Tribute to Uncle John

 

 

A Mets fan dies, goes to Heaven, and is promised a palace to live in. The palace is said to be completely and totally decked out in Mets gear; pennants, posters, and pinups all bearing the orange and blue.

 

When the man arrived to Heaven, he noticed a castle all decked out in Yankee gear. He walks up to God and asks him about it.

 

“What is the deal? I thought you promised me a Mets house!”

 

God replies, “Oh the Yankee palace? That’s my house!”

 

My Uncle John Lakis told me this joke the day of my eighth grade graduation party.

 

Sadly, my uncle passed away yesterday afternoon. He was one of the greatest Yankee fans I knew and more importantly one of the nicest people I knew. He had a kind heart, loved his family with all his heart, and had such a wonderful and infectious personality.

 

I had the pleasure of working for him over the summer of 2005. We shared many conversations about the Bronx Bombers, politics, and my future goals. He always seemed interested in what I had to say and I always enjoyed and cherished his company.

 

My Uncle John once told me a story about how he would (occasionally) go to school for half a day and leave in the afternoons to go to Yankee Stadium. He and his friends would get to the ballpark and buy cheap bleacher seats. Then they would spend the rest of the afternoon watching the Yanks win from the grand stands.

 

It’s funny that he told me that story. Just recently, my journalism mentor has been telling me to enjoy myself and not always be so cautious and tense. In his own words he told me, “get in trouble once in awhile.”

 

It’s good to know that my uncle had the mentality of having fun. I think he was trying to teach me that by sharing that story with me. Ditching school for a Yankee game is something I have done in the past year, so in a way I think he would be proud of me. 

 

I guess you have to break the rules sometimes. 

 

His son, my cousin Thomas (who is also a HUGE Yankee fan), won tickets to a Yankees vs. Braves game back in 2006. June 27 was the day of the game. Tommy had won excellent seats; in fact they were in a luxury box in the loge tier. I had never sat in a luxury box at a Yankee game (or any sporting event, for that matter) and I haven’t since.

 

 


we sat in the luxury box in 2006 

I remember talking to my Uncle John about how strange it felt to be sitting there. He remarked by saying that “it just didn’t feel like a real game,” since there were HD televisions in the suite. I’ll admit, the TVs made it feel strange, but so did the atmosphere. There were other people in the box–business men–who spoke about their business trips and work lives.

 

One of them even made a comment, mentioning how when he had gone to Chicago a few weeks prior, he saw Andy Pettitte pitch. I can only assume the White Sox were hosting the Astros in a 2005 World Series rematch.

 

As for the Yankees, it was not their night. The Braves handed them a 5-2 loss. Really the only notable highlight of the game was a home run in the ninth inning from Melky Cabrera. It’s kind of ironic when I think about it, now that he plays for the Braves.

 

 


Melky homered in the loss we saw to the Braves. Where is Melky now? On the Braves. :/ 

But we had a much better day the very next month.

 

On July 15, 2006, my other cousin Krystina gave me tickets to a game vs. the White Sox. These were excellent seats; right on the third baseline, practically right behind the White Sox’ dugout. I invited my Uncle John, Tommy, and my cousin Gordon. We all had a “boys day” and traveled down to the Bronx for the game.

 

And it was a GREAT day to be a Yankee fan!

 

We sat on the third baseline when we saw the Yanks beat Buehrle & the ChiSox

 

Mike Mussina made the start against the soon-to-be-perfect Mark Buehrle. He may have tossed a no-no the next year in 2007 and a perfecto in ’09, but the Yankees tore Buehrle apart the day we saw him pitch. They hit him very hard, chasing him from the game after just three innings of work.

 

Mussina on the other hand was brilliant tossing a quality start and later registering the win. Moose gave up just three runs on eight hits, issuing one walk and fanning five along the way. Let’s just say Mussina was Mussina that day.

 

(Of all Yankees) Bubba Crosby and Andy Phillips smacked home runs that day–if you even remember who they are. The youngsters may have gone deep, but Derek Jeter, my Uncle John’s favorite player, went 2-for-4 with three RBIs and a run scored.

 

The Yankees won in a squadoosh, 14-3. My Uncle John was very happy.

 

What I also loved about the game we all attended vs. the White Sox was the giveaway. The U.S. Postal Service issued collectible stamps of old-time baseball players. We received four stamps. The first bore the image of Mickey Mantle, the second was Mel Ott, the third Roy Campanella, and finally Hank Greenberg.

 

 


These were the stadium giveaway stamps we received.  

In fact, each player was represented at a ceremony behind home plate before first pitch. I can’t remember who represented who, but I do know that Mantle’s sons were there, which was pretty special. Now whenever I look at my stamps, I will always think of my uncle.

 

This past Christmas was the last time I saw my uncle. He pulled me aside and talked to me about possibly going to Florida this spring to see the Yankees work out in Tampa. I am about to graduate college and everyone’s schedules have been too messy, so we obviously were not able to go. He wanted to take me and his boys.

 

It was something he had wanted to do for awhile, but we never got to do it.

 

I am going to miss him very much. He was a great boss, a great teacher, an avid and intelligent Yankee fan, and overall a wonderful person. I will not forget him for everything he did for me and I will always remember the great times I had with him.

 

Uncle John, I wish you peace. We all love you and we will not forget you.

 

And I’d like to add that Heaven just received a great Yankee fan and a great man.

 

“I am the resurrection and the life, says the

Lord. Whoever believes in me, even though they

die, shall live. And whoever lives and believes

in me will never die.”–John 11:25-26

1 Comment

So sorry you had to lose your Uncle John, A.J. He sounds like a wonderful man. I hope he’s having a great Yankees-related conversation with other dearly departed Yankee fans – and maybe even some Yankee legends like Gehrig, Ruth and Mantle!

- http://janeheller.mlblogs.com

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