Before Baseball

Growing Up

I was born Ronald Dale Kittle on January 5, 1958 in Gary, Indiana.  I'm the 4th of 6 children (Jimmy, Sandy, Linda, Me, Diane & my bigger little brother, Freddie) to Dorothy Jean and James W. "Slim" Kittle.  I was the 7th favorite child.

Dad had a 6th grade education, was put into the Merchant Marines at age 13 and found his way to the steel mills.  Mom... how Mom didn't go crazy taking care of 6 kids, while also working 2 jobs is beyond me.  I don't know how she found time to work.  By the time she was done feeding everyone and cleaning up from breakfast, it was time to start lunch.



I went to Aetna Elementrary and then graduated from William A. Wirt High School in 1976.  I was a 3-sport athlete in high school.  I probably played basketball and football better than baseball, but - I focused on baseball because I was told I would never play baseball with glasses.

It's always been my nature to do what people say I can't.


Iron Working

My graduation gift from my Dad was a piece of paper saying I was an apprentice ironworker.  I was a "punk" in my Dad's "gang."  To you non-ironworkers, that means I knew nothing and did what everyone told me to do - and my Dad was the boss!  With my Dad, you worked hard or he didn't want you around.  He was tough on me, but he was tough on everyone.  But for sure, people wanted to work on his gang because we all made a lot of money.  In those early days, anyone I worked with was scared to death that I would get hurt on their watch, because if I did - Slim would've had their head.

I learned a lot in the mills.  We worked hard, real hard - but we had fun too.  Because we were guys, it was all about brute strength, who could beat who, doing what.  There would be bets all the time... over anything.  Who could throw 10" bolts the furthest, who could pull tie wire apart, you know - any of those stupid things guys do for no reason.  I worked hard in the mills because I wanted to make my Dad proud, I wanted to be better than everyone, but also, I wanted to beat everyone at all those bets.  And I did.

Really, I think that's where all that "Big Man from Gary" power came from that I used later in life.

(Ok, I lied.  Big John beat me arm wrestling.

To be fair, his hands were so big he could lift an acetylene tank just by palming it.)


Next: Baseball - Minor Leagues

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