We finally got some rain last night, as thunderstorms swept through the area. Our lawn and garden got some necessary natural hydration, giving our water bill a bit of a break. It was apparently still too hot for the Philly Cheesesteak food truck, disappointing my taste buds. Imagine cooking in a tin can with temperatures near ninety degrees. We thawed out some chicken noodle soup instead and streamed more of Designated Survivor. “Netflix and Chill” – retirement style.
Earlier in the day, I watched Da’ Bears win a preseason game against the Titans. No big deal to most but a rare win in my book. Next Saturday they play the Colts. I’ve followed the White Sox to their doom this year and am trying not to jinx the Cubs by continuing to ignore their recent success. Although not an Angels fan, I seem to have paid too much attention to Shohei Ohtana and consequently have him in a slump. USA Women’s soccer was a disappointment and IU basketball recruiting seems to be at a standstill, although attracting national attention. I did see that Hoosier soccer waso optimistically preseason ranked at #2. Not much word on football, so better than getting my hopes up.
We’re two weeks away from the drive to Indianapolis, with some arrangements yet to be made. Our Louisville stop on the way there is somewhat contingent on getting together with some folks that we met on the Nile River Cruise. On the way back through Huntsville, we have to cement some plans with my half-sister and need to reserve a room in Tallahassee. Part of this excursion will be to celebrate my 72nd birthday.
I’ve just recently added the game of Monopoly GO to the list of silly games that I play on my phone. With all the time I waste with them, I hope they are at least keeping my mind sharp and dementia-free, as advertised. It all started with 7 Little Words many years ago, replacing crossword puzzles and Sudoku. I then added Solitaire, where animated fireworks were the only reward, upgrading recently to Solitaire Cash. I’ve yet to win any of the “thousands” that others are supposedly collecting. I occasionally use the $10 cash I earn every month by sharing my phone data with MobileXpression, but it hasn’t resulted in any big payouts. I also play Wordle every morning, with a current streak of 110, hoping to surpass the previous record of 119. Oh, the games people play!
It’s been over two months since I’ve written anything in this Old Sport Shorts category. Without I.U. basketball to get me riled up, there’s been little to report. I had all but given up on the Cubs and the White Sox have been cursed with injuries. I did do a Sports Card show a month ago and began to think about the increasing value of my Shohei Ohtani baseball card collection. Plus, my great niece is in Japan playing in the Pony League World Series – they lost the championship game to the Japanese girls – I watched via You Tube. They are baseball crazy over there!
Since I’m a lazy researcher, I often rely on Wikipedia for information. “Baseball was first introduced to Japan as a school sport in 1872 by American Horace Wilson, an English professor at the Kaisei Academy in Tokyo. It is currently Japan’s most popular participatory and spectator sport. Nippon Professional Baseball players such as Shohei Ohtani, Ichiro Suzuki, Hideki Matsui, Shigeo Nagashima and Sadaharu Oh are regarded as national stars, and their exceptional performances have boosted baseball’s popularity in the country.”
Shohei Ohtani has already proven to be one of the best baseball players of all time with Babe Ruth like statistics. I went to see him play in Anaheim back in April of 2018, his MLB rookie season. “He previously played for the Hokkaido Nippon-Ham Fighters of Nippon Professional Baseball’s (NPB). Following an injury-plagued 2019 and 2020, Ohtani would go on to have a 2021 season widely considered to be historic, as he became the first in the history of MLB with 10+ home runs and 20+ stolen bases as a hitter and 100+ strikeouts and 10+ pitching appearances as a pitcher in the same season while also holding at least a share of the major league lead in home runs in 14 starts. For his efforts, he was awarded the 2021 American League Most Valuable Player Award. He followed this in 2022 by becoming the first player in the modern era to qualify for both the hitting and pitching leaderboards in one season, reaching the thresholds of 3.1 plate appearances and one inning pitched per game with 586 at bats and 166 innings pitched.”
The 29-year-old Ohtani then went on to lead his Japanese team over the USA in the 2023 World Baseball Classic and currently tops the majors with 40 home runs, coupled with a .310 batting average, a 3.32 ERA, and 9 pitching victories. I have documented his career with Topps Now cards, accounting for most of his significant highlights. These cards are released for only a 24-hour period and currently sold for $10.69 including shipping and tax. I currently own about 93 of these cards (22 labeled RC – Rookie). He’s made three consecutive All-Star appearances, so I also have the starting player line-up cards for each of these years. The rarest of the collection is probably a parallel (alternative version #1 of 10 total printed) card of his 2-HR game 6/25/2021 against the Rays.
