In these times of no baseball or other popular sports, it’s important to savor the past and why a silly game has so much personal meaning. I blame it on my dad, taking me to games as a kid. High school basketball in our hometown, Notre Dame football, and occasional trips to Chicago for the Cubs or White Sox were bonding moments for us. I used the same magic on my son. I can remember fiddling with the TV antenna to watch a game with either of them, although we had an electronic rotor by the time I became an adult. It sure beat aluminum foil or climbing up on the roof. My son also got to see NBA and college basketball, NFL football, auto racing, and soccer with me. We still share an interest in baseball cards, but he’s more for the Cubs than my White Sox.
My dad started as a Tigers fan, but eventually became a die-hard Cubs supporter. As a grandfather, he lured my son to the Cubs side. I had no choice but to play along, although my loyalties still lie with the Sox. It all comes down to one man, that I’ve never met, but a childhood memory keeps our relationship strong. In the 1959 World Series in glorious black & white, Sherm Lollar hit a home run against the Dodgers, and even though they lost the war, it was at least a battle won, and a lifelong attraction to the number 10 that he wore on his back.
Some may joke that I’m still obsessed with this man who has been dead for 43 years. I did see him play with my dad several times at Comiskey Park, and still know the line-up of those White Sox teams of the 60’s. It wasn’t for another 46 years before they got back the World Series and actually won. I was there for two of the games in the sweep of 4. It’s too bad Sherm couldn’t have been around. Cancer took him at the early age of 53. Although, he did get a World Series ring in New York before he joined the Sox, and one more with the Orioles as the bullpen coach. It’s also a shame that more catchers have not been voted as Hall-Of-Famers, because they are the heart & soul leaders of any team. The glory always goes to the pitcher. Unfortunately, I don’t think he will ever get the defensive credit that he’s long overdue.
I’m not a wealthy man that can spend a lot of money on baseball cards and memorabilia. They were like gold to me growing up, even though I abused a few Yankees on my bicycle spokes. If I had extra money, I would spend it at the neighborhood store on bubble gum packs and trade the duplicates with my friends. As a retiree, I reverted back to childhood and joined a group of collectors, knowing that I couldn’t compete with their high-priced Mickey Mantles or Ty Cobbs. Fortunately, for me Sherm Lollar was not on the Cooperstown wall and therefore his cards were relatively affordable. As it turns out, however, there were hundreds of them made by various manufacturers over his 28 years of playing and coaching, not to mention photos, articles, ticket stubs, yearbooks, score cards, cartoon likenesses, promotional items, and ads. He was even a Trivial Pursuit question, beanie pin, card game, and coin. Sadly, he never got his own bobble-head or figurine, but there were glasses, plastic cups, mitts, catcher’s masks, and stamps bearing his likeness and/or signature. At the end of his career he owned a bowling alley, and provided a post card for patrons to get his signature. I was able to secure one of these, after his nephew sold some of his personal collection.
I have Sherm Lollar’s signature on cards, photos, scraps of paper, and baseballs. My rarest find is his uniform #10 from the first four games of 1956. It’s hard to imagine that I’ve spent over $4,000 on items that mean little to anyone but me. I will probably never recover that investment even if he somehow gets into the Hall. Unfortunately, there doesn’t seem to be much of a movement on his behalf. I care for his memory and family, but I could have never gathered so much of his past on my limited budget. Granted, there are famous teammates and fellow All-Stars of his on some items, adding to their value. I have him in photos along side of Yogi Berra, Bill Verdon, Al Lopez, Marty Marion, Minnie Minoso, Early Wynn, Frank Hayes, to mention a few.
Over the past month, with little to do, I’ve added to to my Sherm Lollar collection, that has to be one of the largest in existence. A photo of him with Billy Pierce showing off #10, another with Frank and Brooks Robinson, plus a couple of magazine pictures have been recently added to my bulging notebook. A 1960 ticket stub, a team photo from the 1951 St. Louis Browns, and a couple additional magazine clippings are in the mail. Within reason, I’ve vowed to add whatever I can, because within my circle of fellow collectors, that I have been separated from during months of social distancing, I’m known as the “Sherm Lollar Guy” and have the t-shirt to prove it!
