THEY ARE BACK – THE BOYS OF SUMMER – GARRY ARMSTRONG

Opening day at Fenway Park used to be my favorite day of my TV news career.

Fenway’s Opening Day in baseball!  I dodged murders, political scandals, and other mayhem for this special day. Baseball’s opening day is a rite of passage.

As a kid in the 1940’s Brooklyn, I’d devoured all the winter sports magazines which included predictions for the upcoming season and thumbnail breakdowns on players, including the “pheenoms,” prospects sure to be the next mega stars.

President Truman would throw out the first pitch for the old Washington Senators. Calvin Griffith’s bedraggled team — first in the heart of the nation, last in the American league.  Unless you were Mickey Vernon or Eddie Yost, there was little to root for as a Senator’s fan.

Cal Griffith and Connie Mack were the last of the patriarchal baseball owners who dated all the way back to the days of Ty Cobb, Cy Young and the “dead ball.”  I remember the grainy black and white images of these elderly men, dressed in turn of the century street clothes, patrolling their dugouts. Connie Mack managed his Philadelphia Athletics. In his white suit and straw hat, he was a throwback to baseball’s infancy.

You always saw Mr. Griffith and Mr. Mack on baseball’s opening day. They were the fabric of baseball.

In those days, I was preoccupied with the fortunes of my beloved Brooklyn Dodgers. Every opening day signaled the beginning of what could be “our year.” A World Series championship. The defeat of our mortal enemies, The New York Yankees.  Jackie Robinson had broken the color barrier the previous year and the Dodgers seemed poised to climb the mountain with young stalwarts like Robinson, Duke Snider, Pee Wee Reese, Gil Hodges, Roy Campanella and a veteran pitching staff. The “Bad Guys”, the Bronx Bombers lined up with Joe DiMaggio, Phil Rizzuto, Yogi Berra, Hank Bauer and an élite roster of all-star pitchers.

I would have to wait until 1955 before I could celebrate a BROOKLYN Dodgers World Championship. It would be the first and last for the faithful as our Bums abandoned us for the glitter and gold of  La La Land.

Fast forward through my love affair with Casey Stengel’s “Amazin’ Mets,” their “Ya gotta believe” World Series victory in 1969, and my transformation to a member of Red Sox nation.


Work relocated me to Boston in 1970. I found myself interviewing untested rookies including Carlton Fisk and Dwight “Dewey” Evans. When my status as a baseball maven was established, I leapfrogged over other TV News reporters in gaining access to players. TV reporters were still regarded with suspicion and a little scorn in many dugouts. Print “beat” reporters abhorred their electronic colleagues as “plastic, empty-headed no-nothings” and refused to share information.

Again, I triumphed with my stats and anecdote-filled repartee. Plus, I  had Polaroid pictures of myself with Mantle, Maris, Snider and other luminaries. I could swap John Wayne stories with Ted Williams, who was suitably impressed. The one-of-a-kind Red Sox icon Johnny Pesky, took a liking to me and would greet me at the Fenway players’ entrance. I’d get the latest clubhouse poop plus insight as to what the front office suits were doing. Johnny Pesky even offered to intervene when I was getting some static from my own suits. This was the backdrop for my assignments as opening day “color” reporter at Fenway Park for almost 31 years.

Ironically, the “Curse of the Bambino” would not be broken until after I retired. 2004. My 3rd year of retirement. That historic comeback of comebacks against the dreaded Yankees left me staring at the television with my mouth open.

This year’s opening day game at Fenway is now in the record books including a 3-run homer from rookie left fielder Andrew Benintendi.  A 5-3 interleague win against the Pittsburgh Pirates was just “okay.” Just okay because the bullpen was shaky. Since then, we are on a winning streak and we should be grateful because this may be as good as it gets. You can never be sure. Half the team has the flu, another chunk seems to need some kind of shoulder surgery. We live in hope, but know how it goes.

We watch. We wait. Our Boys of Summer are back — with great expectations — and one major difference.  There’ll be no more clutch home runs from the retired #34, “Big Papi.” Fenway will be a little quieter. On the field, in the dugout, and in the clubhouse.

