Hank Tatum


Today America lost a great hero in football player Hank Tatum. And when I say hero, I don’t mean like the Enrique Iglesias song, the Jet Li film, or the Greek sandwich. The Greeks had other more important inventions anyway, like the phalanx. Without the phalanx they would have been a far inferior fighting force when it came to most of their wars. Here, you can imagine it like this. When we invaded Iraq, George W. Bush was looking for weapons of mass destruction, but what he found instead was a group of hostile citizens that did not want Captain America on their turf. As you know, that didn’t deter Bush for he had the power of 300 million behind him. Men loved him, and women wanted to be him. Bush had even more draw and charisma than Hank Tatum.

Hank Tatum always had that same determined smile regardless of the score of the game. I remember the first time I went to Lambeau Field to watch him play with my dad, your grandpa, and I was eating a hotdog. The hotdog had both mustard and ketchup on it, because that’s the way Hank Tatum used to like it. In fact, every time before then that I ate a hotdog, I used to put on relish instead of the mustard. Your grandma used to hate mustard so we never had it growing up. You should consider yourself lucky that Mom isn’t the same way or else this household wouldn’t have any either. When I met your mother she used to not like mustard, but with age she’s grown quite fond of it. My mother never grew out of it. I think that’s the biggest difference between your mom and my mom. Well, that and the knitting.

Son, I guess what I’m trying to say is that I’m glad you never learned how to knit. When I was a boy I never did anything except listen to President Truman on the radio and collect stamps. Boy o boy I was quite the philatelist. While other boys were playing football and pretending to be the next Hank Tatum or Roger Warrington, I spent most afternoons with my granddaddy, your great-granddaddy, listening to the White Sox game and organizing my newest stamps. The White Sox were a formidable side back then, even without Glen Larkin, because they worked hard and attended every game in uniform. Back in those days, some teams didn’t have uniforms. I know my little league team growing up didn’t and that’s why I got so into stamps. My two favorites had to be an old 13 center with Mary Todd Lincoln on it and then the 1954 edition commemorating Hank Tatum’s first Super Bowl ring. Hank Tatum was a terrific football player.

It’s a shame you couldn’t have been born a few decades earlier or you might know more of what I’m talking about. Your grandpa, my father, used to love watching him play except when he fumbled the football. I guess I should mention that your grandpa, my father, always used to have a tough time holding onto the ball when he was watching the game and would fumble it a lot. This made him angry because your grandma, my mother, would always tell him to just watch the game without holding onto the ball and then he wouldn’t fumble it onto the carpet. He used to really yell at her, but I think that deep down it was just because he wanted some mustard. He used to scream, “Hey! Maybe if we had some goddamn mustard, I wouldn’t have to drink so goddamn much, and I could hold on to the goddamn ball!”

By the time I was 11, I think your grandpa, my father, was taking me to the Veteran’s Club just about every Sunday afternoon to get some of their famous mustard sandwiches. They used to lather the entire roll with mustard and serve it to you open-face style with two slices of the green-grocer’s best turkey. It was a real shame when that green-grocer got pushed out by the big supermarkets. We never got to eat any more of the mustard sandwiches, but we still would go to the Veteran’s Club from time to time. The coolest part about the Veteran’s Club though was the giant poster they had of Hank Tatum’s most famous Coca Cola advertisement. Coke and Danville Cream Soda had quite the rivalry back then, and Hank Tatum gave Coke the edge they needed to push Danville out of the market for good. Hank Tatum was the first player to win both the MVP award and the Danville darts contest in the same year. I remember how my father, your grandpa, took me up to Danville one time to see that darts contest, but by 1972 they had already discontinued it. We toured the old Danville Cream Soda plant instead and then just headed on home. Hey, I should take you up to Danville sometime.

Your mother was born in Danville you know. She moved when she was a little girl because her family wanted to start a Hank Tatum fan club here in Jackson. Hank Tatum even came to Jackson a few times to say hi. When I got his autograph, it was just about the greatest thing your mom and I had ever done. I didn’t know a joy like that until we had you. I guess now that Hank Tatum has died, you’ll have to be the only joy in my life. Can you do that son? For your old man?

A.T. Piskai

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