Swish and spit

I got a call from my cousin, Leslie.

These days, whenever relatives call, there’s generally some sort of family emergency. This time, Leslie told me our Auntie Elsie died. She was 89 and after a fall breaking her ankle she was moved out of her house and into a rehab center in north Cheyenne.

I stopped in to visit her when I was in town before and noticed she had a banged up face. Cheyenne is a smallish town. Elsie’s roommate is the great aunt of some high school mates of mine. She said Elsie fell out of bed. What I wasn’t told, is that she was now in hospice care because of it.

I was planning another trip to visit her and get a couple bits of family history from her about the time she sprung my grandfather and her brother – my Uncle George – from a holding stall at the Santa Anita Racetrack when Executive Order 9066 was signed by FDR rounding up west coast Japanese – Americans.

Long story short, Japanese who lived in the interior like in Wyoming were viewed as being non-threatening and allowed to stay in their homes and Elsie was able to get them back to Wyoming.

After World War II Elsie chose to move to Boston where she attended dental hygienist school and upon graduation, returned to Cheyenne and worked for Dr. Carson, who ended up being our family dentist.

Back in the 1950s and 1960s going to the dentist was viewed, I think by everyone, as cruel and unusual punishment. Those belt-driven drills that moved the bits at the speed of a hamster spinning his cage were gruesome.

The classic diabolic dentist movie scene is when a Nazi war criminal played by Lawrence Olivier bores into Dustin Hoffman’s front teeth in “Marathon Man”.

I inherited my dad’s bad teeth. I don’t know if kids still get their baby teeth capped, but all my teeth were covered with stainless steel. If there were metal detectors back then, I never would have made it into a sporting event or through the airport.

My aunt the hygienist cleaned my teeth. She always made it fun for kids. This was during the days of cuspidors – those little round sinks with cold water swirling around. I’d get that gritty toothpaste which sort of tasted good squirted out by my aunt pulling the trigger on that high pressure water pistol that shot a straight stream from two feet away.

Then swish and spit.

I always liked the mist that splattered up on my face as the fast moving water sloshed up the ceramic sides of the bowl.

When it was Dr. Carson’s turn, he wasn’t the most personable guy, at least compared to Dr. Cohen, my pediatrician. After a few pleasantries, if I was in for a filling, he pulled out this Dr. Frankenstein contraption. It was a glass, graduated cylinder embraced in a stainless steel housing with a needle the size of a house nail. He would stick it in a bottle of Novocain, pull it out of the robber stopper with a squeak and squirt the air out before jabbing me various places in my mouth.

Elsie would come in and mix up the filling gunk, which consisted of mercury and silver. My mouth was so full of toxins by the time I was out of high school, it would make a tuna fish gag. I gave up my last old school filling when my root canal tooth finally gave way a couple years ago and replaced by a ceramic one. My dentist at the time talked me out of gold, because it would ‘show’.

I shouldn’t have listened.

There’s no wonder dentists are viewed as torturers.

I don’t have to tell anyone who’s experienced those low RPM drills how much more pleasant it is to go to the dentist now and have to submit to those water-cooled hydraulics ones.

When I have dental work done nowadays, I don’t bother with the anesthetic since the needle poke hurts more than the drilling and there’s no biting of the inner cheek because of the weird numbness.

At the end of the session, Auntie Elsie handed me a pencil and a toothbrush and I was on my way.

Dr. Carson’s office was right next to the Bunten Pharmacy on one side and a block away from Save More Drug and Thrifty Drug. While waiting for my ride, I killed time browsing the baseball cards and Beatle cards and waste my money one a pack or two of them.

Elsie was single and in those days, that was unique, but not unusual for my family with three of her brothers never marrying and a brother and sister marrying much later in life.

She lived in south Cheyenne with my grand parents and her brother, Richard. She eventually moved out to her own place. Rich stayed there until both grand parents died and eventually married. More on them later.

Elsie was quite the athlete – playing 2nd base in a competitive softball league and a 175 scratch bowler. When she quit playing, I think I have her glove in my baseball box. My dad gave me my first glove, which I still have. Not a good memory about it though. The neighbor kid, who was much older than any of us threw a ball at me that was catchable.

I was scrawny and my hand and arm weren’t strong enough to keep the ball from flying out of the webbing and into my eye. I think it knocked me out. I ended up going to the emergency room, but I was no worse for the wear.

The glove I used most of my Little League career I bought at a church rummage sale in November 1963. It’s a Rawlings Wally Moon model. It had a broken in pocket and I made many a good play with it. There were a couple fly balls I should have had but flinched when the fence came up on me. Those weren’t major league fences, they were chain link barely waist high with the barbed edges uncovered which aren’t allowed these days.