So far, so good. Not perfect, but not bad. And it’s just the beginning of a very long season.

CRANKY AND WHINY

Welcome to New England where our most popular regional sport is politics. Football, baseball, basketball and hockey cannot compete with the joys of arguing politics. That this year is politically the worst experience since we drove out the British only means that all our other complaints will have to wait in line until the political rage has been satisfied, at least temporarily.

When politics and sports are finished, we move on to the single sport in which everyone, of any age, can actively compete.

Weather.

From bitterly cold to stiflingly hot, we’ve got the perfect weather to cover it.

Winter is too long, too snowy, too icy, and much too cold. I couldn’t agree more. Everyone is cranky and whiny from the first flakes through final melting. Of course, mud season, the inevitable followup to the heavy snow, is no one’s favorite, discounting the dogs who revel in it.

Spring? What spring? Where are the flowers? Why can’t we get a decent spring season? Is this the punishment of a malign deity? Until the lilies bloom, New Englanders are cranky.

Some time during May, summer drops by, usually in mid-afternoon. The morning is comfortable until the temperature goes way up there, the humidity moves in. The leaves on the trees droop and it is definitely summer. Which is always too hot. Muggy. Humid. Or, it may not be hot enough.


“Hey, how come it’s June and we still need heat?”  

Those triple H days — hot, hazy, and humid — give us a collective headache. Cranky and whiny, that’s us.

Autumn is everyone’s favorite season except it’s much too short. and there are oceans of dead leaves to shovel. We rate our autumn by brightness of leaf and you can stand on line in the grocery and hear people commenting that “this one isn’t as good as the year before last and who remembers 2012? Wasn’t that a doozy?”

We live in the “Snow and Long Commutes” region. Especially the snow. And Worcester.

On a bad year, heavy rains from a southern tropical storm drives up the coast and ruins the foliage. Which makes everyone cranky. And whiny. We get over it if the Sox are in the playoffs, but are even crankier if they are not. I know people on Facebook who, in the middle of a summer-long drought during which we haven’t gotten a drop of rain, will rant furiously on the day the drought breaks. I bet they’d be even more cranky and whiny if their well went dry . That would be a big, serious rant!

New England. What’s not to love?

THE BOYS OF SUMMER ARE BACK – GARRY ARMSTRONG

This used to be my favorite day during my TV news career. Fenway’s Opening Day in baseball!  I dodged the murders, political scandals, and other mayhem for this special day. Baseball’s opening day is a rite of passage.

As a kid in the 1940’s Brooklyn, I’d devoured all the winter sports magazines which included predictions for the upcoming season and thumbnail breakdowns on players, including the “pheenoms,” prospects sure to be the next mega stars.

President Truman would throw out the first pitch for the old Washington Senators. Calvin Griffith’s bedraggled team — first in the heart of the nation, last in the American league.  Unless you were Mickey Vernon or Eddie Yost, there was little to root for as a Senator’s fan.

Cal Griffith and Connie Mack were the last of the patriarchal baseball owners who dated all the way back to the days of Ty Cobb, Cy Young and the “dead ball.”  I remember the grainy black and white images of these elderly men, dressed in turn of the century street clothes, patrolling their dugouts. Connie Mack managed his Philadelphia Athletics. In his white suit and straw hat, he was a throwback to baseball’s infancy.

You always saw Mr. Griffith and Mr. Mack on baseball’s opening day. They were the fabric of baseball.

In those days, I was preoccupied with the fortunes of my beloved Brooklyn Dodgers. Every opening day signaled the beginning of what could be “our year.” A World Series championship. The defeat of our mortal enemies, The New York Yankees.  Jackie Robinson had broken the color barrier the previous year and the Dodgers seemed poised to climb the mountain with young stalwarts like Robinson, Duke Snider, Pee Wee Reese, Gil Hodges, Roy Campanella and a veteran pitching staff. The “Bad Guys”, the Bronx Bombers lined up with Joe DiMaggio, Phil Rizzuto, Yogi Berra, Hank Bauer and an élite roster of all-star pitchers.

I would have to wait until 1955 before I could celebrate a BROOKLYN Dodgers World Championship. It would be the first and last for the faithful as our Bums abandoned us for the glitter and gold of  La La Land.