The strain and stress of isolation is beginning to distort my sense of personal privacy. I was always taught to refrain from discussing three controversial subjects in life: Religion, Politics, and Bobby Knight. These were the three most debatable subjects while growing up as a Hoosier. I was warned that each could easily destroy any good friendship and create irreparable alienation from others. Through my daily thoughts, I’m hoping to attract others to my words – not drive them away. With this in mind, I will cautiously step to the edge of the religious cliff and reveal some of my secrets. For those of you ready to stop reading, this is not about Coach Knight!
I know that we all would like to believe that after we die there’s a special place we go where we are rewarded for our goodness. I see it as the retirement party that I never had. A lot of things in life for me did not go as planned, but that doesn’t mean they didn’t turn out for the best. I never imagined that I would work for ten different companies, after my dad spent forty successful years at one. I never would have planned being married twice or moving over 30 times. Portland, Oregon was never on my radar, but Florida always was a Heaven on Earth and where I hope to retire next year.
I attended church and vacation Bible schools while I was growing up in Indiana. I never had any issues with following the basic principals of the Commandments, even to this day. They are good rules to live by, and the common foundation of every religion. However, it was always disturbing to me that every organized group of worshipers seemed to portray a superior attitude in their beliefs. Like clubs, fraternities, and sororities, religious affiliation appears to divide more people rather than it brings together. From my perspective, it’s been a alarming observation that 30% of the world are Christians and 70% are arguably wrong.
Heaven and Hell are the two choices we’re given, yet nobody really wants to go to Hell! Heaven could be really boring, filled with people that can do no wrong or at least never get caught. What would there be to talk about, and what does a two-bedroom condo cost there? Are there travel options to Hell and Back, just for a little variety? I’m not one to make fun of beliefs, but all this preaching about one God and two ways of spending eternity, leave me a bit baffled.
I can see where each of us carries a little bit of our God with us at all times. This enables us to distinguish between “Good and Evil.” I don’t see where “going to church” or following a specific God should be like a Walt Disney World Fast Pass to Heaven. You might not even speak his or hers’ language. I think we’ve already proven that our personal prejudices have made it impossible to live peacefully together on Earth, let alone in some other Eden-like world. Like most everyone else, these are questions that I silently ponder every day of my retirement life.
Every day could be my last, but I’m content with the way I’ve led my life. I know that when I close my eyes for the last time, I don’t expect to be transported to paradise, but I will be briefly reunited with those that I have lost. This is the one reward that I think everyone, regardless of good or bad merits, is entitled to experience. A final rush of remembrance. After that, it may simply be eternal sleep, which at times sounds pretty good after too many years of wondering what might happen next?
I’ll save the heated subject of Bob Knight for another time, after I’ve gauged any negative reaction to these thoughts on the after-life. While there may be a place in my heaven for him, I’ve heard too many Purdue fans say, “he can go to Hell!” I think my first wife might have said that of me, but I don’t think she really meant it at the time. Hopefully, we’re both happier with the way things turned out. Life is not a fairy tale, so not everyone will have a happy ending. I hold no animosity for anyone or anything, and if there is a God, I would be the last one to try to upset them. Just get someone where I go that can win a few basketball games for me!
It’s been since 1987 that I.U. basketball ended the season with a tournament victory. I was there in New Orleans when Keith Smart hit the winning shot for our fifth national championship. Sadly, I took it for granted, feeling that many more would follow. Well, even more sadly it finally happened again, 33 years later but only because COVID-19 changed the game. First, just the fans were banned from attending, then the tournaments were CANCELED, along with every other event around the world. We’re now waiting to see how it affects the Olympics!
As far as I’m concerned, Christmas has been CANCELED. I can’t imagine how the student-athletes feel that worked so hard to finally earn their chance to go dancing; not to mention, those whose sports will never happen this year. To me, the greatest time of the year is March Madness which is now nothing more than March Sadness. I especially feel sorry for the IU seniors, Devonte Green and De’Ron Davis. They have the dubious honor of being the first 4-year IU players in the history of the NCAA tourney to never get an invitation. They are, however, part of the first team to go undefeated (1-0) in the BIG Ten tournament, a bracket-challenge an IU squad has never won. Any further advancement has been forever CANCELED!
