“In 1978 John Reimer, the Baseball Buddha fell in love with baseball. The New York Yankees beat the Los Angles Dodgers in the 75th World Series and the Yankees of the Ashland Little League went 14-0.”
On April 1, 1978 my family moved to Ashland, Wisconsin, I was 11. I remember it vividly, it was a Saturday, the drive took 7 hours from Oconomowoc. Ashland is located on the top of Wisconsin on the shores of Lake Superior. I moved away from Ashland in June, 1986, it was a total of 8 years. I lived in other places longer but Ashland has my heart.
Ashland is at my core, the people are my tribe, I understand them, understand how they live. I have friends but few close friends, Ashland is my close friend, it welcomes me, judges me, puts me in my place but always has my back.
I fell in love with baseball in 1978, was exposed to it a few years before in Oconomowoc and it was burned into my brain in San Jose, where the kids had uniforms, jackets and matching ball caps. My baseball experience and the town I grew up align perfectly, both are my escapes of the day to day, I simplify them, always taking me back to when the world and my dreams were large.
The thing about life, it is truly short, it goes by in an instant, you start to understand at 50, I am sure a few 80 year olds might laugh as I do at 30 year olds. Baseball seasons come and go, players also, but the ones when I was 11 are etched in my brain, Rod Carew, Ron Cey, Pete Rose (Amos, let’s agree to disagree, he doesn’t belong in the Hall of Fame), Don Money, Larry Hisle, Reggie Jackson, I could go on.
My 1978 Topps baseball card collection is in three leather bound binders, I spent plenty of money buying the wax packs at the Corner Store that spring and summer, it is the only set I care about, it is not about how much it is worth dollar wise but memories wise. It was the year the Dodgers lost to the Yankees in the World Series, but I started following them, I loved their uniforms.
It is the little influences in life that seem to make a huge impact, Eggo asking me to play catch on my first day of school at Beaser Elementary, it was cold, we were playing directly across the street from Ole’s house, he told me to sign up for Little League. I tried out and was picked last by the Yankees, we went 14-0, vivid memories of little things.
Baseball, if not for Eggo, that spring day in April, 1978, might be an afterthought. He doesn’t realize it, how could he, but his influence is all around me. The things that make me smile, my desire to be a professional ball player, the only thing I ever wanted to be was sparked in an instant.
The summer of 1978 random memories are of little league baseball in Ashland; Bryan Tolliver and Dave Roberts beaning everyone when they pitched for the Braves; Rollo coaching the Mets; Mr. Dormady holding practice and watching him work with Mike on Saturdays at the park. Playing fence ball, an Ashland invention, the legendary Fleck brothers and Harvey Boswell.
I recall my formative years quite a bit, the people who touched me; even for a moment. 1978 and Ashland are mere memories, it is no longer what it was, where I spent my days at the park and ball fields across the street and around the corner. I am no longer who I was, but the sights and sounds of those summer days remain.