Ya gotta love Stephen Costello. He’s the real deal, a generous, affectionate, loving dad, husband, grandparent and good buddy (friends flock in with tributes—one even interjects himself into the middle of the author’s chapter to talk about spending a great day at the 2013 Baseball All Star Game). As corny, nostalgic (and slightly repetitive) as Costello’s story seems to be, however, it exudes authenticity and self-effacing charm (too bad the B & W photos scattered throughout are so small). Throughout, Costello boldfaces words of wisdom that spin off anecdotes, such as: “Just because someone says something, it doesn’t mean it’s true. Even if that person is your mother.” But it wasn’t his mother who ruled with an iron fist.
A daughter writes that her dad “made a point to never be like his dad.” Indeed, Costello’s truck driver father, aka “The Hand,” was “a bully, a man given to violence, obscenity, racist remarks, cruelty.” He held a hand in front of his face, even to yell at their dog. And he never once took his baseball-loving young son to a game. It was Costello’s dearly beloved maternal grandfather who did that.
It’s full of deadpan humor, often hilarious, and told in a breezy, conversational style, but this could have been a different memoir, a tale of childhood physical and psychological abuse. But Costello, a successful businessman and a resident of Westhampton for the last 14 years, is too sunny to do that. Thankful for the joys of what his childhood did give him, and for the people with whom he shared them, he passes on that legacy and, in the process, celebrate one of his shining heroes, Harvey Haddix.
Harvey Who? Haddix, who pitched 12 perfect innings, “a performance that has still never quite found its rightful place in history.” It was May 26, 1959 when the unknown farm boy with the Pittsburgh Pirates “threw the greatest game ever pitched in the history of baseball …EVER.” It’s time the world knows and appreciates this, as Costello tells Haddix’s widow. Other tidbits dot the narrative, such as the fact that the Cincinnati Reds in the ’50s were called the Red Legs to avoid “any perceived association with communism.” Or that baseball was invented not by Abner Doubleday but by Alexander Joy Cartwright. Though Costello is a total sports nut, a player, a lifelong fan and a Harvey Haddix proponent, it’s the familial story and the truth in the title My Father Never Took Me to a Baseball Game that proves most engaging.