I will continue to collect these Ohtani highlight cards for the rest of this year, along with some Cubs and hot up-and-comers. Ohtani will probably be walked a lot down the stretch since Mike Trout is injured. For this reason, it will be tough for him to top Ruth’s HR mark. As the Angels continue to struggle, from a pitching standpoint, it will also be a challenge to earn wins without run support. Hopefully, once the season is over he’ll be traded to a contender. At that point, I will sell my card collection. As for the surprising Cubbies, they are currently only two games behind the Brewers, so I will continue to ignore them for fear of jinxing their chances.
The year is going by quickly, as the trivia calendar rolls over to June. It starts with this Amazing Fact: In Japan, many splintered bats are turned into chopsticks. They are known as “kattobashi,” which translates to ‘get a big hit.’ It’s NCAA tourney month, with the Hoosiers, Beavs, and Ducks all getting first round wins. In women’s softball, the Sooners continue their amazing winning streak. Even the White Sox started June with a win, beating the Tigers 3-0. I can only hope this good fortune continues and that all my teams enjoy kattobashi.
We’re watching the final episodes of Ted Lasso, with familiar segments of our recent visit to London. It featured an outdoor pub scene with a musician singing “Hey Jude,” reminiscent of our walk across Abbey Road. The pub crowds were rowdy, extending into the streets and a focal point of British culture. Fish and Chips washed down with a warm beer. Soccer or “football” is the favored sport, although the Cubs and Cardinals play baseball at London Stadium later this month.
The fate of two recent IU basketball stars will be determined in the upcoming June NBA draft and the Nuggets play the Heat for the crown, as round ball attempts to get a foothold in this busy month of sports and don’t forget about the French Open that leads up to Wimbledon. Also, my wife’s birthday, her trip to Indy for my niece’s bachelorette party, Juneteenth, fathers’ day, Flag Day, and D-day are unforgettable June celebrations. “Remember to let her into your heart. Na na na nananana, hey June!”
Another Saturday has arrived after an evening with the neighbors. In two more Saturdays, we will be in Cairo. There is a dinner with my wife’s bridge group tonight. Next Saturday, I have the day to myself since my wife has theater tickets and a dinner date with a girlfriend. Tally and I will have to fend for ourselves, along with Sophie, our schnauzer guest for the night. Another episode of Succession was our late night entertainment, after I listened to the White Sox blow another game to the Rays.
I make the Sunday morning drive to St. Pete for the final game in the series, as the Sox try to salvage a single victory. A former Ft. Wayne radio friend will meet me in the Publix parking lot where 275 branches off from I-75 near Palmetto to cross the Sunshine Skyway bridge. We’ve attended many White Sox games together, including the last two years as residents of Florida. My son has to work today, so he won’t join us for this year’s reunion.
I’m wearing my #10 personalized Sox jersey with the 2005 World Series patch. It has been eighteen years since that monumental occasion, with little hope for an encore. The team is quickly sinking (stinking) to the bottom of the division with a 7-14 record to start the season. Tampa Bay is now 18-3, by far the best in baseball. Lucas Giolito is on the mound with a 4.29 ERA, facing unbeaten Zach Eflin.
I just got word that another media friend has passed away. Between classmates, co-workers, and acquaintances it’s hard to keep up. He had a heart attack years ago and was revived but not this time, sadly. I need to start approaching every day as if it’s my last and stop worrying about tomorrow. Seize the Day – Carpe Diem.
It’s baseball opening day, so I’m glued to the T.V. and free games from MLB.com. Apparently, it was the earliest ever opener for the Cubs at Wrigley Field, celebrating their 148th season. I have a ticket stub from April 3, 1998, one of the memorable openers for me. The Cubs won 6-2 over the Montreal Expos with Steve Trachsel as the winning pitcher and hitter with two hits while Rod Beck got the save. There were no homers but Sammy Sosa had two errors and got caught stealing. I’m sure the famous ivy vines were just as dead-looking as today with the temperature at 42 windy degrees. I stuffed napkins in my shoes to keep my toes from freezing.
Vladimir Guerrero played right field for the Expos. He was 23-years old that year, while his son, Vladi just turned 24 and is a designated hitter for the Blue Jays. Like father like son, both Canadian stars. I’m watching him play against the Cardinals at Busch Stadium, another opening day experience in my life as a baseball fan. That was the inaugural opening of the downtown St. Louis stadium in 2006. However, as a White Sox fan, I can’t say I that I’ve ever started a season there. The Sox play the defending champion Astros this evening.