Fast forward through my love affair with Casey Stengel’s “Amazin’ Mets,” their “Ya gotta believe” World Series victory in 1969, and my transformation to a member of Red Sox nation.


Work relocated me to Boston in 1970. I found myself interviewing untested rookies including Carlton Fisk and Dwight “Dewey” Evans. When my status as a baseball maven was established, I leapfrogged over other TV News reporters in gaining access to players. TV reporters were still regarded with suspicion and a little scorn in many dugouts. Print “beat” reporters abhorred their electronic colleagues as “plastic, empty-headed no-nothings” and refused to share information.

Again, I triumphed with my stats and anecdote-filled repartee. Plus, I  had Polaroid pictures of myself with Mantle, Maris, Snider and other luminaries. I could swap John Wayne stories with Ted Williams, who was suitably impressed. The one-of-a-kind Red Sox icon Johnny Pesky, took a liking to me and would greet me at the Fenway players’ entrance. I’d get the latest clubhouse poop plus insight as to what the front office suits were doing. Johnny Pesky even offered to intervene when I was getting some static from my own suits. This was the backdrop for my assignments as opening day “color” reporter at Fenway Park for almost 31 years.

Ironically, the “Curse of the Bambino” would not be broken until after I retired. 2004. My 3rd year of retirement. That historic comeback of comebacks against the dreaded Yankees left me staring at the television with my mouth open.

This year’s opening day game at Fenway is now in the record books including a 3-run homer from rookie left fielder Andrew Benintendi.  A 5-3 interleague win against the Pittsburgh Pirates was just “okay.” Just okay because the bullpen was shaky.

Our Boys of Summer are back — with great expectations — and one major difference.  There’ll be no more clutch home runs from the retired #34, “Big Papi.”

Fenway may be a little quieter. On the field, in the dugout … and the clubhouse.

WHERE OH WHERE HAS MY LITTLE DOG GONE? WHAT HAPPENED TO WESTMINSTER?

Of course, it’s all about money. It’s always about money. The bottom line. The best offer. Fans? Audience? Who cares? Not the Westminster Kennel Club. Moving from the relative convenience and general availability of USA to FS-1 and a secondary National Geographics outlet (and streaming outlets we don’t have), many (maybe most) people won’t be able to see the show.


NOTE: The Agility Masters finals were Sunday night. Tonight is the second and final night of the show, including Best In Show. Fox is doing a pathetic job of it, but Fox does sports poorly. The dogs are great, even if (other than one woman who actually knows what she’s talking about) the reporters and commentator (male) are bad. Fox has a long contract withe Westminster Kennel Club, so if you’re stuck with Fox for the duration. If you love the dogs, try to get past the awful production.

Over the past couple of decades, Westminster and dog show viewership in general has been climbing. No longer just for people who own or show purebred dogs, the show has given millions of dog fanciers the opportunity to see how the various breeds should look, and learn a little about them. Gain some appreciation for their elegance, beauty, history, and the jobs they did in the past and do in the present.

180-westminster-290117_03

Other than the toy group, most dogs were bred to perform real tasks and many still do, although they may do different things than they did in past centuries.

Terriers hunt. Mostly vermin like rats and mice, but also badgers and other larger critters that were considered pests to farmers. They don’t do much of that anymore, although give your Cairn a shot at a mouse or two and you might be surprised at what efficient hunters they really are. Unlike cats, terriers absolute revel in killing vermin. They don’t eat it. They just love the hunting and killing.

Gibbs

Gibbs

Our first terrier, a little Norwich Terrier Champion named Divot, was a mighty huntress and while she was young enough, no mouse survived in our house. She’d kill them in a nanosecond and pile them like cord wood at my feet. Someone told me she did that because she felt I had insufficient hunting skills and needed to supply me with meat for the lean days. Personally, I think she was just letting me know how good she was.

She would also, when opportunity hopped, hunt frogs. She didn’t care for water, but she developed a real taste for frog and would brave the wet to catch and eat two or three wriggling frogs plucked from the shallows of a pond. There’s no accounting for taste.

