Christmas stories: A Sooner's ornery roots, the power of a gift bat and the race a Cowboy longed to run

COMMENTARY — For the 17th year consecutive year, The Oklahoman's Berry Tramel unearths four Christmas stories for the sports fan's soul.
by Berry Tramel Published: December 25, 2012
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photo - This person was quite the marksman as a kid, using a dart gun he got as a gift to take out some of the his dad's antique Christmas tree ornaments. Can you guess who this is? Photo by Bryan Terry, The Oklahoman/Illustration by William Bootz, The Oklahoman
This person was quite the marksman as a kid, using a dart gun he got as a gift to take out some of the his dad's antique Christmas tree ornaments. Can you guess who this is? Photo by Bryan Terry, The Oklahoman/Illustration by William Bootz, The Oklahoman

Rodney was consumed with baseball. He and his friends would use broomsticks for bats. They would paint the broomsticks and print the name of their favorite player. Rodney painted his bat black with yellow trimmings. In orange, he painted Jackie Robinson's name.

They played in the streets, using tennis balls for baseball and paper bags for gloves. If there was no game, Rodney would throw the ball against the steps of his apartment building all day long.

Rodney never had a good relationship with his father. Never remembers getting a Christmas present from his father. But one Christmas, Rodney's mother gave him a real baseball bat. She worked as a domestic for a white family, which had given her the bat for her son.

He took it to the sandlot where boys played with real balls and bats. Soon enough, older boys showed up and kicked him out of the game. So Rodney got mad and took his bat home. The boys chased him all the way, wanting that bat.

Big mistake on their part. It wasn't the bat. It was the batter. Few people ever learned to hit a baseball as well as Rodney Cline Carew.

A Christmas story, circa 2000: M.T. Brooks always wanted to race his grandson. Maybe he would have had a chance when the grandson was small. But on this final Christmas, the grandson was a growing boy, and M.T. was feeble.

So feeble, the annual Christmas celebration in Louisiana was in many ways a farewell.

M.T. was dying, and indeed would pass six weeks later, on Super Bowl Sunday.

“Everybody was just there with open hearts,” said the grandson, “bawling out in tears, that it was his time. Everyone was around him, comforting him.

“Sad Christmas. But again, it was fun to be around such a great family.

“We never got the chance to race. But his presence, being the leader of the family, was a good thing.”

M.T. Brooks made quite the impression on his grandson, Oklahoma State cornerback Brodrick Brown.

Merry Christmas.

Berry Tramel: Berry can be reached at (405) 760-8080 or at btramel@opubco.com. He can be heard Monday through Friday from 4:40-5:20 p.m. on The Sports Animal radio network, including AM-640 and FM-98.1. You can also view his personality page at newsok.com/berrytramel.


by Berry Tramel
Columnist
Berry Tramel, a lifelong Oklahoman, sports fan and newspaper reader, joined The Oklahoman in 1991 and has served as beat writer, assistant sports editor, sports editor and columnist. Tramel grew up reading four daily newspapers — The...
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