This would be HAPPY FATHERS DAY, to everyone involved.  Certainly I was thinking of my father as I started to write, but there’s a lot of fathers out there, that I don’t know, that deserves this, also.  I knew that I should write SOMETHING, but the words weren’t coming.  I would sit there, type and delete, type and delete, on and on….

So I said I’ve got to get out of the office, go outside, and just sit there, and regroup.  As I was sitting there, getting completely relaxed, it hit me: if my Dad was sitting here with me, we would both be sitting in that same spot, probably no more words being exchanged, than me sitting there by myself!  How great is that?  Being there, in that moment, and not having conversation, but being fine with that.  On the surface of us sitting there, (somewhere), we would be talking sports, (75% of the time), or the weather!  I’ve thought of him a lot lately; he’s 81, and it’s very hard for him to walk, but the rest of his physical shape is really good.  I’m very lucky, to have both of my parents still here, the two of them  going on to their 61st wedding anniversary.  So, so blessed.  Me too, by the way.

My Dad was a policeman, one that you didn’t want to mess with.  Growing up, we never heard any stories  from him, on his job, but we, (my brother an I), heard LOTS from other men behind the badge, and you wouldn’t want to be the OTHER  guy!  Not embellishment here, just going from observation.  Dad was a great athlete, he played football, basketball, baseball.  Played for the Yankees, (AAA), before going off to Korea; never went back to baseball.  Got a football scholarship to Notre Dame, but he didn’t ,,um, “study” enough in high school, so make the grades weren’t there; but the point here, is, he was one heck of an athlete.  Everything I know about pitching, (Dad was a pitcher, so was my Grandpa, for the St. Louis Cardinals), was from my Dad guiding me through all of the mechanics.  Up until I tore my shoulder girdle as a sophomore in high school,I was a fireball pitcher; after that, well let’s just say, anybody could hit me.  The only way I became that way, (in the beginning), was because of my Dad.  I loved that.  by the way, he ALWAYS worked 2 jobs, but he always had time to not only find time for me, but actually coached me in baseball, and basketball.  Unbelievable, but that’s just the way he was.  I’ll give you a funny, but heartwarming story.  When I was in Little League, ironically I was put on a team sponsored by the police department, “PEORIA POLICE” and Dad was our coach!  So he goes to the benevolent, at their monthly meeting,  and asks them to sponsor a trip, for our team, to go to to Wrigley Field, to see the Cubs play.  Mind you, Wrigley was over 2 hours away, and for a kid, that is eternity!  So they said ok, and that meant a meal stop half way up to Chicago, at a family style buffet; and when you’re a kid, WOW!  I don’t know how many cars it took to bring all of us , (teammates), but we did it, and when we got to the game, everything was free!  Soda, ice cream, hot dogs, whatever… we were shittin’ in high cotton!  By the way, saw Kenny Holtzman throw a no-hitter against Atlanta, the Braves!  How great was that?  We got home that night, and guess who threw u#*, because he ate too much?  The point of this story, though, is how much time my Dad gave me, and my brother, and later on, my sister.

When the folks come out here, to visit, a lot of time,(while we wait for Mom to get “ready”!), we’ll sit outside, and say……nothing;  except talking baseball.  You talk to some of my cousins, (especially Ritchie, another pitcher who is in our city/county Hall of Fame), Dad loved giving him pitchers advice.  Wait a minute, Dad is his Godfather, wow!

Three years ago, I was voted into that same Hall of Fame, for the city/county of Peoria, for football.  Our team went undefeated, and now we’re being voted into the Hall!  Besides the fact that we’re going back to my hometown, and my parents are with me, it was just cooooool!  So we get to the Hall of Fame building, big structure, (new, also), and we go up to the “will call” table, the one for the last names starting with “Y”.  I’m feeling GOOD, you know, this is the HALL OF FAME!!!  I step up for my ticket, say, I’m Scott Yonkouski, and the man looks up, then looks at my Dad, (never even looks at me), at says, “Are you Joe Yonkouski?”  My Dad says yes; the man comes out from behind the table, give my dad a hug, shakes his hand, and tells him that when they were in high school, my Dad was his idol; as an athlete, everybody wanted to be like “Joe”,  now, I’m standing there, going into the HALL OF FAME, saying, “excuse me, could I please get OUR tickets???”.  To be honest, I was so inspired by all of this, that 60 years later, people still recognized my Pop, and that is why our “no words” conversation means so much to me; life is about actions, not words, and that’s my Dad, still, actions still defeat words.  Dad, I love you, I’m inspired by you, you have always meant the world to me; just continue that lovely life of yours.  You’ve not only changed this little person in me, but a LOT  of other people, more than I could ever count.  HEY, HEY, IT’S A HOME RUN!!!  (anybody tell me who said that at a Cub game?, I know).


  • Jim Heid

    It’s deja vu all over again. I just got back from Peoria on Sunday, and while I was there for a wedding, I was able to spend Fathers day with Dad. Wherever I went with Dad last weekend people were coming up to him who were former teammates, students, athletes or someone who just wanted to say hi. It’s times like that which make me reflect on how proud I am to be his son, and on how proud you are to be Joe’s son. Except when you left your car bumper (with the license plate still attached) in that guys front yard and the Peoria Police were kind enough to return it to your Dad because it was his initials and badge # that was on the vanity license plate.
    Great article Scott and know that you made my day.
    Thank you and take care.

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