Tag Archives: baseball

The Daily Prompt and a Short Story: Family Baseball Legends

If I Had a Hammer

If you could learn a trade — say carpentry, electrical work, roofing, landscaping, plumbing, flooring, drywall — you name it — what skill(s) would you love to have in your back pocket?

Actually over my lifetime I’ve done a little bit of all of them that are mentioned in the prompt. I never built a house but did enough remodeling to build a couple. I built an apartment from nothing but four walls; performing all the building skills. I had some help with drywall, though. I built a garage from bottom to top. When it comes down to it, carpentry would be the trade that I would have liked to have been really good at.  And I suppose many might feel the same way.

When I was a boy I wanted most to be a major league baseball player. Here is a story of what happens to nearly all dreams of little boys.

 

Family Baseball LegendsthRHMERKHM

Joey looked at an old tattered glove hanging on the wall of his Grandpa’s den.

“Grandpa, why don’t you throw that ball glove away?” Joey said. “It’ looks like it went through the war.”

“What! Throw that glove away,” Grandpa said. “That glove is a part of baseball history. They Baseball Hall of Fame has offered me big money for it. I’ll never give it up. In fact some day it may be yours.”

“I don’t want that ole thing,” Joey said. “You cant’ catch anything with it. It’s about to fall apart.”

“Come here and set down.” Grandpa said.

Joey sat on a chair next to Grandpa’s desk. Grandpa handed him the glove.

“That ole glove has been everywhere,” Grandpa said. “It was in the 1961 World Series. I made the winning catch with that glove.”

“I didn’t know you played baseball in the majors,” Joey said.

“Mantle was at bat,” Grandpa said. “Two down and two on; the score tied. Mantle hit shot to left center. Nobody thought it could be caught. They were already popping the corks on the Champagne in the Yankee dressing room when ole Grandpa ran the ball down, dove, and caught it.”

Joey examined the glove closely and saw everything in his imagination that his Grandpa just told him.

Grandpa smiled. “Mantle was number 7.”

“The next year I was moved to third,” Grandpa said. “They tried to make me get a new glove. There was no way. We were in a one game playoff in ’62; tied for first at the end of the season with the Giants. Mays is on second. Cepeda at the plate. Mays lead is almost a half-way to third. He’s gone with the pitch. I’m playing the line at third. Cepeda hits a liner right over the bag. It sinks and takes a hop and squirts down the foul line. I dive for the ball. If I don’t get it, it goes to the corner and Mays scores the winning run. I snag it. Get to my feet; there’s no time to get Cepeda at first, but Mays is rounding third and heading for home like a mad bull. He thinks the ball got by me. I throw a strike to home and Mays is tagged out.”

“Wow, Grandpa,” Joey said. “This glove has a lot of history. I can see why you want to hang on to it.”

Joey’s dad, Mike, walked in the room. “Careful with how you handle that glove, Joey. Grandpa gave that to me years ago.”

“Yeah,” Joey said. “He told me all about it.”

“Did he tell you about the diving catch of a line drive by Hank Aaron that kept the Braves out of the ’63 World Series?” Mike said.

“No,” Joey said.

“Well I bet he told you about the time he made a leaping catch off the bat of Ernie Banks in Wrigley Field in ’60,” Mike said.

“No,” I didn’t hear that one,” Joey said.

“Well,” Mike said and winked at Grandpa. “Grandpa gave me that glove and that’s the very glove I caught a line drive from George Brett that was going over the bag at second. I made stumbling catch, KC lost the game, and Brett‘s average dipped below .400.”

“That glove has too much history to be thrown away,” Joey said.

“I think it’s time we give it to you,” Mike said. “I think it still has a few good catches left in it.”

“This has got to be the greatest glove ever,” Joey said.

“Let me tell you one more thing about that glove,” Grandpa said. “My dad bought that glove for me. He didn’t want to buy it, because he said I’d never use it. He said I’d loose interest in baseball and go on to something else. I told him, ’Daddy, if you buy me that glove I promise I’ll be a big league player someday.”