Bishop, the Australian Shepherd

Bishop, the Australian Shepherd

Most of our “protector” dogs were originally herders. Sheep, mostly, but some cattle, too. Little dogs were and are used to herd cattle by nipping at their heels. The bigger herding breeds like collies, German and Belgian shepherds and many other similar breeds, are sheep herders. They are now used for many other things, like protecting their human flocks, and for the police and military. The big guarding breeds — Dobermans, , mastiffs and other mastiff breeds, including the much maligned pit bull varieties — were bred to guard. And guard they will, even without special training. It’s in their DNA.

Other breeds, like labs and Golden Retrievers, spaniels, pointers, and setters, were gun dogs and hunting companions. They retrieve that which the hunter shoots, or tell the hunter where (and what) to shoot … although these days, mostly, they hang out in front of the fire being among the most pettable and friendly of canines.

Griffin, the PBGV

Griffin, the PBGV — French scent hound specializing in peanut butter sandwiches — or rabbits.

Hounds are the nosiest dogs. Some, like bloodhounds, can follow even the faintest scent. Hounds are single-minded and shockingly smart. Some are sight hounds. Greyhounds and wolfhounds see their prey (they are far-sighted) and run it down. Others smaller hounds often live in packs — beagles, coonhounds, foxhounds, harriers.

Many are happy working alone. Some hounds will trail anything while others specialize in rabbits or vermin or whatever else they are trained to track. The thing they have in common is the instinct to chase or trail — or both. Even if it turns out they are tracking down your trash (they can always find it, trust me). They also do not object to a comfy sofa and anything you are willing to let them eat. Anything. At. All.

Toys dogs, were born for love. They adore people and want to be with them. While they may also retain guarding, herding, or hunting instincts, they are very good at one thing: loving you. You want love? They have love in abundance and are compact and seriously cute.

All of this is because I love watching the dog show. We aren’t looking to buy a dog or even adopt another one. The two Scottish Terriers — Bonnie and Gibbs — are plenty of dog for us. But I love watching these gorgeous dogs in perfect condition strut their stuff.

Bonnie the Brave

Bonnie the Brave

For all who believe show dogs are cruelly forced into the ring, you’re wrong.

A dog that doesn’t love being shown won’t be a good show dog. Great show dogs love the applause. They love attention. They are not shy. Divot had attitude. She knew she was The Best. She would tell you: “Just follow my lead and don’t get in my way.” She’d flirt with judges and strut her stuff … and win. Then she’d go home. hunt for mice and take a nice long nap on the sofa. One thing doesn’t exclude the other.

Westminster is the only major dog show in the U.S. that gets real TV coverage. By moving it to obscure cable channels not available to many people, they’ve effectively excluded a big chunk of their existing audience, and eliminated potential new viewers. Sounds self-defeating to me.

This was my Superbowl. How could they do this to me? To us? Unfair! Your honor, I object!

SHARING MY WORLD – ANOTHER WEEK, ANOTHER WORLD CHAMPIONSHIP

Share Your World – February 6, 2017


Regarding your fridge, is it organized or a mess inside?

It is an organized mess.

Do you prefer your food separated or mixed together?

Separated. I like to taste each thing as itself. Otherwise, I’d just throw it all in one big pan and cook it together.

Do you prefer reading coffee table books (picture), biographies, fiction, non-fiction, educational?

I mostly listen to audiobooks these days, but regardless of form, speculative science fiction and fantasy is my top genre with detectives and mysteries running a tight second and history running a very close third. I tend to read in waves. When I find a new author, I read everything he or she wrote, sequentially if possible and sometimes, twice. Favorite authors (in no particular author) include Gretchen Archer, Kim Harrison, Ben Aaronovitch, Mike Carey, Jim Butcher, Barbara Tuchman, Jodi Taylor, Connie Willis, Doris Kearns Goodwin, David McCullough, James Lee Burke, Jasper FForde, and Anne Golan. I’m forgetting dozens more because I haven’t had nearly enough coffee.

I have a particular love for anything funny, witty, involving time travel, and the undead (except zombies … I’m really not into zombies). I do not like dystopian future stuff because it depresses me. Reality is entirely dystopian enough. I do not need to feed the beast.

