By MARK MAYNARD
Even when down to his last days, Paul Jackson remained sold out to the Cincinnati Reds.
Mr. Jackson’s last 40 days of life were spent in a hospital, but his beloved Reds were never too far away.
He watched Cincinnati’s last regular season game the day before he died and never missed a pitch of Homer Bailey’s no-hitter a few nights earlier.
“I’m not sure he missed a game this year,” his son, Greg, said. “He’d sit right there at the kitchen table. He had his seat where he always watched them.”
The Reds were theraputic for him through an illness that was slowly taking his breath away. He looked forward to turning on Fox Sports Ohio every time they played. It became a needed distraction if nothing else.
“Even when he was in the hospital, he knew what time the Reds were playing,” Greg said.
The Reds have become like that to lots of fans through the magic of having nearly every game on television. The technology of high definition TV has brought the baseball park right into our living rooms. Joey Votto and Johnny Cueto are like family to us.
On the night when Bailey threw his no-hitter, Mr. Jackson didn’t miss a pitch, his son said. Greg went into the hallway to speak with his mother and when he came back into the room his father told him “I want you to look at the linescore.” He didn’t want to jinx Bailey by mentioning the words no-hitter.
The Pirates were coming up to bat in the bottom of the ninth inning when Greg saw the linescore and knew what his father was hinting.
“When the linescore came up I said, ‘I know what you mean,’’’ Greg said. “My wife and sister both said, ‘What are you talking about?’ After each out we counted them off. After the last one, we high-fived each other. Then we told them we could talk about it.”
During the Reds’ last game of the regular season, only a day before he died, Mr. Jackson fell asleep watching the game. When he woke up early in the morning, he seemed agitated, his son said. “He was wearing a (oxygen) mask and I couldn’t understand him. I gave him a dry eraser board. He wrote R-E-D-S on it. I said ‘You want to know what the Reds did? They lost 1-0.’ He shook his head no like you would if you were disappointed. That’s what was on his mind.”
Reds fever spread through the Jackson family, Greg said. His aunt, Paul’s younger sister, Helen Lazear, has become a hardcore fan. And Greg’s youngest daughter, Kathryn, a devout New York Yankee fan who owns a Derek Jeter replica bat, even promised her grandfather if the Reds and Yankees made it to the World Series that she would root for Cincinnati.
She has even ordered a replica Reds jersey with No. 7 — her grandfather’s favorite number — and P. Jackson on the back she will wear during games.
Rebecca, another granddaughter, bought him a Reds polo shirt that was hung up during his visitation service. They all knew of his devotion to the Reds.
“I’m telling you, it didn’t matter what else was on, he wanted to watch the Reds,” Greg said. “I’d flip back and forth on Saturdays from football games so we wouldn’t miss any at-bats.”
Paul Jackson was a lifelong Reds’ fan, his son said. “I can remember him taking me to Crosley Field,” he said. “He always loved the Reds. You knew when you went over to his house what he would be doing.”
Even his wife, Glenys, got into watching the Reds with him despite being a casual fan. Her favorite pitcher is Bronson Arroyo. Paul’s favorite player was Votto.
Paul Jackson was a family man who had his priorities in order: God, family, friends ... and the Reds.
It could be the Reds need a little divine intervention in the postseason.
Dalton Brown, an eighth-grader who plays on West Carter’s varsity golf team, had two holes-in-one in practice rounds with the Comets prior to the regional tournament. He aced the par-3 third hole at Carter Caves, and the par-3 seventh at Hidden Cove.
Brown is the grandson of the late West Carter girls’ basketball coach John “Hop” Brown. Dalton’s nephew, Kyle Brown, is also a top golfer for the Comets.
MARK MAYNARD can be reached at email@example.com or (606) 326-2648.