I drank the White Sox Kool-Aid last year, so I’m not falling into that trap again this year. Let’s just say I have limited expectations for the team, especially without Abreau. Plus, I have no idea how the Cubs will perform with a fully reconstructed lineup, but they did get off to a great start this afternoon by shutting out the Milwaukee Brewers 4-0. Dansby Swanson, former Atlanta Brave, ended the day with three hits in his debut and Marcus Stroman was impressive on the mound, while Michael Fulmer was credited with the save. Fly the “W.” I’m not yet used to no Kyle Hendricks on the opening day roster or Willson Contreras wearing rival red.
Aaron Judge was appropriately the first home run of the season in his very first at-bat, mimicking Roger Maris the season after his Ruth-besting power performance, with Judge ultimately topping both of them with the Yankee record 62-dingers. I have a few Judge cards in my collection along with Adley Rutschman of the Orioles who had a historic 5-5 opener, including a homer. Shohei Ohtani started perhaps his final Angels’ season with 10 K’s in six shutout innings. Another collection favorite, Kyle Schwarber of the Phillies, sadly went 0-5 against the Rangers.
The Brewers and Cubs rivalry dates back to June 13, 1997. As of today’s victory, the series is now tied at 209-209. Meanwhile, the Cardinals have taken the lead on a Paul Goldschmit single, in their opening day matchup. I’m simply not a fan of the Redbirds after being caught in the midst of obnoxious central Illinois fans for the years we lived in Decatur. They haven’t won a championship in 12-years (I was there), while both the Sox and Cubs can claim more recent greatness (I witnessed both), even though neither team will ever get to that impressive 11-title-mark.
All in all, it was an outstanding Opening Day with the Cubs, Sox, Braves, and Orioles all with wins, while the Cardinals and Brewers lost. My kind of baseball.
This is a continuation of my last post where I listed my Top 10 Sports Moments (See Post #2257). However, there were just too many others that need to be mentioned. Because of my media connections and extensive travel opportunities, I’ve had the good fortune to attend 9 Final Fours (New Orleans 1982, Minneapolis 1992, Indianapolis 1991, 2000,2006, 2010, and Houston 2011) and 4 World Series, plus numerous auto races, games, championships, playoffs, tournaments, inaugural events, matches, stadiums and venues. To recall all of this was all a real test for my memory banks, aided greatly by diary mentions.
I grew up in Elkhart, Indiana, about 100 miles east of Chicago. There was little in the way of sports on TV when I was a kid, but on occasion my dad would take me to games in The Windy City. I wanted to see Mickey Mantle play, so we went to Comiskey Park, home of the White Sox. We also went to Wrigley Field and on one trip, he took me to lunch in the Prudential Building with Jim Coker, a catcher for the Philadelphia Phillies. I also had an uncle who coached football at the University of Notre Dame and a cousin, Denny Murphy, that was an Irish tight end. I remember meeting him at a game against Cal. In addition, he took me to a N.D. basketball game at the Athletic and Convocation Center (ACC) that looked like a giant bra. These were my first personal connections with top athletes. I went back to Notre Dame in 2017 for the stadium remodel, my boss, a N.D. grad, gave me front-row seats for the unveiling.
My dad would often take me to high school basketball games at nearby North Side Gym, one of the largest in Indiana. He knew John Longfellow, the coach for the Muncie Central Bearcats, one of the best teams in the state. I got to go into the locker room after the game, another brush with greatness. Other than the annual high school basketball tournament, this venue mainly hosted some concerts, professional wrestling with Dick the Bruiser, and Roller Derby matches when the Bay City Bombers would come to town. Before single-class basketball was eliminated, I watched a classic battle for high school supremacy from our Hoosier Dome suite that I could never had imagined when I first went to Hoosier Hysteria games with my dad. A national record 41,046 were in attendance in 1990 when future I.U. star Damon Bailey led Bedford North Lawrence to the title, upsetting top rated and undefeated Concord High School and future NBA star Shawn Kemp 63-60. Concord was only about 15 minutes south of my hometown. It would be the last of 61 consecutive IHSAA finals sell-outs.
By my 10th birthday, I had lost interest in the Yankees and took my dad’s suggestion of picking a team closer to home. As the White Sox played in the 1959 World Series, I was able to watch on black & white TV my catching idol, Sherm Lollar of the Sox play for the first time. We did go to a few games to see him in person, but I never got to meet the man. He and his teammates have become the main focus of my baseball card collection and lifelong allegiance to the Sox.