I also love a good thriller and historical fiction, as long as it isn’t too sappy. My love of history started long years ago with Thomas Costain’s books and of course, the brilliant and oft-overlooked Angelique series. Fiction got me hunting real history and taught me that no matter what people make up, the stuff that really happened is more bizarre. You can’t make that stuff up.

Close your eyes. Listen to your body. What part of your body is seeking attention? What is it telling you?

My right shoulder, the one with the bad rotator cuff, is trying to kill me. I wanted to get it repaired years ago, but was told (and I think I should have gotten another opinion on this) that it was beyond repair. Usually, if I’m careful, it doesn’t bother me. The problem is that I am short and that shoulder really hates when I raise my arms to get something from a cabinet … all of which are above me because I am really SHORT. The stretch and lift thing is lethal. I have reached a few times too many recently. Now, as I sit here with the heating pad on my back, I realize I am going to have to give it a rest. If I don’t, it will keep getting worse until I can’t do anything at all.

ADJ150-RodeoGarMarHorseback

This is another reminder of the days when I rode horses and fell off a few. I yanked that right shoulder out of joint a couple of times. Eventually, it began popping out of the socket whenever I used the arm fully extended. I had to tuck the arm in and keep the elbow bent and below shoulder level. I didn’t count on shrinking as I got older and having every cabinet above my head.

My shoulder is telling me to stop, just stop. Give it a rest. This is extremely inconvenient because it’s my right shoulder, which is attached to my right arm, which is further attached to my right hand. Guess what? I’m a rightie.

Optional Bonus question:  What are you grateful for from last week, and what are you looking forward to in the week coming up? 

Grateful to the Pats for winning the Superbowl.

Shamelessness, thy name is sports fan. For nearly a hundred years, no team in New England won anything. Except the Celtics (basketball, for the sports-challenged) who had an incredible run from the late 1950s through the 1960s during which period they were the best (and dominant) team in the sport.

Otherwise, it was a long, barren time for New England fans. A pathetic and seemingly endless run of embarrassments, near misses, and coulda, shoulda, woulda. Then the world turned the corner into the 21st century. The Sox got new owners. In 2004, they won their first World Series since 1918. They won again 2007, and 2013.

Meanwhile, the Pats got Bill Belichick and Tom Brady.

Brady wasn’t supposed to be the “real” quarterback. He was filling in for Drew Bledsoe, who was injured. Talk about Serendipity.

patriots-superbowl-win-2017

The rest, as they say, is history. This year’s Superbowl was, even as spectacular sporting events go, spectacular. If you aren’t a sports fan or are a hardcore “I hate the Patriots” sore-loser, too bad. Because that come-from-behind victory in the first-ever overtime in Superbowl history was amazing. The Pats were toast. They couldn’t win. Down by 25. Then, magically, the game was tied with just 57 seconds left on the clock.

Overtime! They won. With a politically challenged, 39-year-old quarterback, they won. Roger Goodell got a well-deserved and totally earned booing. The Patriots made all kinds of history. Falcon’s fans sat in their living rooms stunned, wondering what hit them. Perk up Falcons and fans. You’re a great young team. Time is on your side.

It was a very good night for New England and a bright spot in what has got to be the most depressing year I can remember.

As for next week? I can just hope it isn’t too awful.

HEROES, ICONS AND LOSS

For Whom We Grieve, by Rich Paschall

In our younger years I suppose it is common to develop heroes in sports and entertainment.  Most of them will be real people, some will be fictitious characters, but they will come to mean a lot in our lives.  We follow their careers.  We cheer them on in the theater and at the movies.  We listen to them on the radio, CDs or streaming apps on our mobile devices.  We watch them at concerts and on television.  We grow attached to our heroes as if they were personal friends or members of the family.  After all, many of them enrich our lives.  Of all these, I think our musical favorites affect us the most to us.

Perhaps you have heard the phrase “the soundtrack of our lives.”  Radio stations love to use it, especially oldies stations.  When they say they are playing our “soundtrack,” what do they mean?  Do our lives have a soundtrack?  I believe they do and they contain many heroes and icons.

