I can do everything through him who gives me strength.
Bob Bundy dreamed of playing professional baseball for the Brooklyn Dodgers.
The extremely athletic young man got his start in that direction when, right after World War II in 1946, he signed with a minor league team in Santa Barbara, Calif.
There was no shortage of young men like Bundy who after the war's end flooded every job market looking for a lucky break. That included baseball.
Nevertheless, Bundy was seen as a rising star.
The young outfielder, playing in his native state of California, knew he would make it to "the big show" someday if he paid his dues, and the Dodgers major league team that resided in Brooklyn, N.Y., during those days was the first to take real notice of Bundy. They gave him a chance to grow his way up the ladder by signing him in the Dodgers' minor league system, where most all young players go to learn and train until they make it to the big-leagues level.
It was in 1950 when Bundy made his first big headlines.
And it wasn't quite how he expected.
Playing for the Hollywood Stars in February 1950, Bundy was on base in a big game when he tried to score on a play at home plate.
Bundy collided with the catcher, Jim Gladd, and in the violence and confusion caused by the play, Bundy was knocked unconscious and Gladd lost the ball.
Another rising star, Mo Williams, stood on deck, waiting to bat. When he saw that Bundy was knocked out cold and Gladd was struggling to find the ball, Williams rushed to Bundy's side, picked up his teammate's hand and put it on home plate.
The run scored.
Last week, I was surprised and excited to find a special e-mail waiting on me when I arrived at work on a Monday morning.
"Hello. My name is Jayni Bundy. I was given the article that you wrote, Got glove? We do!' posted on April 25, 2009... I was shocked to see my Dad's glove!
"That's right, Bob Bundy is my dad."
The article she referred to was a column I had penned about the "Glove with Love" drive, which collects used and new baseball gloves to donate to needy boys and girls. The idea is to collect old gloves from people's closets or garages, or to accept donated new gloves, and quietly use them to help those who have difficulties helping themselves.
That article featured one particular glove anonymously donated, as most are, at the front desk of our office. The glove was circa 1950, endorsed by one Bob Bundy, meaning the glove-maker had printed Bundy's name on it betting that he would become a big star and hoping the name would help sell it.
I love baseball but had never heard that name, so right away, the glove intrigued me. I wrote about it, and I mentioned that we likely would someday auction the glove to raise money to buy multiple new gloves for the children.
One day while visiting in my office, New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson, himself a former baseball player, noticed the glove. He, too, was intrigued and just as mystified as I was as to who in the world is Bob Bundy.
But Jayni Bundy knew.
"That's my dad," she said.
"Is there any way possible that I could buy back the glove, as my dad is now 86 years old and I think it would mean the world to him to slip on the old glove one more time."
I wrote back to explain that the glove likely wasn't his personal glove, but one simply endorsed by him.
It didn't matter. She really wanted, she said, to give him that glove for Christmas and it would mean much to her to do so.
Jayni offered to pay for the glove, and she also offered me an opportunity to interview her father.
I jumped on the opportunity and began doing my homework, but finding background on Bob Bundy in professional baseball wasn't easy.
Searching through various baseball sources, I learned that in the nine seasons between 1946 and 1954, Bundy played on 27 minor league teams. Most of his success seems to have come with the Dodgers organization, and it's obvious that Bundy remained persistent in pursuing his dream to play for Brooklyn.
The Brooklyn Dodgers, by the way, later moved to Los Angeles, where the team is today. Its top minor league team plays in Albuquerque, but its lower-level minor league teams are scattered around the country, just as they were during Bundy's playing days.
"He has always been a big Dodgers fan," daughter Jayni said.
Bundy never made it to the "big show," however.
"His knees got hurt really bad, and that stopped him from moving forward," she said. "Unfortunately, he just got hurt."
Bundy learned about the glove that sat in my office when someone at church there in California found the April column online and printed it out for him. Tuesday a week ago, Jayni said she and her dad were very excited, as that was the first day she saw my return mail in response to her original note.
"We both were so excited and talking about it," she said. "We were so excited to hear from you."
That afternoon, however, Bundy had a doctor's appointment.
The news was not good.
"Just found out today that my Dad is very sick, and does not have much more time," Jayni wrote in an e-mail. "It would mean a lot to get the glove and I would love to give it to him for Christmas. I know this will be our last Christmas."
She offered to pay for the glove, including a donation to the "Glove with Love" campaign, which she and her family were delighted to hear about.
But for the rare glove with her dad's name, "I will be so grateful. Thank you so much, and if you can, please say a prayer for him. He is such a special Dad, and I just want to make Christmas special for him. I love him with all my heart."
