There were five masses at Holy Guardian Angels Church on Sundays when I was a kid: 6 a.m., 7:30 a.m., 9 a.m., 10:30 a.m. and noon. We always tried to go as a family but only because mom and dad would make us. We were a 9 a.m. family when we were one.
But as my brother got into high school and beyond, he began to weasel out of those family masses and go on his own — to the mass with a noon kickoff, if you will. It made sense. He was a teen-ager and he used weekends to sleep in. I’d find out, though, it wasn’t all about my brother’s beauty sleep.
So now I had a choice. I could go to mass with mom, dad and Gretchen, my sister. Or I could go with Bob later. It was such a no-brainer. The 9 a.m. masses were terrible; they were about Jesus, the blood of Christ, forgiveness … that stuff. But the noon mass was so different. The noon mass was about baseball! That’s right, baseball!
Little did mom or dad know at the time, but Bob went to the noon mass for one reason and one reason only: Rocky Colavito Jr. See, Rocky’s dad was the great Rocky Colavito Sr., a true legend of baseball in the 1950s and 1960s. Rocky Sr. played minor-league baseball in Reading, PA, and he fell in love with my mom’s best friend, Carmen Perotti. Rocky Sr. and Carmen are still alive and married, and my mom is both their best friends now.
After Rocky Sr. retired from playing, he became a coach for the Cleveland Indians and also the Kansas City Royals. That puts me at 11-years-old in 1975-ish, which makes my brother 18 or 19. My brother went to noon mass so he could see Rocky Jr., roughly the same age. There were open pews all over Holy Guardian Angels but Rocky Jr. and my brother never sat. They stood in the back, in the corner, and they talked baseball for an hour. Check that: They whispered about baseball. Go ask my brother what the homily was about during any of these masses and he’s got no chance. He and Rocky Jr. missed it all — the entrance hymn, the gospel, the collection, you name it.
Rocky Jr. told my older brother everything — because Rocky Sr., was still so tapped into the game and its players. I’d stand beside my brother, picking up parts of the conversation … a Bobby Murcer here, an Oscar Gamble there. It was like Rocky Jr. was on the inside: Freddy and Jimmy were Fred Lynn and Jim Rice. Stuff like that. While it was frustrating not getting the whole story, it would only be temporary. Bob would tell me everything on the way home.
“Uncle Rock thinks there’s big trouble in New York,” I remember my brother saying once. I was a huge Yankees fan growing up; my brother liked Boston. “Why?” I said. “He said that every time Thurman Munson and Reggie Jackson pass each other in the clubhouse or hallway, the whole team shudders.”
I thank Rocky Jr. for the Bronx Zoo foreshadowing; I thank my brother for the rides and info; and I thank god I got out of that 9 a.m. mass.