Happy Birthday to my father, Tom Sheehan, who’d be 93 today. He died July 4, 2003.
Here’s one of my favorite stories about him. It’s a baseball story, of course.
The College World Series — played in Omaha every spring — got its start in 1946.
My father was an All-American baseball player, the catcher and co-captain of his team at Notre Dame. He was selected to play in that 1946 game, held at Fenway Park in Boston, for the Mid-West (aka West) team. He’s mentioned below as one of the standout selections.
The East won, 6-2.
I didn’t know about any of this until one night in the 90’s, when I was home visiting my parents. We were having a few drinks at our usual spot, when some friends, a couple named Harold and Lois, dropped by our table.
“We have something that belongs to you, Tom,” Harold announced.
We all exchanged curious glances, none more curious than Tom’s.
Harold pulled a tiny square blue box from his pocket.
“We were on a cruise, and we met a woman from New York. We told her we were from Carroll, Iowa, and she asked us if we knew you.”
My mother raised an eyebrow.
“We said yes, and she said she had something of yours she’d like you to have back. She had this with her!” Harold handed my father the little box.
We all watched as my father took off the lid and looked inside.
After a few seconds, he seemed to know what he was looking at. “Holy cow,” he said, using one of his favorite expressions.
“What? What is it? Let’s see!” We all were bursting to know.
He showed us a shiny gold baseball charm, engraved with his initials.
“It’s from the one and only college all-star game. I played in it at Fenway Park,” he explained, tucking the box into his jacket pocket.
“Not so fast,” my mother said. “I think you’re leaving out part of the story.”
My father sheepishly explained, “Well, someone I used to know had it… and she must have decided to give it back.”
Turns out that someone was Miss New York at the time she was his girlfriend, when he gave her this trinket. My mother was familiar with her existence.
But none of us could quite believe anyone would travel with something like this, hoping to finally meet people who could help return it to its owner.
For the rest of the night, he kept pulling the little box out of his pocket, holding it between his fingers, smiling. “They never forget,” he gleefully teased my mother.
And now, it’s one of my favorite possessions.
The clippings above are the only information I can find about the game. I didn’t know it was the precursor to the College World Series until I did this research. I’d love to know if all the players got one of these charms, and if anyone else still has one.
In honor of his birthday, here are some highlights from his senior season at Notre Dame the following year.
Happy Birthday, Tom. I miss you every day.