From a young age up to the early 30s, I think we develop a “soundtrack.”  It is the music we listen to the most.  It is the records, CDs and digital downloads we buy.  How many of us bought an album in our late teens or early 20s and then listened to it many times in the decades that followed?  While some continue to embrace new artists throughout their lives, many cling to the stars of their youth.  For example, I saw Chicago the band in college in the 1970s and more times than I can count in the following years.  I saw Brian Wilson, Al Jardine and Blondie Chaplin (Beach Boys) in 2016.  I saw the Rolling Stones a few years ago in Chicago.  It is a joy to listen and reminisce.

Chicago in Chicago, August 2014

Chicago in Chicago, August 2014

When the artists who played the music we grew up listening to pass away, we are understandably sad.  If they pass away from old age or sickness, we not only grieve for them but for ourselves as well.  Their passing is a reminder of our own mortality.  We do, however, have their great music to help ease the pain of loss.

In 2016 it seems we lost some iconic figures who played on the soundtrack of my life.  Maybe they played on yours too.    It was a year that stunned many in the music industry.  My mother would have known Kay Starr (94) and Julius La Rosa (86), who performed until recent years.  Fans of folk music would mourn the loss of Glenn Yarbrough (Limeliters) at 86.  Country and Western fans lost a huge star in Merle Haggard (79).

Elton John lost a hero and musical favorite in Rock and Roll Hall of Famer Leon Russell (74).  It was Russell who helped John to become a rock star, and John returned the favor in recent years by touring with Russell and recording an album with him (The Union).

Fans of the 1970s Grammy winning rock band Emerson, Lake and Palmer saw the passing of both Keith Emerson (74) and Greg Lake (69).  ELP won the Grammy for Best New Artists in 1972 and Best Rock Instrumental Performance in 1981.  The progressive rock group sold an estimated 48 million albums.

Of my favorites I will give an honorable mention to Rick Parfitt (68) of the British rock group Status Quo.  The biggest hit I can remember was “Pictures of Matchstick Men” from 1968.  I loved the “psychedelic sound.”  They had a few more hits over the years.  Parfitt is on the left at this 2014 festival performance, proving old guys rock:

One of the first singers I remember was Bobby Vee (73).  He was already a rock star when I became aware of Rock and Roll.  He had quite a string of hits in the 1960s and of course, appeared on American Bandstand with Dick Clark.

Glenn Frey (67), was a musician, songwriter, founding member of the Eagles and a lead singer on many of their hits, as well as an occasional actor on television and in films.  The Eagles Greatest Hits was the best-selling album in the US in the 20th Century and second all time behind Michael Jackson’s Thriller.   The track listing of the Eagles iconic album is the finest collection of rock and roll of the 1970s.

Prince Rogers Nelson, or just Prince to you and me, was another multifaceted artist.  He picked up 7 Grammys in his career as well as an Academy Award (Purple Rain).  With numerous hits to his credit, Prince was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2004. At the time of his death he was seeking professional help for constant pain.  He was only 57.  Prince performed Purple Rain live in a rain storm at the Super Bowl:

One of the most iconic rock stars of our era was David Bowie (69).  He was a constant innovator, often reinventing his musical style and his personal image at the same time.  Bowie was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1996. In addition to his musical career, he appeared in many theatrical productions and films.

Perhaps the biggest shock in the Rock and Roll world was the sudden death of Grammy winning artist George Michael (53), reportedly of heart failure.  Michael burst on the music scene as one half of Wham!  Their good looks, high energy and lively tunes brought them huge success.  When Michael went on to a solo career, he tried to concentrate on more adult themes in his music.  Careless Whisper was one of those songs and a big hit:

JIMMY, CASEY, AND THE DUKE – THOSE AMAZIN’ METS! – GARRY ARMSTRONG

I was swapping old baseball anecdotes with friends on Facebook after Marilyn and I re-watched Ken Burns’ classic “Baseball” series recently. It began with memories of 1963, one year after the introduction of the New York Metropolitans into the National League.

The Mets were designed to lure back fans disenchanted by the flight of Brooklyn’s Dodgers and New York’s Giants to the west coast a few years earlier. It was also a great business opportunity to reclaim some of the money that overflowed the coffers at Yankee Stadium. The once three baseball team Gotham was now dominated by the Bronx Bombers.

