Do you ever stop and ask yourself “How in the heck did I end up here?” Certainly life’s ups-and-downs and-ins and-outs could have taken us in many different directions, but the only thing that really matters is today, so here we go.
Today you and I get to start a new adventure together, sharing ideas and thoughts about what is meaningful to us now. However, in order to go forward, we must go back a little to lay the groundwork. While my background is predominantly in athletics, and primarily in baseball, one’s interest in a particular field certainly should never hinder the desire to wonder about, well, EVERYTHING else!
A couple of short months ago Jill Osborne, the fine writer of the feature column “Your Neighbor” in this publication composed a well-done piece about my background. Essentially what I do now is free-lance in the media business, with a bit of sales mixed in. When I start new projects, I frequently tell people that for ‘the gruesome and the glorious, just Google it.” You don’t even have to spell the name right! As some obscure group sang one time, it’s been “A Long and Winding Road.”
Yesterday is History
It has taken me through a parochial elementary school of 300 to a public high school of 2,500. That was a fairly large culture jump. Semi-big fish in a small pond, more academically, musically and theatrically oriented than athletically, although I was pretty good in Little League.
High school brought, as it did for all of us, many new mountains to climb and hurdles to jump. Also exposure to a lot of very new things! In the classroom, on the fields, on the stage and socially, and I tried to explore them all to the fullest. Academically, my sister was two years ahead of me and pretty well had that covered for the family as the Valedictorian of a class of over 500. Throw in Homecoming Queen and captain of the Cheerleaders and you get an idea of the footsteps to fill. So I tried other avenues.
Basketball was the sport of choice, and I could light up the scoreboard, but there wasn’t much demand for a slow, non-jumping point guard that didn’t play defense all that well. Had some small college offers, but nothing worth pursuing. I really just liked the competition.
Football was an afterthought; the JV coach my Sophomore year saw me throwing the ball 65 yards and told me that starting the next day I was a football player. Mom said no, but Dad talked her into it. The last thing she said was “ Don’t you call me from the hospital!” So I didn’t; I made the coach call her the very first day. He was about 6’6’, 240 pounds so I figured he stood a better chance of explaining the broken finger.
I did find out, many years later from Lloyd Carr, the head coach at the University of Michigan, that they had sent someone to scout me. He said they loved the way I threw the ball, but I wasn’t always the first guy back in the pocket; there were defensive tackles beating me back there!
There was always an interest in reading and writing so Journalism seemed like a pretty good idea when it came time to get serious about college and the future. Books were always a huge part of our free time, and in fact, until recently my sister, a PHD now, was the Dean of Z. Smith Reynolds Library at Wake Forest. It also didn’t hurt that the prettiest teacher in school was the Journalism teacher! Unfortunately she married the wrestling coach, which pretty much killed my chances. But editor of the yearbook and newspaper gives me the smallest amount of credibility to write to you periodically, or at least that’s what I have convinced myself. And, I did Major in Speech and Minor in Journalism at the University of Michigan.
Being a natural-born ham, acting seemed like a good thing to try for a laugh, so the Senior year was dominated by the lead in a very intense drama, and also the lead in the musical “Carousel” along with three sports. The final night was one of my favorites because we happened to have a baseball game the same day, and there were college and pro scouts in attendance. Naturally, the game went extra-innings, past curtain time, and I literally was changing into Billy Bigelow’s costume running across the parking lot. You know that I tripped on the way!
Socially, high school was my real introduction to alcohol, which will explain itself if you have time, or interest, to try Google. I have issues with it to this day; it is a daily battle, and has been a life changer in many, many ways. Both from hitting rock bottom in prison, and climbing back out of the deepest hole I ever want to be in.
Today is the Present
Baseball was always the constant, though, and continues to be. Thirteen years of professional baseball came after a college scholarship, and there were plenty of peaks and valleys along that climb. As we progress through the year in these columns, a fair number of what at least one of us thinks are funny stories are sure to surface. ESPN and the Detroit Tigers radio followed.
Last year was a return to broadcasting after a hiatus due to a less-than-stellar life style. But some divine providence put me in a Bible Fellowship class at Calvary Baptist Church with Ron Wellman, a friend from my Cubs days when he was at Northwestern. Broadcasting the Wake Forest baseball games led to being the analyst on My 48’s Winston-Salem Dash games, and hopefully a rejuvenation of talking about something I love.
The church will also play a pretty prominent part in these musing and thoughts because it has become an integral part of the life of my beautiful wife of almost 10 months and mine. That too has been an interesting trip, through the Lutheran parochial school to the Catholic Church through marriage the first time, to singing in the choir 2-3 times every Sunday in a Baptist church. Wednesday is date night for Elaine and I as we head to Calvary for dinner then choir practice. I have her convinced it is a real date! Then we hold hands standing next to each other on Sunday, so it is romantic too!
If you get the chance, please make time in your schedule to attend the Calvary Christmas Celebration “The Story of Christmas” on December 5-7. It was the Easter Celebration that got me back into the church a year-and-a-half ago. You’ll see and hear Elaine singing like a lark and me doing a fair amount of clever lip-syncing. But I do it with gusto and enthusiasm!
I do have two children and two stepchildren and they will be frequent visitors because they, along with Elaine, my sister and her husband and a tremendous ‘A-Team” of support people are doing their best to keep me in touch with reality. I might add that is not always an easy job!
Tomorrow is a Mystery
And, if you please, I would like to invite you to be a part of that group of people adding to the life experience. Feel free to send me comments on what has been written or what you would like to hear some thoughts on. I have been booed by 55,000 people before, so you won’t hurt my feelings! (That kind of feels like having your pants taken down in front of a very large crowd, in case you were wondering.) If you see me at church or riding around on a little gold and black (Go Deacs!) scooter, feel free to flag me down and let me know what is interesting in your life, or concerns you. It will be mostly sports but doesn’t have to be.
A smart man once said to me “ In the game of life, nobody remembers the half-time score.” Well, it’s about the end of the third-quarter, which only means the most exciting part is yet to come! At one of my son’s high-school football playoff games a father said that this would be the most exciting night of his son’s life, and I thought, “Gee, I hope not!” I think it is just around the corner, and when it happens, the next “most exciting” will happen shortly after. Care to come along?