OK, this was more than just a fun little follow-up story now. I felt a personal connection and certainly a shared passion and appreciation for baseball.
Bob Bundy is a man I need to meet, I told my wife that night.
I asked her, even if it'd have to be on our own dime, if she would be interested in a getaway weekend to L.A.
No, not Lower Alabama, where I was born and raised. L.A., the big city on the West Coast.
L.A., the home of the Dodgers.
L.A., the home of Bob Bundy.
She only smiled in reply, but she didn't say no.
So, I started looking at airfares and figured I will spend a few days searching for a last-minute deal to fly next weekend.
Vintage glove in tow, of course.
Until last week, Bob Bundy had never heard of the "Glove with Love" program, but little did he know when he read about it, he already had contributed to it.
Immediately after the April column was published about his name-endorsed glove, new interest was sparked in the community and at least another 15-20 gloves were donated to help needy children. We give the adult-sized gloves to the local Special Olympics teams. Other gloves go to non-profits or entities such as a housing development where the kids need games to play to stay out of trouble. We've once prepared a big bag of gloves to give to jailed young men in a youth detention center.
Sunday night, I sent Jayni a note setting up a phone interview with her and her father for sometime Monday, and promising that she will indeed get the glove in time to surprise her dad for Christmas.
First, while in the exciting baseball spirit and mixing it with the exciting Christmas spirit, I took off for lunch Monday and went to what I call my favorite night club, Smith's grocery store, and bought for our news staff 30 boxes of Cracker Jacks.
"They'll love that for a Christmas treat," I thought to myself, but then, "They're journalists; they'll eat anything."
It set the tone for my big interview with Bundy. I returned to the office, and sure enough, there was a voicemail waiting on me from Jayni.
I hit the play button:
"Hi, this is for Troy Turner. This is Jayni Bundy, Bob Bundy's daughter.
"Unfortunately... he passed away last night."
I was shellshocked.
They say that of all the emotions, regret is the toughest. Not the most painful, or not necessarily the most enduring, but the toughest.
The reason why regret is considered by many as the toughest emotion is because it's the one that you least can change.
I regret I did not talk to Bob Bundy sooner on the phone.
I regret that I did not have the opportunity to meet him and his lovely family sooner than I had planned.
I am grateful, however, that I have come to know him.
"He just hit a home run and made it into Heaven safe," Jayni proudly declared when we talked on the phone later Monday afternoon. "We're going to have the service later this week, and we're all going to have Dodgers hats on."
Bundy suffered much of his later life with diabetes, having already had a foot amputated. He was unaware that he was suffering from gangrene when the doctor diagnosed it last Sunday, and then informed him on that Tuesday that he was dying.
No one knew it would happen so quick. Jayni had hoped they would have another Christmas together.
"It's OK, Dad," she told him before he died. "They're going to have a big baseball game up in the sky, and you'll get to run with both feet!"
Jayni's twin sister, Joni, older by three minutes, shared similar memories of her dad, including recollection of the infamous incident when he was knocked out at home plate.
"Baseball was his whole life," she said, "and he loved it."
The daughters said as long as they knew him, his room was always fashioned in Dodgers decor.
"I was on a woman's softball league," she said, laughing at herself. "I wasn't very good.
"I never worked so hard in my life, but that connection to Dad was strong that way. Baseball was his passion. The softball team was my way of kind of connecting to his passion."
Their faith in God became more important to all of them as they grew older.
Shortly before Bundy's death, Jayni said she told him, "When you get to Heaven, send me a sign with birds."
She paused through the tears.
"Honest to God, if this morning I didn't have a whole V-shape of birds to drop down and fly right in front of my car!"
The signs didn't stop there.
She, for some reason, felt compelled to tell me that one of his favorite foods was: Cracker Jacks.
I looked, while still holding the phone, down at the pile of 30 boxes of the treat I had just bought, the guy on the front of the box just smiling at me.
"About the glove," I asked her. "Did he know that there was such a thing, a glove professionally endorsed with his name on it?"
"He knew," Jayni replied. "But he never had one.
"That's why I wanted to give him that for Christmas."
It's on the way home, Jayni.
It's on the way home.
Troy Turner is the editor of The Daily Times. He can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org, or at P.O. Box 450, Farmington, N.M., 87401. Donations to the Glove with Love drive, gloves only and not money, still can be made at the front office of The Daily Times. Once the program is legally created as a non-profit, financial donations will be accepted.
Services for Bob Bundy will be at 10 a.m. Saturday at Brea Baptist Church in Brea, Calif.