There’s Never a Trace of a Gripe With Them


The son was ordered to fly and so he did, far away from his father’s tiny house with the white aluminum siding, the eagle on the mailbox, the two weathered flags sticking out of the crooked bushes.

The son was pushed into the world and so he went, leaving behind his father’s two-bedroom, one-bathroom life in the shadowed belly of America.

But the father became sick. So every night this summer, the son returned.

Before every Dodger game, Jim “Trace” Tracy, 77, would walk down his short hall into his spare room, turn on a computer, log into the radio broadcast, turn up the volume.


He would then take two steps across the hall to his bedroom, where he and wife Ginny would lie in the dark, on the bed with the blue Dodger comforter, listening to their boy work.

On nights the Dodgers won, Trace would contentedly fall asleep around 2 a.m.

On nights they lost, he would toss until 4 a.m.

On nights when he was struggling to fight the cancer that has infected his prostate and his bones, he uncomfortably existed somewhere in between.

The only constant was the crackle of a son, Dodger Manager Jim Tracy, who had finally come home.

Worst summer of their lives.

Best summer of their lives.

Said Trace: “Don’t you see the joy in this? Not everybody understands it, but try. You turn on the computer and that’s ... that’s your son in there, doing his job, making people happy.”

Said Jim: “If those games on that little computer at 10 o’clock at night can be a source of strength for him, then I guess I’ve done something.”

Said Trace: “That’s my son, my connection.”


That connection leads the Dodgers today into Game 2 of the National League division series against the St. Louis Cardinals, his team in a familiar spot.


They are trailing one game to none against the team with the best record in baseball.

Their pitcher, Jeff Weaver, gave up a game-winning, walk-off homer in his last postseason appearance.

Nobody thinks they have a chance.

As usual, Jim Tracy laughs as if he knows something we don’t.

A 53-comeback laugh.

“That’s what I get from my dad,” he said. “You always look at a situation and find something good about it.”

This was difficult last winter when Trace was diagnosed with a recurrence of prostate cancer that had plagued him a decade ago. Only this time, it had moved to the bones.

While trying to inspire his father this year, it is Jim who has been inspired.

While Jim was worried about the bullpen, Trace has been receiving monthly chemo treatments in a sickly tinted fluid that he calls “Dodger Blue.”

While Jim was struggling to handle Milton Bradley, Trace was struggling to get out of the chair with bones overwhelmed by the ache.

Is it any wonder Jim has never publicly griped about anything?

“You don’t complain, you don’t point fingers, my father never does,” Jim said.

For every one of Jim’s worried stares from the dugout, long and lanky and bespectacled Trace has offered a wry grin from the examining table.


Jim has been worried sick, Trace has waxed poetic.

“To this damn cancer I say, the hell with it,” Trace said.

Typical words from a man who worked two jobs most of his life, as an accountant for a safe company and as the tax man for an adjoining city in this quiet region of southern Ohio.

“I would see him for about a half hour a day,” Jim said. “I don’t ever remember him missing a day with a sore throat or cold or anything. That’s where I learned my work ethic.”

It took Trace eight years to get his bachelor’s degree, night school and all, but he did it.

“He sets his mind to something, that’s it,” said Ginny, and she should know, having been married to Trace for 50 years.

The baseball gene was there, Trace being a minor league pitcher in the Philadelphia Phillie and New York Giant organizations. But he retired the minute he realized he wasn’t going to make the big leagues.

“We may not be great at anything,” said Tom, one of the three Tracy boys. “But we darn well do the best job we can.”


Trace settled with wife Ginny in a town where his two youngest sons still live within blocks of each other.

“The land time forgot,” Tom said.

Trace listens to the games on the computer because, like all of the Hamilton Tracys, he has no satellite dish.

“Around here, the dish would be bigger than the roof,” said Mike, another sibling.

Trace doesn’t have a cellphone for what they think should be obvious reasons.

“We need to talk, we just walk outside and holler at each other,” Tom said.

The hollering became a full-fledged shout when Trace was given the bad news last winter. The family rallied around, the two local sons accompanying Trace to the doctor, Jim constantly on the phone.

Trace knew it was going to be a special year when Dodger owner Frank McCourt sent them a personalized invitation to sit with him on opening day at Dodger Stadium ... including first-class airplane tickets.

He and Ginny have since seen Jim twice on the road but couldn’t make the playoff trip to St. Louis because of his health.

“Aw, it doesn’t matter, I just want them to win, you know?” Trace said. “Can you tell my son that none of it matters? That I’m so proud of all my boys? That I’m happy?”



While the Dodgers were clinching the NL West championship last week, the father’s computer crashed. He never heard the homer. He never heard the celebration.

He was lying on his bed when the phone rang.

It was the son, calling in tears from his desk at Dodger Stadium, telling him all about it.


Bill Plaschke can be reached at To read previous columns by Plaschke, go to