Elsie taught me how to bowl. Starting out, everyone uses the house balls. The problem was, finding the same or a similar one each time I went to the alley. I didn’t really get the hang of the game, even though my mom and dad were at one time avid bowlers. World War II put an end to that when they were both kicked out of the American Bowling Congress after Pearl Harbor.

Neither of them picked up the sport again after that. Besides, my dad had a bad back which kept him 4F and out of the war. I also inherited his back problems and was introduced to chiropractics and sat out my sophomore year of high school wrestling – a great sport for spindly guys like me.

I think chiropractors had the same macabre reputations as dentists – maybe they still do.

When I started working and had disposable income, Elsie talked me into buying my own ball and shoes. I wasn’t a great bowler because I didn’t spend enough time at it. I did bowl enough to win a bowling trophy while on a team in Lander, Wyoming.

That was a rite of passage.

About that same time “The Big Lebowski” came out. I related to the nerdy Steve Buscemi character, since I didn’t quite fit into the usual bowling crowd.

Bowling has changed. I got rid of my ball in an early purge, which I now regret. There’s no bowling alley in Boulder and the ones in Denver are these disco-like places with flashing lights and loud music.

The worst part is, the score keeping is automatic.

Keeping score with soft lead pencils projected overhead is a lost art form. It was a display of bowling knowledge. I was always lousy at math, but I could score a bowling game. I think I was good at it because it was very visual – marking those x’s and half x’s writing legible numbers. Some people were bad at it. Even if I wasn’t bowling, I liked to keep score.

After Elsie died there was no big to do, I come from a long line of low key die-ers. A few months earlier my cousin Alison called to report her mother – my Auntie Jeannie – had passed away. She had a stroke while sleeping and didn’t wake up. She had a small reception, nothing like some services I’ve attended.

Purging baseball cards for the good of future generations

I put all my baseball cards from 1979 to 1998 in the neighborhood rummage sale.

Silver Sage Village is having a 16 household rummage sale on September 19th and everyone has been culling through their junk. My office mate moved to one he set up in his apartment and this has given me a good chance to go through my stuff.

I’ve been selling unwanted things on ebay, including parts of my sports card collection. My account is AnAmericanPlaceII which is an homage to social realism photographer Alfred Stieglitz’s gallery in New York City.

In a past life, I had a sports card store front called Pine Riders in Riverton, Wyoming that opened during the sports card bubble in the late 1980s through the 1990s. The great thing about having a store like that was buying, selling and trading for my own hobby, as well as helping others support theirs. To this day, I’m amazed I was able to keep the doors open turning over cardboard worth a dime to a few bucks.

On Pine Riders opening day, former Yankees pitcher who won the decisive game of the 1961 World Series, Bud Daley, came over and signed autographs. I ran into Bud at the Wind River Casino when I was in Fremont County a few months back.

When I moved from Wyoming to Colorado over 20 years ago, I hauled literally a ton of cards with me in notebooks, boxes and brief cases that took up space in closets, crawl spaces and basements.

At the height of the card bubble, I had a colleague trade my entire collection of cards – complete sets from 1958 through 1998 – around 25,000 cards – for a handful of items that are of more interest to me and much less bulky to haul around. Among my newly pared down collection is a 1951 Bowman Mickey Mantle card and Babe Ruth and Lou Gehrig autographs.

My friend Rodger McDaniel recently wrote a blog post about how he was once a millionaire before his mother threw away his baseball card collection with included a few 1952 Mickey Mantle cards. That Topps card is one of the few Holy Grails of the hobby. My mom, on the other hand, saved mine in a box which was the basis of my collection as I have continued it to this day.

Rodger’s lament is one of the classics.

In getting ready for the garage sale, I am doing my part to increase the value of the newer vintage of sports cards that are generally from 1980 to the present.

I realized I had no heart-felt feelings about them, like I do for the rest of my Yankees collections and started slashing and burning. I collect:

  • 1919 Yankees for no particular reason except that Chicago Bears founder George Halas was on that team and this also was the year of the Black Sox Scandal;
  • 1923 Yankees were the first to play in Yankee Stadium and won the first World Series title that year;
  • 1932 Yankees finished the season winning the World Series and highlighted by Babe Ruth’s supposed “called shot” home run for a sick kid and also the first year for Frank Crosetti;
  • 1961 – 1962 Yankees‘ third base coach was Frank Crosetti and this was also the first year I paid close attention to baseball mostly because of Maris and Mantle chasing Babe Ruth’s home run record;
  • 1977 – 1978 Yankees with Reggie, Reggie, Reggie!
  • 2001 Yankees since I went to New York for games 3 and 4 of the World Series a month after 9/11

I emptied out all my boxes of Donruss, Fleer, Bowman and Topps, cards, which in this day and age have little value to me personally or financially. The huge number of cards and sets and subsets became unmanageable. Now, I could care less about Harold Baines or even Mark McGwire who took a personal and professional nose dive in the wake of the performance enhancing drug scandals.

