Photos are life's treasures, especially when there are names and dates on the back of a hard copy of one. Digital photos are also great, but there is nothing like receiving an old photo of a loved one sent by an angel! That angel is Jackie, my dad's best friend, Bernie Kasperski's daughter. Jackie recently sent me the digitized basketball team photo (below) of a photo of my dad, Johnny, sitting next to the kid with the basketball, and his best friend, Bernie, seated on the far left of the photo.
Funny thing, I never knew my dad played basketball, though he loved and played many sports during his era and was a tremendous competitor in baseball and bowling. Looking at the photo, he seemed to be the smallest kid in the bunch. And his seated body language stayed with him his entire life. I suspect he was about 14 or 15 (born in 1924), with Bernie three years older when the photo was taken—approximately1938.
Growing up in Cleveland, Ohio, in a strong Polish community, playing sports was my dad's outlet, and probably getting out of working at his parent's grocery store when games "he needed" to play in were on his schedule. I hope he got some playing time in basketball based on his size, but I knew he was fast and scrappy, and any team would play a kid like that.
Based on the clothing, I wonder if this was some summer league with high school that fall. If that were the case, this photo would have been taken in 1938, and my dad graduated from East Technical High School in 1942. Athletically, my dad and Bernie were in excellent company with the athletes who also attended East Tech: Jesse Owens (a little older than my dad) and Harrison Dilliard (same age as Johnny).
Most Track&Field fans know about Jesse Owens and winning Olympic gold medals at the Games in Berlin in 1936, but Harrison, who is the only male in the history of the Olympic Games to win gold in both the 100 meters (sprints) and the 110-meter hurdles, that made him the "World's Fastest Man" in 1948 and the "World's Fastest Hurdler" in 1952. I guess those two were running more than playing basketball.
So, was it the angels...baseball best friend angels...that had Jackie reaching out to me? Maybe.
I told her this photo was a gift I will always cherish.