I’m sitting in a hotel room in Phoenix with CANCELED plans to attend today’s originally scheduled game between the White Sox and Cubs. Instead, I’ll be going to an auto auction as the consolation prize. Baseball at least has been delayed…not CANCELED, as has The Masters and other major events that don’t involve students. I think we might also CANCEL our hotel room tomorrow night and go to Tucson early. I also CANCELLED my flight to Dallas next week for another Spring Training game that was CANCELLED. Where’s my rubber stamp?
Will it be March Madness, Badness, Gladness, or Sadness? One sad note is that my Elkhart High School Blazers have played their last basketball game forever, eliminated in the Indiana 4A sectionals. From this point forward, they will be known as the Elkhart Lions. My son’s high school team, #1 ranked Indianapolis Lawrence North, escaped defeat by legendary Indianapolis Crispus Attucks last night to make it to their sectional title game. Their girls team already claimed their first state title last week. Ever since I was a little kid playing with an aluminum foil ball and a bottomless Quaker Oats container, the Indiana high school basketball tournament was always the first sign that spring has finally arrived.
The second sign of spring was if I.U. was still playing basketball and Purdue wasn’t. However, that hasn’t been true for years. The two Hoosier seniors, De’Ron Davis and Devonte Green, have an opportunity today to at least get in the NCAA tournament for the first time in their college careers. Coach Archie Miller has also yet to produce a tourney-worthy team. Purdue has been there every one of those frustrating years, but find themselves in a bubble game today against Rutgers. IU has to beat Wisconsin to officially make their dreams come true. The game starts in a few minutes and will determine my mood for the rest of the day. If they fail, they at least have the BIG tournament next week to try to make the elusive field of 68 for the first time in four years. The IU women made the quarter-finals of the BIG tournament and play Maryland later this afternoon. Purdue has already been eliminated, another positive sign of spring.
With the clocks “Springing Forward” tonight, it’s the start of an ominous week that also includes a full moon, Friday the 13th, conference tournaments, and Selection Sunday. We fly to Phoenix on Thursday for Spring Training games and additional fun in the sun, so regardless we’ll escape from the Portland gray skies and rain. Typically, Friday the 13th has been lucky for me, so I really can’t lose when we see the Sox playing the Cubs, my two favorite teams. I’d then like to see the week end with I.U. men in the NCAA tournament and Purdue on the sidelines – the true beginning of spring.
P….U…. is the only way to describe how Indiana played against Purdue last night. I gathered with friends at Buffalo Wild Wings to watch the stink-fest, trying to think of it is as just simply another “Leadership Meeting.” I did not want to contemplate a seventh straight loss to the Boilermakers, especially considering they aren’t very good this year. A Hoosier victory would surely save Archie Miller’s job and guarantee an NCAA tourney bid. That seemed too good to be true! I was in fact prepared for an I.U. loss, but the overall effort was an embarrassment. We could not hit the broad side of a stinkin’ barn.
Archie had already secured more years at I.U. with the announcement of another 5 star recruit. I’m still trying to figure out why he was drawn to the program? He made his announcement after attending the Penn State victory where the team showed hope, especially after just ending their road woes with a win at Minnesota. Two straight away wins was just too much to ask! Purdue had already experienced an uncharacteristic double home set-back, adding to the reasons why they would rebound against their in-state rival. And rebound they did 40-37! However, it was the 33% 3-point shooting that caused the biggest I.U. stink!
As expected, Purdue big men double-teamed Trayce Jackson-Davis and held him to 6 points and 4 rebounds. Back-up Brunk stunk once again, and De’Ron Davis didn’t get a single rebound. At the same time, I was having trouble with my Wild Wings app to add to the frustration. It inexplicably quadrupled our nachos order while I.U. fell apart going into halftime and started the second period scoreless for over 6 minutes. I had little appetite when all was said and done. I woke up this morning with a bad taste in my mouth with nightmarish thoughts of the stinking ugly loss. I.U. basketball is becoming a joke, with yet another road game at Illinois to go and two tough home games. To get to the Big Dance, we’ll need to win at least two, even though this is not a team that is worthy of a post-season bonus. In fact, they may not win a tournament game, and face the risk of more stinking embarrassment to end the season.