“Getting off the bus at the baseball games, the smells were so wonderful”, Kay said with a big smile as she and her husband, Gary, were explaining about the bus trips. Gary used to do bus trips with groups of senior citizens to the different venues around the Midwest before they retired to South Carolina. “The tailgating with the grills, the brats, hamburgers, and everything had such a wonderful aroma”. Kay continued her train of thought, “I love that about baseball and summer time, along with the excitement of the game”. I was right with her in my mind. Baseball games were a very small portion of the business, but by the look in in Gary’s eye, it was his favorite by far. He was explaining to me about a trip to Iowa to see the Field of Dreams movie set (I haven’t been there yet). The Public Address Announcer and the music was way to loud at the Charleston River Dogs game for me to hear the entire story. But what I understood was the senior citizens which were mostly women on this trip wanted to make sure that they stopped even though on this day it was very windy and overcast. As Gary explained the story, it was quite chaotic with the elderly women being blown all over the place, walking into the cornfield and getting lost. Their hair strewn in every direction. He chuckled saying, “they loved it”. He told me he was surprised that they wanted to be sure they made the stop. Just goes to show how important this game is to everyone.! I love that I am getting to hear all these stories on this trip, and the most amazing part I will share in just a bit.
While I was at the Charleston River Dogs game against the Augusta Green Jackets, I was interviewed by the local NBC sports reporter, Brendon Clark. I met Brendon earlier that day at the stadium to shoot the interview. I felt important in a “this is my 15 minutes of fame” kind of way. After the interview, Brendon took me on the field where the players where stretching out (I grabbed a ball) and he spoke with the grounds crew. All knew Brendon and he has been voted best local sports reporter every year since 2005. Everyone was responsive to his great gregarious personality. We walked into the River Dogs office where we spoke to the General Manger Dave Echols who gave me a ticket for the game (it was a great seat). One of the owners group is Bill Murray. He lives in the Charleston area year round and usually attends games regularly. For whatever reason, he wasn’t there, so I was able to talk with Mike Veeck. For all baseball fans the last name Veeck should ring a bell! His father was Bill Veeck, who owned; or, was in a partnership of the following franchises: Minor league Milwaukee Brewers. Major league teams Philadelphia Phillies, Cleveland Indians, St. Louis Browns, and Chicago White Sox. As Owner and Team President of the Indians in 1947, Veeck signed Larry Doby and thus successfully integrated the American League. Veeck was the last owner to purchase a baseball franchise without an independent fortune, and is responsible for many innovations and contributions to baseball. Mike has been involved with baseball his entire life and has a large personality, click here to read more about Mike.
It was exciting to meet Mike and he shared a story about a time the White Sox were in Milwaukee. After they played a game at County Stadium some of the players were detained by Milwaukee County’s finest for getting a little out of control after the game while celebrating. Mike had to drive up from Chicago to get them out of the “clink”. He told me that the 1957 Milwaukee Braves was his favorite team of all time. He rang off the starting line-up like it was yesterday (Dad, he remembered everyone, he might challenge you in that regard). I will post my interview with Brendon when it is available. After the interview, meeting Mike and Dave, I was very tired. There was a four hour window before the game, so I went and took a nap in the parking lot!
When I got to my seat at the game I noticed a family of four sitting behind me. Remember the bus driver, Gary? He’s the ‘dad’ and wearing a Chicago Cubs hat. I looked at him and asked inquisitively, “the Cubs?” His daughter Stacey said with a chuckle, “Don’t get him started”. I was told that they were from Indiana. Stacy and her sister, Robin, had taken a quick trip to visit their dad and mom, Gary and Kay. As I inquired further, Stacy told me she was from Land O’ Lakes, Wisconsin. I said, “really” excited that “my hometown is Ashland, Wisconsin.” “No way!”, she said. Stacy lived in Ashland for 20 years. I asked her if she knew my sister Deb Yachinich. “Yes”, she did! We talked about all things Ashland! Go Oredockers! I found out it is a “small world” and thoroughly enjoyed my time with Stacy and her family. Not only the Wisconsin link, but they were big baseball fans, too! Robin lives in San Francisco, currently, but is a huge Boston Red Sox fan. When I run into Red Sox fans the first thing they usually ask is, “Have you been to Fenway?” They all have this unmistakable gleam in their eye. Robin had “the gleam”. Gary and Kay said that Wrigley was better. I haven’t been to Fenway yet; so, I had to agree with ‘dad and mom’.
Since Gary and Kay worked jobs that were basically seven days a week, they never got to take regular family vacations with the kids. But, Stacy told me her mom and dad always took them to see the Chicago Cubs and Cincinnati Reds games every year. The proximity to Kendallville, Indiana was about the same. Stacy is a Milwaukee Brewers fan now. However, when she was younger she was a huge fan of the “Big Red Machine” and recalling all the games, brought a huge smile to her face. Occasionally they would go to games in Cleveland and Detroit, but it was pointed out that most of the family are National League fans! Robin and her husband were given the a book about the “joys of score keeping” from Stacy. The two of them have been trying to learn how to keep “book”. Robin said, “I have my way and my husband has his way.” She told me she makes an attempt, but hasn’t gotten past the sixth inning, yet. Even though, she says, “I will master it.” I think, from our conversation, she tried to at an Oakland A’s game. Since she lives in the San Francisco she sees the Giants play; and, she travels the Oakland Bay Bridge into Oakland when her beloved Red Sox are in town.
I wish I had more time to spend on this family. I loved the fact that I ran into someone from Ashland, to share some of the hometown gossip with (all good, polar plunge stuff), which she could relate to! I want to thank the Charleston River Dogs for treating me so well, also. Thank you for the great seat!
If anyone would like a Baseball Buddha sticker email me at firstname.lastname@example.org. I will wait until I have at least 10 requests before I mail them out. When received, take a picture so I can post to Instagram. That’s it for today folks!
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