I wrestled in high school and ran some track, but sports surprisingly were not a priority. Elkhart High was a big school with over 1000 students in my graduating class. We were state champions in football, wrestling, cross-county, and track, but I remember only occasionally going to Blue Blazer games or meets. I chose Albion College in Michigan after actually considering Purdue and played some intramural flag football for East Hall and eventually my fraternity Sigma Chi. I probably also attended a homecoming football game to watch the Britons. My frat brothers were hot on hockey and talked me into a Red Wings game. I also went to Milwaukee in 1971 as a weekend getaway and ended up at my first NBA game to watch Lew Alcinder and the eventual champion Bucks’. Outside of Chicago baseball, these games were my initial foray into professional sports.
A year later, I transferred to Indiana University, rode for the Sigma Chi Little 500 team, and settled into an apartment with my high school classmate, Alan. I do not remember going to an I.U. game at the old fieldhouse, but I do recall a blowout win against Notre Dame at the new Assembly Hall. I met George McGinnis at a party and began to follow the Hoosiers. I must have come back to Indianapolis in 1971 from Bloomington to see my high school team compete for a state championship. I couldn’t get tickets for the game that was played at historic Hinkle Fieldhouse on the campus of Butler University where the movie Hoosiers was filmed. I ended up watching the game on TV at the Sigma Chi house across the street. The Blue Blazers topped New Castle, and future I.U. big man, Kent Benson 75-70 in 3-overtimes. Benson led the undefeated Hoosiers to an NCAA title in 1976, an accomplishment that hasn’t since been repeated. A loaded East Chicago Washington squad won the championship game 70-60, but without ticket connections, I must have gone back to Bloomington. Ironically, I would never have to want for a ticket ever again!
I do remember getting excited about I.U. basketball when they made it to the Final Four in 1973 but lost to UCLA. I had a flat tire that morning and badly cut my hand on a piece of glass trying to fix it. I still have the scar as a reminder. The next few years, despite marriage and the birth of Adam, I became obsessed with basketball for the first time since I played in grade school and went to basketball camp.
I began to follow sports even more once I got in the radio business and began to sell sponsorships for Blue Blazers basketball and football, plus Hoosier Hysteria, Notre Dame, Purdue, and I.U. games throughout the season. Eventually, our family moved to Ft. Wayne, another hockey town, anchored by the Comets on our 50,000-watt competitor and music became my major selling point. Free concert tickets and trade were job bonuses. Plus, working with our National rep I began to travel to New York City, Boston, Chicago, and Detroit. I went to Yankee Stadium, Fenway Park, and Tiger Stadium. I also worked a deal with the Chicago Sting and played against the Harlem Globetrotters. However, it wasn’t until I got the job at WIBC radio in Indianapolis that I truly found my calling. I now had the Indianapolis 500, Colts, Indians, and Pacers to promote.
As a newcomer to the Capital City, I was asked by station management to host our suite for the Coca-Cola Circle City Classic. It was more than a football game between two black universities, it was a halftime battle of the band’s extravaganza. Apparently, no one else wanted to do it! This was my first experience with entertaining at events and would become the key to seeing every major sporting event or concert that came to town. The station had suite and hospitality access at Market Square Arena, Indianapolis Motor Speedway, Hoosier Dome, and Victory Field. I also made my own partnership deals for racing through The Machinists Union, BRG Sports, Blackburn Sports Marketing, and Indianapolis Raceway Park. Many of these deals transitioned with me when I moved to WISH-TV. In addition, CBS Sports had almost every major sporting event from the Masters to the Superbowl, along with baseball and the Olympics.
Beat The Pro was a promotion we sold at the insistence of my golf-loving boss. I had to spend most weekends on the golf course measuring distances to the pin. The only benefit for me was tickets to a White Sox suite, another memorable sports experience. I also earned a similar day at the park with the Wheel of Fortune syndicators. I was never in a suite at Wrigley, but they did have a club that served hot dogs on fancy Cubs’ china plates. They have since updated their facilities.
During my time in Indy, I attended and worked with the AAA Indians at Bush Stadium where we had both press box seats and season tickets. I once celebrated on the field with Randy Johnson after a league championship. In addition, I frequently took clients to Colts training camp and on the field. World Gymnastics once did an exhibition, the U.S. Track and Field Championships and NCAA Finals provided autograph sessions with Gayle Devers and Michael Johnson, the PGA Championship came to Crooked Stick Country Club, while John Daly was the upset winner. NCAA Swimming and Diving was another big draw for the city. I also had ringside seats for a gruesome light heavyweight bout won by Marvin Johnson. Finally, I sat many times on the floor to watch the Pacers and Reggie Miller, including the NBA Playoffs.
