LATE LUNCH

With baseball season upon us, I recall the story of old friends and late lunch. This story originally appeared on SERENDIPITY

The Old Ball Team, by Rich Paschall


When they started the monthly get-together it was almost 15 years earlier.  There were a dozen of them then, and two of the “boys” had already retired.  They had all known each other since childhood and were within a few years of one another in age.  They went to the same park as kids and most played on the same teams.

They had decided years ago to meet once a month for dinner, so they could be sure to see one another regularly.  Over the years dinner changed to lunch, as some of them did not want to drive or be out after dark.  The sessions remained as lively as ever.  It seemed none lost their boyhood personalities.

With the passage of time, the group had dwindled in size.  While the first ten years saw no loss of participation, recent years were not kind to the group.  Three had passed away and another three were no longer well enough to attend.  One just seemed to disappear.  No one could ever say what happened to Roger, although a few tried hard to find out.

nationals in DC baseball

The meeting was now on the first Tuesday of the month at 1 o’clock.  Most of the lunch crowd was gone from the Open Flame Restaurant by then and the old guys could sit around and reminisce for as long as they wanted.  Today they wanted to hang on just a little longer.

Raymond had arrived right on time which was his way all through life.  Like the others, Ray was retired now.  Unlike the others, he carried a secret with him he would not tell, even to his best friends.

Bob came with Ray.  He was no longer able to drive and in fact, needed a good deal of help to get in and out of Ray’s car.  Ray always allowed enough time for Bob, so that they could walk slowly together and get in and out of the house, the car, and the restaurant safely.   To Ray, Bob was like a rock, the anchor of the team.  Now Ray was Bob’s rock of support.  There was a certain irony in that, and Bob would never know it.

Frank still worked a little.  It is not really that he wanted to do it, but he could not shake free of some business obligations he had over the years.  He did not need the money and tried to steer any business to someone else.  If you asked, Frank would tell you he was retired.

Bill was always late.  Everyone would have been surprised if he had been on time.  He maintained an active life and was always finding more to do than he had time.  This seemed to keep Bill healthy and robust.  Perhaps he was the only one of the remaining members in such good shape.

Without any doubt at all, Jerry was the talkative one of the bunch.  If others wanted to tell a story or share some news, they had better do it before Jerry showed up.  He was likely to dominate the conversation from the time he arrived until the time the check came.  It was guaranteed that Jerry would tell his favorites stories, although all of these guys knew them just as well as Jerry.  In fact, one or more of them probably participated in whatever episode he was recalling.

At every meeting, Jerry was sure to get around to the championship baseball game.  “What were we Bob, 12 or 13?  What a summer that was!  I remember when Bob dove for that ball in the last inning.  If that got through the infield we were screwed.  Raymond was so damn slow out there in left field.”  They all would laugh, even Ray.

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Usually, the boys would be planning to leave around two, but they told stories and laughed their way past 2:30 in the afternoon.  Finally, Ray called for the check.  Over the objections of the others, Ray paid the bill. They had always split the check evenly.  No one ever paid for everyone, but Ray was a diplomat and a businessman and knew how to get his way.  The matter was settled.

They all made it out into the warm spring day together and stood on the sidewalk for a moment.  Raymond gave them all a long hard look but said nothing.  He knew Bob could not come out any longer.  Bob’s wife had strongly objected to Raymond continuing to take him to lunch.  This would be the last time, for sure.  Raymond was dying of cancer but kept it to himself.  He looked well enough, so the others just did not know.

As the two walked to Raymond’s car nearby, the others said goodbye to Frank.  It seems that Frank’s wife had been insisting that they move to Michigan to be nearer to the kids and grandkids.  Since Frank was the practical one of the group, he also realized it was better to have a safety net of younger people nearby if the need should ever arise.  These old guys may have promised to always be there for one another, but that now came with the heavy reality that it just could not be so.

As Frank wandered off in the other direction, Bill and Jerry stood looking at one another and big, knowing smiles came across their faces.  Nothing more had to be said.  It was all right there before them. Words, tears, hugs would have been out of character.

Finally, Jerry left Bill with the same words he issued for years, “I’ll see you at the next game.  I’ve got the ball and gloves, you bring the bats.”

“OK, Captain,” Bill said and walked away.

