When we were kids, we played baseball in the parking lot behind the Malden post office. There was a park nearby, but nobody wanted to play there.
We used masking tape or, on the rare occasion we got our hands on some, black electrical tape to wrap baseballs whose covers were scuffed raw from the pavement.
A wall topped by a chain-link fence separated the parking lot from where the mailmen parked their trucks, and it provided the experience of playing balls off the wall and, once in a while, hitting one over.
One kid, David Burns, was a pretty good hitter, but he drove us nuts because whenever his mother would yell out the window that it was time for dinner he would run home, leaving us with uneven sides. The rest of us, our mothers would have to use cattle prods to get us to leave in the middle of a game for something as meaningless as food.
One summer's eve, one of us hit a ball over the wall, and it broke a windshield on a mail truck. When the ball hit the glass, it sounded like a gunshot, and we scattered as if it were. When the cops arrived, all they found were a few gloves and a couple of bats we left behind in our haste. One of the older kids talked to the cops and a compromise was worked out. We changed the configuration of the field and from then on the only home run you could hit was an inside-the-parking-lot kind.
It was during one of those hazy, lazy summers that Ricky Corrente caused enormous scandal by declaring that his favorite player was Pete Rose of the Cincinnati Reds. In Malden, in the 1970s, this was like standing in line at Mister Donut after Mass and telling your dad that you didn't buy all this God stuff anymore and you were switching to Buddha. Carl Yastrzemski was the Red Sox star, and we were all Yaz nuts, begging our mothers to buy Yaz bread. For Ricky to express such devotion to a guy who didn't even play for the Red Sox was, I now realize, pretty brave.
If I'd been as honest as Ricky Corrente, I would have admitted that my favorite players weren't stars. I really liked Joe Foy, the third baseman for that Impossible Dream team in 1967. He died way too young, at 46. My favorite Bruin was Don Awrey, the defenseman who used to sprawl across the ice to block shots. I sent away in the mail to join his fan club. Some girl wrote back to say I was in, and signed the letter, "On With Don," which I thought was the coolest thing in the world. I liked Satch Sanders best on those great Celtics teams. I always wanted him to do well because he seemed like such a nice, classy guy.
Watching the current incarnation of the Celtics, who are a reincarnation of the great Russell teams, I root most for Leon Powe Jr., the backup forward.
Powe grew up poor in Oakland, and his dad, the man he was named for, wasn't a real part of his life. His mom struggled heroically and died young. Powe grew up in a series of foster homes.
When Powe's son was born seven months ago, here's what Powe told Globe sports writer Marc Spears: "I just want to be there for my kid, no matter what. Any time he needs something or needs someone to lean on, I want to be that person. That's what fathers are supposed to do."
Last night, as the last hours of Father's Day drained away, I wanted more than anything for Leon Powe to dunk over Kobe, or swat a Lamar Odom shot into Jack Nicholson's puss, or just do anything, anything at all, so that on another Father's Day, many years from now, Leon Powe III could watch some old highlights with his buds, point to the screen, and say, "That's my dad."
Kevin Cullen is a Globe columnist. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org