When I moved to Lafayette, it was all Purdue, but I.U. came to town at least once a year in basketball and every other year in football. I quickly learned that when Purdue won, business was better, so I put my Hoosier allegiance on hold. Plus, my mother-in-law was a big Boiler fan, so I presented her with front row seats for a game. I also had press passes, hospitality, and a beautiful stadium suite. I got close to the Purdue Athletic Director, along with Black & Gold Magazine and expanded our local coverage with the Joe Tiller and Gene Keady Shows. My wife was at WISH, so we continued to benefit from suite access to concerts and events. We saw Cathedral, where her girls went to school, win the state high school football title at the Dome. We also went with clients to the RCA Tennis Championships, with hospitality and great seats. During that timeframe, I played on the WISH softball team, as well as the traveling Pearson Group club, that appeared in the Media World Series held in Dallas, Phoenix, and Ft. Lauderdale. Add three more World Series to my list! I would eventually go to Omaha and the College World Series but only as a spectator.
Most of my attention was still focused on racing, like the Indy 500, but I tried to diversify with other speed events like the U.S. National Drags and the Carquest Sprint Series at Raceway Park. They were each a far cry from the New Paris Speedway dirt track and the side-show demolition derby that I went to back in high school. While still part of the Indy media, I once spent an entire IndyCar season as a weekend warrior, going from track to track around the country. I was on the pit crew at Mid-Ohio and worked with sponsors at Elkhart Lake, Michigan International, the Milwaukee Mile, PIR, Monterey, and Laguna Seca. I also got tickets for the inaugural Las Vegas 400 Nascar Race. This all started when we would supplement our broadcast media packages with show car appearances, suite hospitality, driver endorsements, and sponsorship logos. However, in the month of May I was usually at the track with my all-access Gold Badge every day working these partnerships.
Years later, the track expanded to include Nascar’s Brickyard 400, Formula One’s U.S. Grand Prix, an IROC Series, and the Brickyard Crossing PGA Championship. I was there for all four of these inaugural events and in the future secured tickets through my wife to the Daytona 500 and Austin’s Circuit of the Americas. We’ve also used her connections to see the Mariners and Seahawks in Seattle, the MLB All-Star Game/Home Run Derby in Miami, and several Portland Trail Blazer and Timbers MLS games, including a Playoff match. Most of the Blazer games were from the suite, but one was another unforgettable front-row seat.
It’s been a long time since I’ve been back to Bloomington, but I’ve still managed to keep up with I.U. sports. I’ve been to Ann Arbor, Champaign, West Lafayette as previously mentioned, and East Lansing for games and went to Seattle to watch the baseball team play Oregon State at T-Mobile Stadium. I drove to both the Liberty Bowl and Independence Bowl to experience Hoosier football, but never smelled the roses. My wife and I also traveled up to North Texas for an I.U. gridiron loss against the Mean Green. I’ve seen the Hoosiers win at Conseco and Lucas Oil Stadium and lose year after year in the Big Ten Tournament. They did not make the Big Dance when it was held exclusively in Indy, but I was there in the midst of the pandemic. Hoosier soccer fell short in the championship game I attended in Santa Barbara with a college friend. Twice, I’ve followed the Hoosiers to Hawaii for the Maui Classic. On the first occasion I met Bob Knight and got his autograph.
The Oregon Ducks became a favorite when we moved to Portland. I’ve been to both Autzen Stadium and Matthew Knight Arena. I’ve also seen them win in the Rose Quarter aka Moda Center for two Phil Knight events. Oregon State also played there. Plus, friends and I went to two Les Schwab Invitationals to watch several prospective college recruits impress the scouts. While living in central Illinois, we supported the Illini, so Assembly Hall was our new home for basketball and Memorial Stadium for football. I sat with retired Coach Lou Henson for a game.
On the NBA front, I’ve been to America West in Phoenix to watch the Suns, Orlando to see the Magic at Amway Center, and to San Antonio’s AT&T Center for the Spurs, long after that initial big-time-basketball exposure at Milwaukee County Stadium while I was still in college. The Pacers and Blazers were the result of station-owned season tickets. The Knicks were always the favorite team to visit, especially when Reggie and Spike Lee were at each other’s throats.
I’ve never been to the Olympics but have experienced the Olympic Track & Field Trials in Eugene after it was delayed a year due to Covid. I also sat and watched the Olympic Freestyle Championships in both Breckenridge, Colorado and Stowe, Vermont when I was there on ski trips. Speaking of games on ice, exposure to the game of hockey has been sadly limited to the Ft. Wayne Comets, Indianapolis Ice, the Detroit Redwings 50 years ago, and the Portland Winterhawks a few years ago at Veteran’s Memorial Coliseum.