GOING TO THE DOGS – Rich Paschall

When we need some minor league baseball, we are going to the dogs…Chicago Dogs that is. Bruce Hobson is back to manage. Former Cub Carlos Zambrano is here to attempt a comeback. There are still pleny of promotions, plus hot dogs, Coke and cold beer. What’s not to like? Here was our review of the inaugural season.

Chicago Dogs, by Rich Paschall

Perhaps you have seen a baseball movie that depicts the hard life of the minor league player.  Bull Durham (1988) may be the most entertaining.  It shows the fictional life of players for the North Carolina team, the Durham Bulls.  One Player (Kevin Costner) stays around the minors for many years, while one rookie (Tim Robbins) makes it to “the show.”  Aside from the love story and the humorous moments, the movie shows that minor league baseball is not exactly glamorous for most.

Nevertheless, there are currently 256 minor league teams associated with major league teams, and a long list of independent teams in eight leagues that have no Major League Baseball (MLB) affiliation.  This means there are a lot of players who will never make it to an MLB team (aka “the big leagues” or “the bigs.”)  All these minor league teams represent a lot of major dreams, but why would someone play independent baseball hoping to make it to “the bigs.”  Major league teams already have 5 or 6 minor league teams they follow.  Better yet, why would someone start a new independent team in the face of so many independent team failures.  How many area teams do we need?

Impact Field pregame

With two major league teams in our hometown, (White Sox and Cubs), another major league team just 90 minutes north, the Milwaukee Brewers, and at least five area minor league teams nearby, you would think that building a new stadium and starting a new minor league team would be a crazy dream.  But there are baseball lovers willing to try it.

The Village of Rosemont, located alongside Chicago and next to a part of O’Hare airport, has added to their list of ambitious projects by building a brand new 6300 seat stadium, Impact Field.  The cost was 60 million US Dollars.  They sold the naming rights for a dozen years and immediately have a team to play there, the Chicago Dogs, as in hot dogs.

Last winter when we were Christmas shopping at the nearby Fashion Outlet, we saw the location of a soon to open hot dog stand that was also promoting baseball and Chicago Dogs merchandise.  We did not realize then that baseball was coming on the other side of Interstate 294.    I took little notice as they were not yet open for hot dogs.

This year the Dogs joined a string of Midwest, Texas and Manitoba teams in the American Association.  After 3 games in Sioux Falls and 3 in St. Paul, the Dogs opened Impact Field on May 25, 2018 with a game against the Kansas City T-Bones.

Out view of the opposition

We saw the Dogs face off against the Texas AirHogs in June.  Texas has entered a partnership with the Chinese National Team (Beijing Shougang Eagles) and much of their team is from China.  In fact so much of the roster is from China, we heard the Chinese national anthem before the game as well as our own.

Before the game, I started in the right field corner and walked the entire concourse. Unlike most parks, you can circle this field and end up where you started.  I found there was an adequate number of places to purchase your Chicago style dogs.  These come from Vienna Beef, the popular home town hot dog maker.  They have been here since 1893 and no hot dog stand is worth its celery salt if they don’t have Vienna dogs, but I digress.

Along my route I stopped to chat with one Chicago Dogs employee who noted that some of the players have spent time in “the bigs,” while others still hope to get there.  Some want experience to become coaches or managers some day at the major league level.  This employee mentioned a few famous examples, including Hall of Famer and former Cub, Ryne Sandberg.

Game time

One Chicago connection on the team is outfielder Shawon Dunston Jr., son of the former Chicago Cubs shortstop.  Another is Kyle Gaedale who is related to baseball Hall of Famer, Bill Veeck. The colorful Veeck worked for the Cubs and planted the ivy in the outfield in 1937.  Years later he was the owner of the Chicago White Sox.

The mascot is a giant Mustard bottle, seriously.  Maybe you wish to have your picture taken with mustard.  There was also a ketchup bottle roaming around but we do not put ketchup on our hot dogs…ever.  In addition to luxury boxes, a must at any new stadium, the stadium has party areas, a Kids Zone, a restaurant and of course, a merchandise store.

There are promotions every day for the inaugural season.  Fireworks on Thursdays and Saturdays.  There’s a giveaway every Friday and kids can run the bases after the game.  You might want to go on Mondays however and be early.  The first 1500 fans get free mustard.  What could be better?

The main drawback is actually the location.  The busy district of Rosemont can barely accommodate more traffic.  Without much land to use, the park has a three-level parking lot alongside.  On a day with a small crowd, it was slow getting in the lot.  I can not imagine how they do it when the park is full.

