Have you ever received a text/video from a graveyard?

Published 12:00 am Thursday, June 6, 2024

Getting your Trinity Audio player ready...

It had been some time since I had heard from Dwight Sparks. If you’ve read The Courier over the years, you undoubtedly remember him as the longtime publisher and editor who retired in 2018.

Like most of us, I rely on texting as any easy way to communicate, but I’ll have to admit that I stopped dead (pun intended) in my tracks when Dwight recently sent a video to his grandkids — and to me — from a graveyard in Pittsburgh.

Providing some context, he knew about me being a lifelong fan of the Pirates, which is why I was included in the text/video, but it still caught me off guard.

Painting the picture, there’s Dwight kneeled down on the corner of the grave marker of former Pirates’ legend Honus Wagner with a soiled baseball in his right hand and a serious look on his face.

I then hit the play button: “Grandchildren, I’m here at the grave of Honus Wagner, the best third baseman ever in Major League Baseball. Back in the ’50s and ’40s, he was good. And if you have his baseball card, it would be worth a half a million dollars. I brought a baseball from home, and I’m going to leave it here in his honor. See ya!”

My response, as a long-suffering fan of the local team: “Let me know when you get to the mass grave of the Pittsburgh Pirates. They’ve been dead since their last World Series title in 1979. That’s 45 years. My goal in the home stretch of life is for them to win one more before I fly away.”

Figuring that visiting the graveyard was his main mission on this trip, he told me about eating lunch at a bar next to what many consider to be baseball’s most beautiful stadium with a towering backdrop of skyscrapers reaching to the heavens across the river — WITHOUT the Pirates even being in town!

How could he?

Besides beach trips, most of my travels involve going to games, including one unique visit to the Steel City in 1990 where I saw all three major league teams play within 30 hours of each other — Steelers football regular season game on Sunday at 1 p.m., Penguins hockey season opener Sunday at 7 p.m., and Pirates playoff baseball game Monday at 3 p.m.

As a frequent visitor to Pittsburgh over the years (with some family there and going up for games), I was able to give Dwight a few tips on other things to do after the graveyard and grub.

Actually, I shouldn’t have been surprised after learning that Dwight admitted to becoming a “tombstone tourist” as a retirement hobby, especially during the COVID days.

I uncovered this gem from a story that he did a few years ago, writing about his time on the road with his wife, Elizabeth: “When we travel, I drag Elizabeth to cemeteries to see the famous dead. It has been the perfect pastime during the virus scare. No admission fees. No masks. Cemeteries are open. Lawns are usually well manicured and peaceful. Elizabeth is a tolerant wife. Her girlfriends think I’m a bit batty and recoil at the thought of casual trips to graveyards.”

While pointing out the trips also include other tourist and sightseeing destinations, Honus Wagner’s grave was just the latest in a long line that has included the likes of Ronald Reagan, Richard Nixon and Marilyn Monroe (all in the same day!), along with the graves of movie stars, generals and famous people: Babe Ruth, Gen. Stonewall Jackson, Audie Murphy, Ruth Bader Ginsburg, John D. Rockefeller, Gen. Douglas MacArthur, Cherokee warrior Junaluska, Jefferson Davis, Gen. Robert E. Lee, teacher-astronaut Christa McAuliffe, Dean Smith, Robert Frost, Revolutionary War heroine Molly Pitcher, O. Henry …

The list goes on and on.

I really enjoyed working at the Courier with Dwight for nearly a decade before he entered the next chapter of his life. But quite honestly, when my time comes to hang it up from my days as a journalist, I see a different path for me — perhaps going to Pittsburgh to watch if the Pirates rise up for another World Series. 

• • • •

With Father’s Day approaching, I happened to run across a timeline on how dads are frequently viewed by their children over the years. An author’s name wasn’t attached, but I thought it was worth sharing:

5 years old — Dad knows everything!

7 years old — Dad knows.

10 years old — Maybe dad doesn’t know?!

12 years old — Dad doesn’t know.

14 years old — Dad’s gone crazy!

16 years old — Can’t take dad seriously.

18 years old — What does dad know?!

22 years old — Dad’s talking rubbish!

24 years old — I know more than dad!

26 years old — Dad seems to know some things after all.

30 years old — Think I should ask dad about this?!

40 years old — It’s amazing how dad went through all this!

45 years old — Dad’s been right all along.

50 years old — If dad was here, I could have learned a lot.