Another of my bucket list goals, was a Super Bowl. We had access to tickets every year but never wanted to pay the price. It likely will never happen, but I certainly can’t complain about a lack of big tickets throughout my lifetime. I thought about going to Miami when the Colts played the Bears, but honestly couldn’t decide on which team to support. My first football love was Johnny Unitas and the Baltimore Colts, who conveniently moved to Indianapolis in the middle of the night. However, the ’85 Bears had pushed the needle once again to Chicago sports. I’ve been to Soldier Field and continue to follow the Bears after all these frustrating years. I’ve worked closely with the Colts players and coaches through the years and have been to several Playoff home games. Road games have been in Houston and Chicago. I saw the Bears play in Indy.
The one Chicago team that has had the most success is the Bulls. I was never a fan and actually picked a suite game the year after Michael Jordan retired. I tried to give them away, but no one was interested. The Pacers Market Square Arena suite was nothing more than a long couch in a closet positioned behind a glass panel. It was hardly fit for entertaining but came with extra tickets and a bartender. At the last minute, I ended up giving them to Adam and hours later M.J. announced his return. They were suddenly the hottest tickets in town and Adam reaped the benefit. His friends were even previously reluctant to go, but I remember his pager (prime technology at that time) buzzing like a hive of wasps on our coffee table just before game time. It was certainly one of his greatest sports moments. We probably could have made a fortune selling them, but scalping was illegal, and they were technically the station’s tickets. I just didn’t want to go through the hassle of unloading them because no one really knew I had somehow picked them at the beginning of the season.
Baseball has endured as a consistent favorite from early childhood throughout today. I’ve already shared my stories of Chicago and Detroit games growing up and the four World Series attended. I never went to a college baseball game in Bloomington but got into it when we lived in Austin and learning the phenomenal record of longtime coach Texas Longhorn coach, Augie Garrido, who won two College World Series in his tenure. It was really the first time that I sat down and watched the entire tournament, inspiring me to attend one day. While in Portland, I began to follow the Oregon State Beavers and went to a few of their games at Hillsboro Stadium, home of the Hops, and at Portland State.
I enjoy baseball but it’s often boring, too many times ideal for a nap. It’s easier to mention the Major League stadiums I haven’t been to: Milwaukee’s Miller Park, Minneapolis, San Diego, Philadelphia, Arlington’s Globe Life Field, Atlanta, Montreal, Arizona, and Oakland. Two stadiums, Coors Field and Progressive Park in Cleveland I’ve only just jogged around, while I saw the Texas Rangers play in their former Arlington home from a luxury suite. Our Dallas TV station carried their games, but Covid prohibited a planned visit to the new facility two years ago. I’ve also been to Minor League Stadiums in Round Rock, Texas to see The Express, Jupiter Beach for the Cardinals, Surprise AZ, Charlottesville FL, Hohocum Scottsdale, and Cool Today, our neighborhood Braves Spring Training facility. The other day I drove around the Baltimore Orioles’ Buck O’Neil complex in nearby Sarasota.
Visits to Cooperstown, the College Football Hall of Fame, and recently the NFL Hall of Fame rekindled many emotional sports memories. Recently, my wife and I went to see our local Venice High School Indians host a football playoff game, with thoughts of her two girls at the Hoosier Dome championship game we all went to before our marriage years ago. My dad gave me a love of sports at all levels, and we shared this passion throughout life. It continues with Adam and his favorite teams since childhood, the Dolphins and Cubs. What will be our next great moment?
I’ve certainly had my share of great stadium accommodations, including luxury suites for the Colts, Pacers, St. Louis Cardinals, Longhorns, Purdue, Texas Rangers, Indianapolis Motor Speedway, Circuit of America, Portland Trailblazers, and Chicago White Sox, plus front-row seats for the Pacers, I.U., Trailblazers, Boilermakers, and Notre Dame. I’ve been on the field, in the pits, sat in the Press Box, celebrated on the court, and frequented numerous VIP sections and hospitality rooms watching a variety of sports from the Domes to the Velodromes. With this in mind, I’m challenged to pick my Top 10 Lifetime Greatest Sports Moments.
Although we didn’t have the usual great seats, we were fortunate to even secure tickets to Game 5 of the first World Series at Wrigley Field to see the Cubs win on Halloween Eve of 2016 (#3). The night before we were there for the loss against the Indians. (#4) Both games will forever be near the top of my list, but overall, I’ve been to four World Series in three cities, Chicago, St. Louis, and Cincinnati. The White Sox opening game win against the Astros at Cellular One in 2005 was the beginning of a four-game sweep. I had media passes for that game and rode with my WAND-TV camera crew. (#5).
