Tag Archives: Royals

Baseball: my old buddy

National League 8, American League zip. Didn’t expect that, but I’ll sleep well. There was a time in the distant past when an A.L. skunking by the N.L. was cause for deep, extended grief. Back then I was an American League-only fan, despising all things National League and the Yankees.

Funny how things change. Oh, sure, I pulled for the A.L. in Tuesday night’s All-Star Game, pined for the Royals to become competitive again and pin-pointed the many places I’ve sat at Kauffman Stadium as the Fox Sports cameras panned the festive crowd. But I refuse to hate Derek Jeter even though he wears Yankee pinstripes and I cheer equally – maybe even more so – for the National League.

People I grew up with will have a jaw-dropping reaction to my confession that I’m now more a Cardinals fan than a Royals fan, but that has more to do with the passage of time and, until recently, multiple seasons of unfamiliarity with the boys in Royals blue. Those people will remember me as an avid fan of the game, splitting nearly every waking hour between watching and listening to games or playing the game.

Let’s fast-forward to present day Jodie. Here’s something most people don’t know about me: I got choked up and even a wee bit weepy during the all-star introductions; when George Brett – my No. 1, all-time favorite player – threw out the first pitch; the singing of the National Anthem. Not that long ago that reaction would have been based on some rueful rumination of days gone by, of nostalgic memories of my youth when I fell asleep to the sound of A.M. radio crackling out the play-by-play of my beloved Royals coming up short yet again in a late-night West Coast battle with the dreaded Oakland A’s.

When the A’s began to fade in the late-70s and the Yankees became the forever nemesis of my Royals, a new roster of foes to hate became part of my psyche, and one moment became ingrained into the foundation of my youth – a moment that still, to this day, fills my eyes with mist: October 14, 1976, when Chris Chambliss belted a home run off Mark Littell to lead off the bottom of the ninth in Game 5 of the American League playoffs, capping a royal Royals collapse and sending the Yankees to the World Series.

That was 36 years ago, but recalling it even now and looking at photos of the wild celebration at Yankee Stadium, I realize I’m not breathing because, just like back then, all the air has left the room. Such is the continued, perpetual power of that devastating memory.

But those weren’t the emotions that tied my eyes to the All-Star Game telecast on Tuesday. Instead of melancholy, what I had was deep, reverent appreciation for baseball as history, and as a friend that had dropped by for a short while, connecting me to that history. There was the image of Hank Aaron with Willie Mays, and I was able to appreciate seeing both of those men play at the very end of their careers. In 1973, the very first game I saw at Busch Stadium, the Cardinals hosted the New York Mets in what was part of the farewell tour for the Say Hey Kid, Willie Mays. In 1976, my brother, Robert, took me to Kansas City to see the Royals play the Milwaukee Brewers in Hank Aaron’s final season.

I can’t expect everyone to understand the emotions that well up inside me when I greet my old friend, Major League Baseball, because the history is both corporate and personal. During the height of my fanatic embrace of the game – when I was a young teenager ‑ baseball was one of the only predictable constants in my life, providing ready escape from my family’s mostly silent yet insidious dysfunction.

So there is that element of melancholy and pain, but like I said, the overriding emotions I now have are gratefulness and appreciation. So here’s my message to my old friend, Baseball:

“Thank you for being there. You got me through some of the toughest times. Your friend, Jodie.”

 

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Filed under Family, MIP: Memoir-in-progress

‘Let them truckers roll …’

It’s Monday. That means a memoir-in-progress of my youthful years of the 1970s. I incorporate “songs of the 70s” as often as possible.

“Breaker One-Nine, this here’s the Snake Man. Come on?”

Man, those were the days! Few things shout “Nineteen-Seventies!” louder than the image of a CB radio. 10-4? Or am I being too 10-1? (10-4, message received/agreed; 10-1, too much static or interference).

I had a few friends whose parents had a CB, and all of us perpetuated the myth that CB stood for “Citizen-Banned,” meaning us regular Joes were prohibited from having the incredible contraption that was the social media of the ‘70s. CB, of course, means “citizens band,” meaning it was intended for everyday folks. At first a license was required and there were all sorts of regulations about antenna height and frequencies that you could use. But when it became apparent too many unlicensed people were using CBs, Uncle Sam cried “uncle” and basically scrapped the regulations. (Don’t you love how government works?)

My “handle” was “Little Dog” and “Snake Man.” Cool, huh?

Nothing embodied the CB radio craze more than “Convoy,” a song by C.W. McCall (real name, Bill Fries) that hit No. 1 on both the country and pop charts in 1976.

I don’t think I’ve ever actually recommended a Wikipedia link to anyone – and Wikipedia is anathema to reporters, even though we secretly consult that source from time to time (much like some of us thought we were “secretly” using “citizen-banned” radios 35 years ago.)

But here’s a Wiki article on CBs and how politics made them part of the cultural landscape. The 1973 oil crisis combined with fuel shortages and rationing and a nationwide 55 mph speed limit – I remember the days – turned CBs into Smokey detectors. As in “Highway Patrolmen.” (Their hats resembled Smokey Bear’s headwear).

The Wiki article cites a source that said “the anonymity of CB encourages the monsters to emerge.”

And that was a few decades before Facebook and online chat rooms; another example of monsters emerging and “the more things change, the more they stay the same.”

In today’s world of digital chatting, “pir” means “parent in room.” In the good old CB days, we’d say, “10-12, good buddy,” which meant, “visitors present.” (We said “good buddy” because it was a cool, folksy thing that everybody said).

I actually got to hear C.W. MCall perform “Convoy” on Aug. 8, 1977, at Royals Stadium (now Kaufmann Stadium) in Kansas City. The California Angels (now L.A. Angels) swept the Royals 6-4 and 7-2 in a doubleheader. McCall had a mini-concert either before the games or between games. I honestly can’t recall enough details accurately, and I’ve worn out Google trying to get answers. (I’m also going to say that K.C. and the Sunshine Band also performed and sang “That’s The Way (I Like It),” but I can’t swear to that. However, I have emailed the K.C. Royals public relations staff to find out how close my memory is to reality).

My family (at least some of us) were at the game for my 14th birthday which would come five days later. (Or maybe I just thought it was all about me. 10-4).

Incidentally, the first game of that doubleheader sweep by the Angels was a win for Nolan Ryan, baseball’s all-time strikeout king.

Call me a lifelong nerd – really, go ahead … I’ll wait – but “Convoy” is on my all-time Top 25 playlist, right behind “Thriller” and just ahead of “Piano Man.” Really.

Here’s a clip of C.W. McCall “singing” that classic on the Mike Douglas Show in August 1976. He’s even using a CB. I hear that song and I’m immediately transported to my friend’s house across the street (from where I lived in 1975), and I can hear the voice of an angry trucker telling us to 10-3. (Basically “shut up” in trucker, 10-code ling0: “Uh, this is Hammer Head, and, um, you little punks need to go on an’ 10-3.”)

This here’s the Snake Man, and I’m 10-7.

(Oh … that means I’m signing off).

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Filed under MIP: Memoir-in-progress