05.23.13 4:52 PM ET
How Peter Worthington Taught His Grandson to Love Baseball
My son Nathaniel delivered this eulogy to his grandfather at Peter Worthington's funeral in Toronto yesterday.
When I was a young boy, I noticed on on our family visits to my grandparents’ house in Toronto that my grandfather Pete often sat in the living room to watch the Blue Jays game alone. Not by choice – but because no other member of the family was interested. One afternoon he noticed me sheepishly looking at the screen. I was not a baseball fan – I had never even watched a game before. Pete wanted to change that.
He called me over and pointed to the screen. “Nathaniel, you see that player on the screen? That’s Shannon Stewart. He’s up to bat. And you see that thing on his head? That’s a batting helmet. Do you know that Shannon Stewart has a phone in his helmet? Well I have that helmet's number – should I give him call?” I nodded.
Pete picked up his phone, dialed, and spoke into the phone. “Hi Shannon, it’s Peter, Peter Worthington, yes that Peter Worthington. If you can hear me tap your bat on home plate.” He did, as he did before every at bat. “I have my grandson here and I would really appreciate it if you got a hit for him. I know you can’t talk right now but if this next hit is for Nathaniel, take a practice swing with the bat.” Again, Stewart complied. He smiled and put his hand over the phone. “He owes me a favor," Pete said.
Just then a crack sound came from the TV and the ball rolled to the outfield wall. After Stewart had slid into second base Pete, looking somewhat surprised, took his hand off the phone. “Shannon, just to be sure, if that was for Nathaniel brush the dirt off your pants.” He did, as all baseball players do after sliding into a base, but I was dumbstruck. In that moment, baseball would never gain a more loyal fan.
Baseball, and then sports in general, became the source of a strong and unbreakable bond between Pete and me. Every time I visited Toronto, Pete took me to the hockey hall of fame to play the goalie simulator (which shot Styrofoam pucks at you to see how many you could stop) and every time Pete got the high score. Then one visit, he couldn’t play it –he was 80 years old. It was always easy to forget his age but unfortunately time caught up to him, even though he was Pete.
During our last conversation Pete had no interest in talking about mortality, life after death, or anything like that. He wanted to talk about Alex Ovechkin and the Washington Capitals – New York Rangers playoff game that was scheduled to happen that night. He asked if I thought Ovechkin would score one for him. I told Pete that I’d give Ovechkin’s helmet a call.
Pete loved all his grandchildren and created a unique bond with each of them. Whether it was through country music, magic tricks, BB-guns, or baseball, he wanted to be a part of each of our lives in a different and special way.
Perhaps the best way to describe Pete’s passing is best left to Pete. In an article on the death of our family dog Pete himself wrote:
“All of us are saddened, although he died as he had lived – quietly, with no fuss and surrounded by those who loved him. For his immediate family, his loss is unbearable until healing begins – as it always does. Sure, he had a good life, but somehow that makes his parting even sadder.”
That was Pete.
Pete was much more than a grandfather to his grandchildren. He was our role model, our instructor on making mischief, our hero. But mostly he was our friend; and we will miss him very much.
Nat, a rising college sophomore, will intern with the Toronto Blue Jays organization this summer.