the MacDill AFB senior Little League team. I guess I was about 14. I’m on the left end of the back row, standing next to the white-shirted coach. The only thing I seem to have in common with my grandfather here is that I, too, look like I’m ready to have the picture-taking over with. Or maybe it’s just that I’d removed my glasses for the picture, and couldn’t see anything.

I hadn’t played organized ball before that because we moved almost every summer. This was late to start, and while I’d been a good hitter in sandlots (where the idea was usually to put the ball across the plate and put it in play), I had a terrible time adjusting to people trying to throw the ball past me. I tended to swing late.

So it is that I’m particularly proud of my one highlight of that undistinguished year: I broke up a no-hitter in the fifth inning (of seven). This redheaded pitcher on the opposite nine was just overpowering everybody, but I got an opposite-field (still swinging late) line drive off him for a single. So they took him out of the game. That’s it — my one story of baseball glory.

Needless to say, no Major League team ever offered me a contract…

MacDill senior little league team

17 thoughts on “It’s my birthday, so… more baseball pictures!

  1. Doug Ross

    Happy birthday! Considering you share your birthday with Al Sharpton, it’s probably a good thing you weren’t named after your grandpa.

    1. Brad Warthen Post author

      “Whitey” didn’t quite have the same connotation that it does now. Me, I just think it’s cool that my grandfather had a “baseball name” by which he was known far and wide.

      Speaking of his name… My Dad’s older brother was named for their Dad — almost. My uncle was Gerald Bradley Warthen, because my grandfather always hated the name “Harvey” and said he’d never saddle one of his kids with it…

    2. Brad Warthen Post author

      By the way… You couldn’t say Thomas Wolfe, or Stevie Ray Vaughan? Or Eddie Cochran? Or Gaius Cassius Longinus? (I don’t know who he was, either, but it sounds cool…)

      You had to bring up Sharpton?…

      1. Brad Warthen Post author

        OK, I can’t resist adding this….

        On that Wikipedia list of famous people who were born Oct. 3, I ran across someone from my family tree — Eleanor de Clare, suo jure 6th Lady of Glamorgan and 1st Baroness le Despenser.

        She was my 1st cousin 22 times removed.

        She was also the mother-in-law of my 20th-great grandfather Sir Richard FitzAlan, 10th Earl of Arundel.

        You go back that far, and your family tree starts collapsing onto itself so that you’re related to people multiple ways.

        It’s my birthday, and I’ll talk genealogy if I want to…

        1. Brad Warthen Post author

          You know, I still haven’t renewed my HBO Now subscription to watch the latest season of “Game of Thrones.”

          But I haven’t missed it, because my family tree is sort of like a real-life game of thrones.

          You get back far enough, before the modern concept of nations, and these people were always involved in the kinds of wars and intrigues that were common in the days before the modern nation-state.

          It interests me to see all my ancestors who served (and in some cases, died in) our Civil War, but I seem to have even more who were killed in the Wars of the Roses. And I wish I’d kept a list of ancestors who were beheaded for being on the wrong side of a bid for a throne — there have been a bunch of them.

          There have been winners, too — Plantagenets and Capets and houses of Valois and Barcelona, for instance. But when you find that an ancestor was drawn and quartered, it makes an impression. Sort of makes you think Ned Stark had it easy…

  2. Brad Warthen Post author

    This is also the day (in 52 B.C.) that Vercingetorix, leader of the Gauls, surrendered to the Romans under Julius Caesar.

    For an event more of us are likely to remember… on this day in 1990, East and West German were reunited… and deep down, the rest of Europe got a little bit nervous…

      1. Brad Warthen Post author

        Of course, in the HBO series “Rome,” Vercingetorix was forced to kneel naked before Caesar — which had to take some of the gloss off of having a cool name. Thing like that can bruise a barbarian’s self-esteem…

  3. bud

    Happy 64. In one more year you get to realize your dream, single payer healthcare. 🙂 Congratulations.

    1. Brad Warthen Post author

      OK, in recent days I’ve found evidence, from The Washington Post back then, that my grandfather played infield rather than pitching.

      This bears further research.

      Of course, players back then were more flexible than the specialists of today. For instance, Babe Ruth started out as a pitcher…

  4. Brad Warthen Post author

    Here’s how my Warthen grandparents met…

    My grandmother was born in South Carolina, but she spent her youth living first in Washington (where their closest neighbor was someone the family despised, Sen. Ben Tillman) and then in Kensington. Her father was initially an attorney for the Treasury Department, and later helped start the GAO.

    She used to see this young man passing their house in Kensington every day, wearing a suit and carrying a satchel, on his way to the little train station, which still stands there.

    She assumed he was a traveling salesman, and his wares were in the bag.

    Eventually they spoke to each other, and the relationship blossomed from there.

    Only later did she learn that the bag held his mitt, spikes and baseball uniform. Wherever he was working, the real point of the job was to qualify him to play on the workplace’s baseball team…

  5. Devin

    Hey, good stuff! I love learning about our family. I had no idea this is why we grew up playing so much ball! Happy birthday, I love you!

  6. Bart Rogers

    A belated Happy Birthday Brad!!

    I played Little League baseball in my youth but was not very good at it at all. Did manage to hit the ball a couple of times and drive in the winning run. I thought my teammates were going to hit me after driving in the winning run the first time because they all started running toward me shouting and throwing their gloves in the air. I didn’t get to first base when they started celebrating, I thought I did something wrong.

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