Grandpa went to the window and looked into the backyard. “Look Joey, Cabrera is coming up to the plate. You got get out there. I’m putting you in the game.”

Joey grabbed the glove. “Cabrera has to be stopped and I‘m the man to do it.”

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Field of Dreams

One of my idols as a kid.

One of my idols as a kid.

Daily Prompt: Ballerina Fireman Astronaut Movie Star

When you were 10, what did you want to be when you grew up? What are you? Are the two connected?

It was a different time. It was a time that social commentators, mover and shakers, and the in-crowd scoff. It was the 50s. A slice of pizza and a coke was a treat. If you were lucky your television could pull in three channels if the weather was right; really lucky if all three were different networks, all we had was ABC, CBS, and NBC. If you heard the name ‘video’ Captain was in front of it. Families played board games that you had to roll dice and move a figure by reaching across the table and grabbing hold of it. If you lived in the city limits you walked to school no matter how far away it was. High school football bleachers were packed on Friday nights and during basketball season there was standing room only in high school gymnasiums. Teachers wore ties, sports jackets, dresses and skirts below the knee, and always buttoned up to the neck.

I lived at 1140 East Market Street in Lima, Ohio. As soon as it was summer I bolted from the house as soon as I had a bowl of Sugar Smacks. Running south past Mr. Loacher’s house I turned west down an alley for a block, crossed Shawnee Street and followed a brick path to a ball diamond that rested in a small hollow in Lincoln Park.

It was there that all the kids met to choose sides and play baseball until it was time to eat. At that time I retraced my steps home. Sometimes a meal was a piece of folded bread with butter and a glass of milk. Then I went outside and bounced a baseball-sized rubber ball off the steps of our home until I thought it was time for the gang to show up back at the diamond, then back I’d run.

Playing baseball and being a major league baseball player was all I thought about.

I lost interest. That’s another story, but during that time I ate, slept, and breathed baseball.

I don’t even know if they have Little League or Pony League baseball anymore.

A few years ago I saw some kids in uniforms playing baseball, half were girls. They weren’t even keeping score. Everybody got a swing until they hit the ball. I didn’t hear one kid say, “Hey batter, batter, batter – swing! You swing like my grandma.” The team on the field yelled to the batter, “Try again Chelsea, hit the ball.” One thing I really took note of was that no one was having fun.

About ten years ago I saw an obituary in the paper. It was a guy named Harry Jenner. He played for a rival team when I played little league. He was a pitcher and a darn good one. As a kid he seemed to have a natural motion. He loved pitching and striking kids out. I don’t think I ever got a hit off him. He died of cancer. His obituary read that he loved baseball and shortly before his death he tossed the first ball of a Cincinnati Reds’ home baseball game. I’m so glad his dream came true.

Today, I write about dreams.

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Am I Obsessed With 1962?

'62 - CopyDaily Prompt: Buffalo Nickel 

Dig through your couch cushions, your purse, or the floor of your car and look at the year printed on the first coin you find. What were you doing that year?

My second novel, The Summer of ’62 was semiautobiographical. Events that  took place over three years were condensed into one summer. Three or four characters were molded into one.

My son read the book with that understanding alone. He called me after reading a chapter and said, “Dad, you did that!”

“No,” I said. “That was all fiction.”

We discussed more of the events in the novel; which ones took place in ’62 and the ones that didn’t. We concluded that nearly all took place in that summer and there were some things that actually occurred, but not included.

“Wow! That must have been quite a summer,” he said.

“You betcha,” I said.

I wrote a sequel to The Summer of ’62, but it has not been published.

The logical title would be The Fall of ’62. ’Wait a minute!’ I thought. “Is that all I’m ever going to write about; 1962?’ So I set the manuscript aside (stored it on disk), with the idea of giving it some thought. Well after a while I reasoned ’it is what it is’ and just opted for another title; The Id and Odyssey.

Polo_Grounds_My son kept pressing me to write a book that I first told him about when he was about fifteen and every now and then he said, “When are you going to write it?”

