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Single dad, son subsist with a cup

| Wednesday, April 6, 2005

On Opening Day, the beggar and the baby didn't have tickets.

If you walked across the Clemente Bridge Monday on your way to PNC Park for the Pirates' 2005 debut against the Milwaukee Brewers, perhaps you noticed them.

The 8-month-old child sat in a small stroller. His 38-year-old father steadied in the stiff breeze a cardboard sign onto which he had scrawled, "I am a single father who is out of work."

Shortly before game time, the beggar stared into the tattered McDonald's cup containing the day's proceeds thus far -- a buck and a half, perhaps; two bucks, tops.

"Trying to get some diaper money," he explained.

The two of them, both named Jimmy, traveled from their Mt. Oliver home with a stroller, worn knapsack and pocket radio. The elder Jimmy planned to listen to the game while hopefully scoring enough change to buy a package of Pampers.

They had taken the bus Downtown, and might do so again for today's game if the weather is as pleasant as forecast. "He really enjoyed the ride," the boy's father said.

The elder Jimmy was dressed in tattered pants and a paint-spattered sweatshirt. Little Jimmy was bundled in a green winter coat and blue knit cap that kept falling off to reveal a full head of brown hair.

"He had all that hair the day he was born," the beggar said, allowing himself a brief smile. "He's a great kid. I'm blessed to have him."

Long before becoming a parent, Jimmy was a laborer. He hasn't worked in nearly two years. The medication he takes to counter his depression leaves him too sleepy, he said.

"Still wouldn't have any money even if I did have a job," he said. "I'd have to pay somebody to watch him all the time I was at work."

He and his son subsist on his monthly disability check.

"I get $628. The rent's $400. After you pay the gas and the electric bill, that don't leave a lot left over."

Despite his heavy jacket, the child looked cold. His nose was running as his father thanked a middle-aged man who gave them some change.

"It's not easy doing this all by myself," he said. "You got to be the mom and dad. You got to remember all the appointments. "

Things were easier before his girlfriend walked out in December, four months after giving birth, leaving Jimmy as the boy's sole provider.

"She didn't want nothing to do with him," he said. "I guess she wasn't ready to settle down. She's 38, just like me. Somebody gets to be that old and has a kid, they ought to be able to settle down."

Jimmy rummaged around in the knapsack and pulled out a bottle of formula. The boy drank from it hungrily.

Fans on their way to the ballpark continued parading by the two of them.

"I'd like to take him to a game sometime," Jimmy said, glancing briefly at the stadium.

That time seemed far away on an Opening Day in which any money they scrounged would go for diapers, not tickets.

"I'll get you there next year," Jimmy promised his son. "We'll go to the All-Star Game."

The beggar peered down again into the nearly empty cup.

"Maybe," he said.

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