Several other unforgettable events for me happened at Wrigley, including Sammy Sosa’s 61st and 62 homers on Sunday, September 13, 1998. (#6) My dad, son, and best friend were with me that day. The following year on Opening Day a special Tribute was held for announcer Harry Karay on April 3rd. He died February 18, 1998, and never got to watch that great season-ending showdown between Mark McGwire and Sosa. McGwire was the home-run king with 70, but both have failed to make the Hall of Fame after steroid suspicions. Adam, Gavyn, and I have a commemorative brick at the park thanks to my wife. The “3-generations” first got together for a game on September 10, 2007, and the Cubs won 12-3 over the rival Cardinals. (#7).
The top two moments on my list would have to be at the Louisiana Superdome in 1987 when I.U. Basketball won the National Championship. Keith Smart’s winning shot happened in front of my eyes on Monday, March 30, 1987, against Syracuse. (#1). Two days earlier, Steve Alford beat UNLV on the same court. (#2) It was an unbelievable road trip with Bill, Mark, and two close friends of Peter, who set the whole trip up but couldn’t go because his father passed.
The three final Top 10 sports moments were more about the transportation than the events themselves. A friend flew me to Bloomington on his private plane from Ft. Wayne for an I.U. basketball game. I don’t remember the date or game details, but this special V.I.P. treatment will always stand out in my mind. (#8). Similarly in 1998, I was whisked into the Indianapolis Motor Speedway by helicopter while entertaining our television station owner, Craig McCaw. A golf cart took us to the Hullman Suite to watch the race and the same chopper brought us back downtown, avoiding the massive crowds. (#9) Last but not least was the Chauferred, PINK limousine that took two close friends and I to a big Monday Night Colts Game at the Hoosier Dome. It was Halloween night, and we wore costumes that you had to see to believe. One buddy and I were dressed as George Dickel whisky bottles with a twist-off cap as headgear. The other pal was Colts running back star Eric Dickerson, but in this case, “Dickelson.” Each of us wore pink tights. On the back of our outfits, it read, “We’re Dickeled Pink to be here.” Never, have we attracted more attention, including a newspaper article with pictures. We, of course, celebrated the victory with shots of George Dickel. (#10).
My resolutions have been updated and I’m ready for the New Year. The first big change will be the golf cart in the garage. Today, we did joint errands with our one remaining car, as I dropped my wife off for a pedicure. I picked up some medication, dropped off a license plate at the BMV, got the oil changed, and tried to get a car wash. They, of course, could find no record of my visit a few weeks ago when I was promised a month of free car washes. I thought they would route me through anyway but instead they went through the trouble of removing some barricades to allow me to exit. Chances are I won’t be going back there again.
I’m looking forward to the bowl games, even though Indiana football will once again not be participating. I feel like I made the wrong choice of schools and regret not going on for a Master’s degree so I’d have another team to support. I’ve tried to adopt the hometown schools where we lived through the years like Illinois, University of Texas, Oregon, and Oregon State but it’s just not the same as rooting for the Hoosiers – good or bad. I grew up in Elkhart, Indiana, so neighboring Notre Dame would have been a likely choice, but that didn’t work out either. I also partnered with Purdue University for years when I was with WLFI-TV in Lafayette, Indiana, but the home state Boilers are still too much of an I.U. rival to always find endearing.
I’ve made a lot of bad choices picking teams through the years. I’m sure the Atlanta Braves are worried that I’ve moved nearby their Spring Training facilities. I can hear them saying, “please don’t pick us.” The Cubs, White Sox, and Bears have already suffered enough with me as a fan. The Indiana Pacers and Portland Trailblazers have also found me to be undesirable. “Adopt the team where you live,” they’ve urged me as we’ve moved from market to market. I’ve now owned homes in six different states with little to show for it. Fantasy sports have proven to also be disastrous for the players I select. “Please don’t pick me to be on your team. I beg of you!”
You would think that I could have made a fortune gambling against all these teams but that has proven to backfire, as well. Ever since I went the wrong way on the basketball court as a kid, sports have become my frenemy. I enjoy watching but don’t dare risk picking a side. Only the 2016 Cubs have proven me wrong after years of frustration. Come to think of it, I never really claimed them as my team but followed them regularly so I could engage in conversations with my dad, son, and nephew, who were avid fans. I even saw them win a World Series game! By the same twist of fate, the White Sox had one good year in 2005, after I had stuck with them as my team for 46 years. I saw them win two World Series games that year, another highlight of my unrewarding sports history.