Well last year I finished it. It was fiction based upon actual events. It was a novel about baseball. It was based on the premise of baseball’s worst team actually being the best.

The first year of the New York Mets nearly all the players were cast-offs from other teams. A friend and I wondered what if those players selected in the expansion draft by the Mets had the best year of their careers?

My friend played a baseball game based on statistics and probability (APBA). We were able to take the best years from each player’s past and play them the first year of the New York Mets. Thus, the first year they played for the Mets was their best year ever as a player rather than the worst.

I played the entire season with the statistics of players from their best years. That year was fictionalized and made into a book.

What was I to name it? Well I changed the name of the team from the Mets to the Sewer Rats. The reason is a part of the story. Hmm, what was the first year of the Mets? It was 1962. So another novel based on 1962; The 1962 New York Sewer Rats – Baseball’s Greatest Story!

All I can say is that it was a heckuva year.

I have another book idea; what if the United States went to war with the Soviet Union over the Cuban missile crises? Wasn’t that 1962 also? Just sayin’.

More loose change bloggers:

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Dad Gets Cancer

This was pretty much Dad's favorite recreation and hobby.

This was pretty much Dad’s favorite recreation and hobby.

Dad lived from one beer and one cigarette to the other. It was just a matter of time before it would all catch up with him. He couldn’t laugh without breaking into a wet cough.

Dad’s addiction to cigarettes was unbelievable. I recall a time when the family went to Chicago to visit friends we got caught in at snow storm on North Shore drive. The traffic was bottled up. No one was moving. Dad ran out of cigarettes. I recall him pounding the dash of the car and cursing the traffic. “I need some god d*mn cigarettes.”

There are not too many photos of Dad without a beer beside him or a cigarette in his fingers.

I was fifteen and watching TV one Spring evening. Mom came into the living room and told me Dad was in the kitchen. She said, “Your Dad wants to talk to you.”

I was hoping it was not ‘the talk.’ Dad was crude in his expressions and likely such a conversation would have left me scared for life.

Dad sat at the kitchen table with his right elbow resting on the table. He told me to sit. I pulled out a chair and sat. I knew it wasn’t ‘the talk.’ Dad had no hint of being uncomfortable. I’d never seen wear a more heartfelt and serious expression.

“Last week they did a biopsy of a lump in my throat and I have cancer.”

That’s all it took for me to fall in my Dad’s arms. We stood and sobbed and held on to each other. I knew what he said, but all I heard is that ‘Dad was going to die.’

We talked for an hour or so. Dad assured me that he was not going to give up. He told me that he and Mom made an appointment to see a cancer specialist is Columbus. Dad was confident and that gave me confidence.

That night in bed I prayed. I cried a lot and didn’t sleep. I heard Dad get up at little past five and Mom drove him to work. I was waiting for her when she came home. I asked her if I could stay home from school. She insisted that I go, because there would be days to come when I would not attend school.

That day I recall walking the hallways and forcing smiles and making comments with friends on subjects not even in discussion. I could not talk to anyone.

Dad, Mom and I went to Columbus to see the cancer specialists. I sat in the car and waited. After an hour Dad and Mom came out to the car. They were hopeful. The doctor assured them of success. The cancer was local (only in the throat). Some of Dad’s jaw bone along with tissue would be removed.

The operation was scheduled for the later part of May.

Mom, my sister Char, her husband Chuck, and I were at University Hospital in Columbus the day of the surgery. I don’t remember seeing Dad before hand, but I recall the wait. After a couple of hours Dad’s surgeon visited with us and said the operation was a complete success.

It was a couple of hours before Dad was back in his room and a couple of hours after that before I was able to see him.

I walked into his room. He lifted his head. It was distorted and the whole side his neck and face was heavily packed with gauze and surgical tape. Blood had already seeped through the dressing.

I went to Dad’s side. “You okay, Dad?”

Dad had the most sorrowful and helpless look I’d ever seen on a man’s face. My knees buckled and I lost balance.

