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.
Berry Tramel: Berry can be reached at (405) 760-8080 or at firstname.lastname@example.org. 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.