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FEBRUARY 1990: BASEBALL MEMORIES; DAD EARNS SPOT IN DAUGHTER'S HALL OF FAME.

Byline: Dennis McCarthy

Her field of dreams was a dirt lot, behind the alley that ran next to herhome in Chicago.

When she turned 4, Max took her out there before dinner. He put a baseball bat in her hand and taught Marilyn the friendship clasp.

``You take the bat in your left hand and stroke the wood with your right hand, honey,'' Max told her patiently. ``Then, you put the bat in both hands and find just the right amount of wood to make a friendship clasp.''

She stood at the brown paper sack that served as home plate - all smiles, all excitement - watching her father pace off the distance to the pitcher's mound.

She struggled to raise the bat off her shoulder, mimicking the motions she had seen Max perform so many times during the Sunday afternoon baseball games with his buddies.

Marilyn pounded the bat on the makeshift home plate and looked toward the outfield and around the infield before focusing her stare on the enemy.

That's what the pitcher is, Max had told her, the enemy. Show him no quarter. Give it the best you've got, kid.

Max Tempkins' little girl was ready Her eyes grew wide as she watched the ball float toward home plate. The small wooden baseball bat began its wide arc toward the enemy.

Could anything be more fun than this, she thought? Was there a luckier little girl in the world right now? Impossible.

From across the alley, through a kitchen window, a familiar voice signaled the nightly halt to Marilyn Tempkins' field of dreams.

``Dinner's getting cold, you two,'' Max Tempkins' wife yelled.

The game of life

Slowly, they would walk home - talking baseball, talking life - year after year.

The way Max saw it, baseball and life were one and the same.

Marilyn smiles warmly at the memories. She's not a kid anymore. She's a middle-aged woman, trying to carve a niche for herself in the professional world. At present, she's a catering secretary at the Marriott Hotel in Woodland Hills.

Max died a couple of years ago from a heart attack, she says. Right up to the end, though, at age 71, he was still playing ball in a senior citizen softball league in the Valley - still playing life.

``He was one helluva guy,'' Marilyn says - maybe the second highest compliment a daughter can pay a father.

The first is to emulate him.

``I'm a female Max Tempkins,'' she says, proudly. ``After he passed away, his whole being went into me. I've found myself taking on his expressions, his laugh, his attitude on life. Never quit. Always play hard but fair.''

She pauses, looking hard at me. Do I understand what she's trying to say? She's not hanging on to the past. She's simply a grown daughter who never wants to forget life's lessons taught by a father with a baeball in his hand.

``Sometimes, I'll take a couple of his old sport jackets out and wear them,'' Marilyn says. ``It feels like he's near me.''

`Helluva guy'

I like that, I tell her. Every father wants to be remembered by his children as a ``helluva guy.'' We may not admit it to anyone but ourselves, but the feelings are there.

Too many of the stories you read about fathers these days are about failure. Too many of us leave. Too many of us don't pay up. Too many of us are too busy for our kids.

But there are a lot of Max Tempkins out there, too - even though we seldom read about them.

That's the point Marilyn Tempkins is trying to make, she says.

This isn't her story. It's our story.

It's the story of every kid, boy or girl, who was lucky enough to grow up with vivid, loving memories of a father who took the time.

Memories that make you want to emulate them after they're gone, to wear their old sport jacket, to remember a friendship clasp taught you as a little girl.

She stepped up to the plate for the Warner Center Marriott softball team and took her stance.

She smiled, raised her chin with pride, and swung the bat twice for the feel. On the mound, the enemy - the pitcher for Health Net - began her windup.

``Strike one,'' the umpire hollered.

``It's OK, Mar,'' said the voice in her head. ``You've got leeway. Take your time. Keep it together.''

The enemy threw the second pitch. The middle-aged woman with the friendship clasp swung and sent the ball soaring over the right fielder's head.

The female Max Tempkins blew a kiss to the heavens as she circled the bases and came home.
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Copyright 1997, Gale Group. All rights reserved. Gale Group is a Thomson Corporation Company.

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Publication:Daily News (Los Angeles, CA)
Date:Oct 26, 1997
Words:779
Previous Article:JUNE 1997: DISABLED GOING FROM WORK TO WELFARE.
Next Article:A LIFETIME'S WORTH OF LIVES AND TIMES.


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