“Somebody better take him out,” Mom said.

Chuck put his arm around me and walked me from the room. We walked a ways down the hallway and looked out the window. We sat on a bench.

“Are you okay?’ Chuck said.

“I didn’t think he’d look that bad,” I said. “He looks lost and lonely.”

“He’ll do fine,” Chuck said.

(Continued next week.)

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My Music; Listening To Waite Hoyt Announce Cincinnati Redlegs’ Baseball Was Poetry And Music

Waite Hoyt told stories of yesteryear like a grandfather talking to his grandson.

Last week’s posting about Night Flight and the comments from my buddy Roger conjured up some good memories. He commented about the days of listening to Ernie Harwell, George Kell, and JP McCarthy on WJR. Indeed those guys were great!

I grew up listening to the Cincinnati Reds on radio. When it was game time it went something like this:

First you heard the opening bars to El Capitan by John Phillip Sousa. Next an announcer said, “Burger Beer, the premium beer, brings you Cincinnati Reds baseball with Waite Hoyt and Jack Moran!”

Waite Hoyt was an ace pitcher from the 20s. He played with baseball immortals like Gehrig and Ruth.

As a play by play announcer he never got the acclaim of Ernie Harwell, Bob Prince, Harry Cary, or Vin Scully.

Cincinnati Red fans were the only fans who never turned off the radio when there was a rain delay. That was when Hoyt would weave his magic. His tales of a bygone era of wooden bleachers, dusty uniforms, and knothole baseball fans were legendary. He was a master story-teller.

By the time I was ten both of my grandfathers were no longer living. As I think back on it, I adopted Waite Hoyt as my grandfather, the kindly old man who told stories that made you visualize, think, and smile. I could not wait to here his voice. No matter what kind of day I was having his voice brought all things back to home.

Hoyt reminisced about players from my Dad’s childhood; his idols.

El Capitan reminds me of sunny summer days of playing pitch and catch in the street and listening to the Redlegs’ game on a radio perched in the window of our home. I recall humid summer evenings sitting on the front porch waiting for a breeze and listening to Redleg’s baseball. When baseball went to the west coast I laid awake and listened to Hoyt in Cincinnati broadcast the play by play from a teletype ticker.

The first link is the Sousa march El Capitan and the second is a production that features Waite Hoyt announcing games, telling stories, and sometimes what was going on in the stands and beyond the ballpark.

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The 1962 New York Sewer Rats; Baseball’s Greatest Story! – The Front Cover

My friend, Jim Becker, dreamed of watching games from the upper deck of riight field at the old Polo Grounds. It actually figures two ways into the novel, The 1962 Sewer Rats: Baseball’s Greatest Story!

More than twenty years ago my friend at work, Jim Becker, and I engaged in endless conversations about baseball. Admittedly he was more versed and skilled in the subject than me. He is without a doubt a historian with extraordinary grasp of baseball history and able to articulate it in a way that is interesting and compelling. It was during those conversations that the idea for my novel, The 1962 New York Sewer Rats; Baseball’s Greatest Story!, was concieved.

As I mentioned before he and I speculated about the 1962 New York Mets and that was the germinating seed for my novel.

While writing the novel I purposely avoided talking to him for fear it might taint my thinking. What I mean by that is that this was a book of fiction written from my perspective. For example, I always refer to Richie Ashburn as ’Richie,’ but Jim would probably correct me and suggest, “You know he was actually called ’Whitey’ by the players.” That’s not a bad thing, but I didn’t want to write with too much doubt. Nevertheless I wanted Jim’s imprint on the story in some way.

Jim once confided a recurring dream he had about watching games from the right field upper deck of the Polo Grounds. I used the perspective on the cover of my book and included the dream as a part of a conversation in the novel.

The setting is Pete Manly (baseball player) walking with Stanley Goldstein (team owner) in the empty upper deck of the Polo Grounds. Here it is;

“I wanted to talk to you for few minutes, Pete,” Stanley said. “You know when I first thought about buying a club I thought I’d take the time to spend with the players, but the players really don’t want the owner around. It’s a different world players live in. I don’t deserve to be in that world. You have to earn it. I’d be foolish to think I could buy my way into the player’s world. I wished I was a baseball player, but I’m not, so I watch and dream.”