The story needs a Boston angle for Marilyn and Garry and we have one.  The manager of the team is former Boston Red Sox player Butch Hobson.  Butch was drafted by Boston in 1973 and made it to “the show” by 1975. He spent six years with the Red Sox, a year with the Angels and a year with the Yankees.  Hobson made it back to Boston to manage the Red Sox from 1992-1994. He is still colorful and still likes to argue with umpires.  We’ll see if he gets tossed out of more games than the Dogs win.

BECAUSE I CAN – RICH PASCHALL

Our recent baseball articles on Serendipity have inspired me to share this story again. Wayne Messmer is our favorite National Anthem singer at Wrigley Field and other locations, and his trip to the World Series stage took an unfortunate detour. Click “View original post” at the bottom to follow over to Serendipity for the rest of this story.

In The News

This and That from Here and There

In an era when too many people get their “news” from facebook and twitter postings, the loss of a real reporter is sad indeed.  It is especially sad when the reporter is working on an investigative piece for 60 Minutes.  Bob Simon tragically died in a car accident this past week.  He was a passenger in a livery vehicle that got into an accident.  The two drivers were not seriously injured.
The Bill Moyers web site ran two interesting videos as a way of telling us about the journalism of Simon. When Simon was based in the Middle East he questioned the connection between Saddam Hussein and Al Qaeda that others were trying to make. Simon also shows regret he did not more thoroughly investigate the Bush administrations claims regarding 9/11 in his 2002 story. We now know he got the facts while the talking heads were spewing opinions on the Sunday morning talk shows.  He was a real reporter who lived to see an era when so-called news people are only offering opinions.

Gary Owens also died this past week at the age of 80.  He had a long and extensive career in radio and television.  He was the voice of many cartoon characters and announcer to many shows.  If you can picture him in your mind without looking for his picture on the internet, then you probably know him from his best known role as announcer on the ground breaking television show Rowan and Martin’s Laugh In (1968 to 1973).  The entertainment website Variety lists his many credits here.

Jon Stewart is doing something that David Letterman and Craig Ferguson are doing, walking away from highly successful television jobs.  At age 67, it might not be a surprise that Letterman has had enough of the grind, but Stewart is just 52 and reigns supreme on The Comedy Channel.  Can you remember who hosted the Daily Show before Stewart?  Probably not.  Stewart helped give the channel a wide audience and launched the careers of a variety of “reporters.”  Someone will have big shoes to fill there.

Major League Baseball would like to get more run scoring and speed up the game. The obvious problem is the fact that those two ideas did not go together very well.  One area of discussion is the strike zone.  Now that MLB has umpires who are calling the actual strike zone more consistently, MLB doesn’t like the result.  Yahoo Sports reported the story:

Sam Smith had a big night at the Grammy awards taking home 4 of the little trophies, including Song of the Year and Record of the Year (How are these different?) for “Stay With Me.” Does it not seem strange that the song won any award when it is a rip off of Tom Petty’s 1989 “I Won’t Back Down.”  Petty’s lawyers didn’t back down and they reached a settlement back in October which did not come out until January.  Now Tom Petty and Jeff Lynne, formerly of ELO, get song writing credits.  Smith also had to hand over royalties to Petty and Lynne as co-authors. At least Petty took the high road in his comments.  “About the Sam Smith thing. Let me say I have never had any hard feelings toward Sam. All my years of songwriting have shown me these things can happen. Most times you catch it before it gets out the studio door but in this case it got by.”

Benedict Cumberbatch, a frequent target of gay rumors on some entertainment sites, the ones I read anyway, married Sophie Hunter on Valentine’s day.

Alex Rodriguez has rejoined the Yankees and will make 61 million over the next 3 years.  Do you think he will sue the Yankees for the additional bonus money they are going to refuse to pay him if he meets certain milestone achievements?

Hunter Hayes had a good week.  No, he did not win a Grammy for Invisible, but he did get to host some “premiere” Grammy events online prior to the broadcast and he did get to be in the company of big name stars.  We talked about Hunter last Sunday on SERENDIPITY (teepee12.com) and you can find that article here.

Here’s the Tom Petty rock classic.  If you know the Sam Smith song, you will find you know this one too:

Notice the big name stars backing up Petty on the video.