1963-mets-rosterThe Mets began as a circus with aging baseball legend, Casey Stengel, as ring master and manager. George Weiss, ousted from the Yankees front office when Casey was dumped for being old and losing the 1960 World Series, was the Mets first General Manager. The old Polo Grounds, once home to John McGraw, Christy Mathewson, a young Willie Mays and a host of other legendary Giants, was now home for the Mets. You could smell the history. Sometimes you had to hold your nose.

It was a good year to be 20 years old and a budding reporter with a life long love for baseball. The national stage was being set by JFK and his new frontier. “Gunsmoke” was topping the TV ratings and Elvis was king of the pop world.

Now came the Mets! They had problems hitting, throwing and catching the ball. Otherwise, they were fine. There were instant heroes like “Marvelous” Marv Throneberry, the error prone first baseman who had a minus fielding range. “Choo Choo” Coleman was a pleasant catcher who had problems with pitchers who couldn’t throw strikes. Elio Chacon was a flashy shortstop who did tangos as ground balls went through and around him. Roger Craig was a veteran starter whose fast ball was behind him … by several years … back in the ghost of Ebbets Field.

Opposing teams feasted on the new Mets. Baseball games were like batting practice for the other guys. Their batting averages soared and their earned run averages dropped against Casey’s Amazin’ Mets who lost and lost and lost.

Management decided to hype the circus atmosphere of the Mets by bringing in aging stars who normally would’ve retired. The over-the-hill retinue would include Richie Ashburn, Jimmy Piersall and Duke Snider. Even the legendary Willie Mays would show up a decade later in the dark autumn of his career. But it was storybook time for a young reporter in that summer of ’62.

Casey Stengel was wrapping up a 10 minute, one question interview that I’d forgotten as we shook hands. The Ol’ Perfesser tapped me on the cheek and pointed to Duke Snider as my next interview. I froze!! My boyhood hero, the Duke of Flatbush, was standing a few feet away from me.

You have to appreciate the moment and its back story. Growing up in the city of three baseball teams was a very special time. The time of three great, Hall of Fame centerfielders. Willie, Mickey and the Duke. There were myriad brawls over who was the best. There was even a song about the three heroes.

Duke Snider

Duke Snider

Edwin Donald “Duke” Snider was my idol. He was the sweet swinging lefty slugger from Compton, California. I had the Duke’s baseball cards, magazine stories and photos of Duke and his wife, Bev. I copied Duke’s swing and classic running gait, with elbows slightly raised as I rounded the bases after my imaginary grand slam home run. We still have his Hall of Fame plaque on the wall in the kitchen.

Now, he was standing next to me. My voice shot up several levels as the interview began. The Duke stared at me and mumbled, “I’m busy, Kid”. I just stood there. Crestfallen. Duke? Duke? I was still standing there when the Duke returned with a small smile on face.

Casey was standing behind Duke as he stood and politely granted me the interview. I was mesmerized. He apologized for his earlier, gruff manner and posed for a polaroid moment with me. Behind us, I could see Casey winking at me. As I basked in the moment, someone tapped me on the shoulder. I turned around to see the familiar face of Jimmy Piersall. Casey again was winking at me a few feet away. It was a wicked grin. I was puzzled.

Piersall who didn’t resemble Tony Perkins who had starred in the bio movie, “Fear Strikes Out”, also had a strange grin on his face.  It was a bizarre moment. In a blur of seconds, Piersall was running around the bases backwards with a bat raised over his head and yelling. I kept my distance. It was surreal!! Piersall approached me again, bat in hand and weird smile on his face. “I was just funnin’ with you, Kid”, Piersall explained. He went on with a rambling anecdote about the joys of playing for Casey and the Mets.

I don’t recall ever asking Piersall a question. It didn’t matter.

My tech aide, actually a pal from the college radio station, was laughing as he showed me the pictures he’d taken. We had proof. I hadn’t imagined the crazy events. I wish I had those pictures now!

So it was, some 54 years ago. One memorable summer afternoon, when all was right in my world.