They walked a few steps with nothing being said.

“You can jump in here anytime you want to, Pete,” Stanley said.

“Sure,” Pete said. “It’s just that I don’t know where to jump in or if I should. I don’t know why I’m here or what the rules are.”

Stanley chuckled. “Pete, you’re my kind of man. I can talk to you.”

“What do you mean?” Pete said.

“We are the same in a lot of respects,” Stanley said. “Are successes parallel.”

“Certainly not monetarily,” Pete said.

Stanley chuckled again. “There you are, Pete. You speak up. Let me explain. I’m not smart or talented in anything like some might think. I just put things and people together. I have a knack for it. I put them together, stand out of the way, and let them go. I put people in positions where they can grow and aspire. That’s it. That’s all I know. There’s nothing noble about being rich and making money; the law, what you have chosen, that’s noble. To represent a person charged with a crime or a purpose that needs rectified by legal action, what a wonderful concept; representing the rule and spirit of the law; that is grand. Why did you choose the law Pete? What is in your heart and brain? I can’t believe for a minute it’s fame, power, or prominence, not for a moment, because I don’t see it in you. Why Pete? Tell me?”

Pete looked out of the concourse of the Polo Grounds and at the city. “Those words and many more. To me the law and contracts bind society. It is the basis for doing business. Laws and principles are foundations; foundations not to empires, but dignity, character, peace, growth, happiness. I’m seeking …” Pete paused. “To tell you the truth I don’t know what I’m really seeking. I guess it’s purpose.”

Stanley stopped and faced Pete. Pete turned only part way toward Stanley.

“My god, Man!” Stanley said. “We’ve talked for a few minutes and you’ve said all I’ve been thinking all my life. It’s always been the thought just beyond my grasp. Like reaching into murky water to retrieve a gold coin. That‘s what I have been doing all my life; pulling gold coins out of despair.”

“How does that parallel me?” Pete said.

“Don’t trifle with me,” Stanley said. “You knew immediately, as soon as I said it, it flashed!”

Pete and Stanley continued to walk.

“I wouldn’t say a flash,” Pete said. “Kind of like watching two trains collide head on.”

“How do you do it?” Stanley said. “How do you get men to play their best.”

“One day my Dad and I was watching a parade,” Pete said. “I must have been eight or nine. We were standing three or four deep in the crowd. I said, ‘Daddy, I can’t see anything. I ain’t tall enough.’ My Dad looked around, saw a wooden crate, and he held it on my head then he said, ‘There you go Pete; you’re taller now.’ I said, ‘Daddy, that ain’t very smart. I got to stand on the box to be taller.’”

“That’s funny,” Stanley said. “What did it mean?”

“Now, don’t trifle with me,” Pete said.

Stanley grinned coyly.

Pete lowered his eyes and continued. “About six years after that; a week before my Dad disappeared he ask me if I remembered the parade and the wooden crate. I told him I did. He ask me if I knew what it meant. I told him no, but I had always wondered. He said, ‘Good, because I wanted you to wonder. There are many lessons to life, but one of the most important is that you make people taller by standing them on the load rather than placing the load on top of them.”

“What a wise man,” Stanley said.

“Yeah,” Pete said. “He really was. I want people to see beyond; to see beyond the murky law and the gold coin that is absolute justice. I know I can‘t do it on my own, but it’s my purpose. It‘s what fuels me. I read To Kill a Mockingbird last year; I‘m Atticus Finch.”

They had nearly completed the walk around the concourse of the upper deck and were now near right center field.

Stanley turned to the field. “This is the place of my dreams, right center field of the Polo Grounds. When I was away from here as a boy I dreamed of being here. When I went on business trips I dreamed of here. I came here all the time I could, find a seat, and take it in. I got a Mel Ott homer. There was a great player and friend. Look at it Pete.”

