Francis "Spike" Doyle, Jr. is the reason that this host became a sports fan and played high school sports in Western Pennsylvania.
My dad turns 88 today and still plays nine holes of golf almost every week. While the knees aren't like they used to be during his days as a top catcher in the area, Spike can still play a solid round of golf, using woods more than irons.
In 2014, I decided to sit down and find out some information that most of our family wasn't even aware of. This edition of SportsJam is my most treasured.
How did the nickname "Spike" come about?
"We lived in a town called Wilkinsburg in Pennsylvania, and it was sort of rough section. I was going to school down there, the kids would pick on each other and they would fight, you know how kids do. The fella that lived next door to my dad, he said "boy that son of yours is a tough little bugger...he's as tough as nails..I think I'll call him Spike!"
Spike would eventually become a member of the U.S. Marine Corps and work 35 years for Prudential Insurance Company. He credits his days on the ball fields and courts to helping him achieve success in life:
"I was involved in sports from high school right through the sandlot leagues. I was very fortunate to be in sports, I think it made me a better person. It was also great training in the Marine Corps."
Spike and Josephine Doyle have been married for more than 67 years and still enjoy watching the Pittsburgh Pirates on television. Both of them are Andrew McCutchen and Josh Harrison fans.
Spike's favorite baseball player was the late great Ted Williams of the Boston Red Sox.
For more than 40 years, Spike and his long-time friend Paul Bieterman would take a road trip to see the Notre Dame Fighting Irish play a home football game.
It was annual trek to Indiana. Other members of the Doyle family would eventually accompany Spike on the bus trip. Spike's oldest son Don, who was a basketball and football star at Franklin Regional School, always looked forward the pilgrimage to Notre Dame Stadium.
Spike says his father (known to all of us as Pap Pap) was a big sports fan and is responsible for the love of the Irish football team. Francis Doyle Sr. enjoyed watching football on Thanksgiving day and was a shark on the billiards table. But what Spike didn't know for a long time was that his father was also a terrific catcher back in the day:
"It took me many years to find out that he (Sr.) was a great ballplayer, he was one of the best catchers in the Johnstown area."
Nothing is more important to Spike Doyle than his family and faith. Rarely has Spike missed a sporting event involving a family member.
His sports legacy continues through his great grandchildren these days with nine-year old Mia Doyle winning a solo dancing title in Nashville, Tennessee recently and seven-year old Colin Doyle being named a championship game MVP in last week's baseball tournament in Pennsylvania.
To hear the entire podcast, click above.