The New York Mets’ Ron Swoboda and his Chinese American roots

The quarterly invitation-only, technology tradeshows run by event production firm Pepcom typically attract hungry journalists preying on buffet-style dinners and ogling early unveilings of new gadgets about to hit the market.  Rarely, though, do they result in celebrity appearances.

But such was the case on June 21 when Ron Swoboda – he of “The Catch” and a member of the 1969 World Series champion “Amazin’” New York Mets – was on hand to meet scribes and sign autographs.  A quick question about my nationality was the catalyst for Ron to pour some insight into his family background, particularly when he discovered that I am Cantonese…just like his step-grandfather.

During his playing days, this fact was apparently a huge source of curiosity as Swoboda was rising up the ranks.  His grandmother was a waitress at a Chinese restaurant in Swoboda’s hometown of Baltimore, Md.  The owner of that restaurant?  His eventual step-grandfather.  The joint was a Chinese-American eatery, and Swoboda took care to emphasize the latter since he was well aware of the lack of authenticity in such dishes as moo goo gai pan.

Swoboda now lives in New Orleans, where he likes to frequent a hole-in-the-wall restaurant called Chinese Kitchen.  Its menu and dishes, he said, serve as a pleasant reminder of his step-grandfather’s restaurant from long ago.