“Passion and purpose,” Pete said.

 

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The 1962 New York Sewer Rats; Baseball’s Greatest Story – How They Got The Name and Logo

There was the feeling history needed to be rewritten. It has been cruel to the 1962 New York Mets. They are portrayed as the Keystone Cops of baseball. It seemed as though Murphy’s Law applied to them in every respect, “Everything that could go wrong did go wrong.” My novel, The 1962 New York Sewer Rats; Baseball’s Greates Story!, was meant to correct history.

When I started into the final leg of my effort to write this book the idea occurred to change the name of the Mets. The name ‘sewer rat’ although disgusting, bizarre, and unappealing seemed to have the most appeal to me. Few liked it.

I asked a friend, Eric Taylor, if he could sketch a cartoon looking sewer rat for me to be used as a cover. I described what was on my mind. I told him it such a sketch would be used as a logo. A few weeks later he sent me a drawing. It was exactly what was envisioned. Eric did and incredible job. If I could draw it would be exactly the way he did it.

Eric left the coloring to me; not good. For that reason it was only used as part of the cover. Nevertheless it was important that it be used to convey the thought of who the mythical “Sewer Rats” were and Eric’s drawing and interpretation of my thoughts captured it better than a thousand words on the subject.

Here is Eric’s original sketch and an excerpt from my novel The 1962 New York Sewer Rats; Baseball’s Greatest Story! The excerpt describes how the team chose the name.

Eric Taylor’s conception of The New York Sewer Rats’ logo.

Pete cleared his throat as he walked to the front of the room. “I’ve been thinking about something for a couple of days. You guys will think I’m crazy, but this team is special. My experience is only in the minors and I’ve played on some good teams, but this is the best. Sure those other guys were in the minors, but it something else. It’s in the eyes. I can feel it. We are hungry. We want to win. There is nothing else ahead of us. Most of us are on the last lap. In a mile run everybody starts out bunched together. The best runner doesn’t always win. It’s the one who wants it the most. It’s the guy who leaves it on the track and nothing for the winner’s stand.

I hate the name ‘Mets.’ I don’t even know what a ‘Met’ is. They say it’s short for ‘Metropolitan.’ Isn’t that the name of a little car, a Nash that everybody makes fun of. Let me tell you something fifty years from now nobody is going to remember what a Nash Metropolitan was or looked like. Five hundred years from now this city will lay in ruins, but there’s one thing that will remain and endure. They will always be here. It will be the sewer rats and the memory of what we do this season. I propose that we call ourselves the Sewer Rats. I don’t care what the papers, owners, fans, or opponents call us, but we’ll be the Sewer Rats. We will refuse to be called anything but Sewer Rats. We will have our own logo. We name ourselves. We will have our own identity. We are the Sewer Rats!”

The room was quiet.

Frank Thomas stood, reached into his locker, and pulled out his shaving mirror. He looked into it and turned his head to look at different angles. “Ya know something, I kind of look like a rat.” He handed the mirror to Roger Craig. “Craig, you look.”

Craig looked in the mirror. “I definitely look like a rat.”

Richie stepped toward Roger and grabbed the mirror. “I’m better looking than Frank and Roger, but I see a resemblance.” He looked at Jay Hook. “Hey, Hook can ya draw us a Sewer Rat logo?”

“Yeah,” Hook said.

Richie affirmed, “Best idea since the catcher’s cup.”

They ran from the club house and onto the field calling themselves the Sewer Rats.

Richie stopped by Cap’s office. He poked his head in the door. “Manly just renamed the team; the New York Sewer Rats. Let Goldstein and the league know.”

Cap nonchalantly nodded his head and picked up the phone. “I’ll tell Goldstein right now. He can inform the press.”

Richie squinted in disbelief. “Are you sure?”

“Yep,’ Cap said.

“What will Goldstein say,” Richie said.

Cap smiled, “Who gives a rat’s ass.”

Richie smiled. “This is going to be a heck of a year.”

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