I hope that 2023 is a good sports year for me, but I won’t hold my breath. I doubt that I will make it to Wrigley Field or Guaranteed Rate Stadium, formerly Comiskey Park, this year, although I have great memories of attending games with family. We saw Mickey Mantle play at Sox Park and watched Sammy Sosa launch two homers at Wrigley to top Babe Ruth’s historical mark. There are too many father/son/daughter moments to recall, but win or lose, from generation-to-generation, baseball is always our greatest bond.
The evolution of professional baseball is a tough road to follow and many cities throughout the United States lay claim to the origin. Ft. Wayne, Indiana is one of those many roots of the sport, dating back to just after the Civil War when the National Association of Professional Baseball Players was established. The creation of the game itself is accredited to Abner Doubleday in 1839. Elihu Phinney’s Cooperstown, New York cow pasture was ruled to be the first place it was ever played. Ft. Wayne claims to be the sight of the first ever professional baseball game in 1871 and the very first night game in 1883.
The Ft. Wayne Kekiongas hosted the Cleveland Forest Citys on May 4, 1871, resulting in a 2-0 victory for the home team. It sparked citywide excitement that led to the building of a new stadium called the “Grand Dutchess.” Two months later the Kekiongas withdrew from the league with a 7-21 record and the stadium was later destroyed by fire. The game of Trivial Pursuit credits the Kekiongas as the future Los Angeles Dodgers, but this connection is more likely a result of their league dues paid by a Brooklyn team that eventually became the Dodgers, who were officially founded in 1884.
The Kekiongas name was reclaimed in 1953 by the former GTE Voltman semi-pro team, Indiana State Champions, who lost their GTE sponsorship and joined the newly formed Ft Wayne Civic Baseball League. According to the book, Baseball in Fort Wayne by author Chad Gramling, a 1953 exhibition game against the Chicago White Sox was played. I could not find a box score from that game, but the Sox lost and Sherm Lollar most likely was the Chicago catcher, wearing #10 for the first time in his career, according to the White Sox opening day roster posted by Baseball Almanac.
In 1952, Red Wilson wore #10 while Lollar donned #45, his first year with the White Sox. He came to Chicago in a trade that sent Joe DeMaestri, Gordon Goldsberry, Dick Littlefield, Gus Niarhos and Jim Rivera to the St. Louis Browns for Lollar, Al Widmar, and Tom Upton. After a season together, Red Wilson must have let his catcher have the lower number and took #26 instead. For Lollar, it had been jersey #9 with the 1949-1951 St. Louis Browns, and #29 in 1947 and 1948 with the Yankees. Back in 1946 with the Indians, he was #12.
“Sherm Lollar was one of the top catchers in the major leagues in the early post-World War II era. Though he played with the New York Yankees, Cleveland Indians and St. Louis Browns, Lollar spent the vast majority of his career (12 years) with the White Sox,” 11 of those years he wore #10.
“Lollar has 1,415 career hits, 155 home runs, 808 RBIs, and a lifetime .264 average. A solid defensive catcher, he maintained a .992 fielding percentage behind the plate and gunned down 47% of all runners attempting to steal, which is a very high average.”
“In total, Lollar was named to nine all-star teams, he won three gold glove awards and earned a World Series ring with the 1947 Yankees.”
The Lollar trade from St. Louis, reported above, has me confused because Manuel Joseph “Jim” Rivera was supposedly part of that deal, but like too many baseball stories there is conflicting information. Nonetheless, “Jungle Jim” was Sherm’s White Sox teammate from 1952-1961 before “Big Jim” was traded to the Kansas City Athletics and Lollar retired from the game in 1963. This next excerpt is from the Fort Wayne News-Sentinel November 17, 2017. “Jungle Jim” Rivera, an outfielder on the 1959 “Go-Go” White Sox pennant-winning team, died Monday in Fort Wayne. He was 96.“
By RICHARD BATTIN
“Did you know Babe Ruth played baseball in Fort Wayne?
His visit here 65 years ago this month is just part of the city’s rich and colorful baseball history.
It was a cloudy day in early May 1927, when Ruth and the rest of the New York Yankees arrived in Fort Wayne by train.
The Kekiongas played the Chicago White Stockings, later the White Sox, that summer. Chicago lost so badly that the fans threw rocks at the Kekiongas’ carriage, injuring many of the players.
The team was then named the Kekiongas, like the team from 1871. It was sponsored by the Capehart-Farnsworth Co., which made appliances.
In 1950, the team went to Wichita and won its fourth national title in a row. The team went on to Japan and won the world semi-pro baseball championship. It was the first world championship won by a city team.”