Those are all going to the garage sale along with hundreds more – George Brett, Nolan Ryan …

Free agency also screwed things up. It used to be a player stayed on the same team for his entire career. Now, a pitcher has a good year and gets traded.

I’ve always been a Yankees fan and many of those I’m tossing are of ballyhooed young players like Brien Taylor and Pat Kelly. I also have a lot of players like Joe Girardi who were okay, but not great players. I also had a lot of Girardi cards because he was one of the original Colorado Rockies in the 1992 expansion draft.

During this time period, I was in a rotisserie baseball league called the Buttheads. I always collected cards of the players on my team – the Yangs – which gave a bit of reality to the fantasy. I have a lot of Greg Maddux cards and Pedro Astacio, Denny Neagle (I was the only Butthead to select Rockies pitchers).

Why the Yangs?

In Star Trek Episode 52 “The Omega Glory” Kirk and crew find themselves in some alternate world where the good guys are the Yangs and bad buys are the Coms.

Back to sorting.

I’m a member of a facebook group called Baseball Card of the Day. Members post images of cards for various reasons, memories, updating about the status of their collections. Occasionally, there will be someone who talks about leaving their collection to their kids to pay for their college educations.

I say, do your kids a favor and cash in your cards while you’re still alive. If a guy like me who  has a pretty good idea as to how much a Frank Thomas 1990 Leaf card is worth and where I might find someone who would might buy it, an heir with no idea about the hobby will have a hard time figuring out how to parlay that 1989 complete set of Topps baseball cards into microbiology textbooks.

Baseball cards are for moms to decide to keep or throw away, it’s much less stressful.

By the way, If you’re holding a Joe Hesketh rookie card, it just went up in value because I threw mine away.

Baseball

It’s baseball season.

I mentioned before that the main reason I moved to Colorado back in 1993 was because of baseball. Living in Wyoming for the first 40 years of my life, I’d been to exactly two Major League Baseball games.

One was at Wrigley Field in Chicago  and the second was at Yankee Stadium – both in the late 1980s. Reggie was traded to the Angels by then and Ryne Sandberg was still the Cubs’ second baseman.

henry alan

My neighbor Henry is a big Giants fan. I’m a third generation Yankees fan.

The last time I’d been to a game was around my birthday during early May 2013 when the Yankees were in Denver. I went to all of the four – game stand.

Today’s game was very exciting. I’m not much of a Rockies fan but being with three hard core Giants fans was a lot of fun. Colorado has a rich baseball history, but not much of a baseball tradition among fans or would-be fans.

The game was tied at the end of the 9th and the first wave of Rockies faithful headed to the turnstiles. The game was still tied at the end of the 10th and the next wave of fans raced for the gates.

The stadium was pretty much empty.

Then the Giants loaded the bases in the top half of the 11th and light-hitting Hector Sanchez launches a grand slam home run into the center landscape to take a 12 – 8 lead going into the Rockies half of the 11th. Bearded Giants closer Sergio Romo had a little trouble in a non-save situation and gave up a couple runs and eventually retired the side preserving the 12 – 10 win and avoiding the sweep.

Baseball is a strange game because of all the statistics. For instance, did you know the Giants have a lineup with three Brandon’s – Brandon Hicks, Brandon Belt and Brandon Crawford? Add in the Rockies Brandon Barnes and I believe this may be a Major League record for the number of Brandon’s in a game between two division rivals in April.

Did I mention that the Rockies don’t really have much baseball tradition?

I’ve been to a couple minor league Denver Bears games back in the early 1960s. By that time, the Bears were playing in the old Mile High Stadium and were the AAA affiliate for the New York Yankees. Growing up in the Rocky Mountain West, I was baseball starved, except for the Bears and playing Little League.

plains dairy trip

This was taken back in the early 1960s. I’m wearing the Yenkees cap hat given to me by my grandfather. I haven’t changed my wardrobe over the years.

My grandfather brought me a Yankees cap from one of his travels and my dad was a Yankees fan, so that would make me third generation.

My Little League team sold pancake breakfast tickets for a fund raiser and my Uncle George who along with my grandparents ran the Hiway Cafe on the South Greeley Highway.

He sold tickets on my behalf and one year and along with my teammates we all sold enough tickets to earn a trip to Denver to watch the Bears play which was a lot of fun.

I don’t remember any of the particulars of that game but was surprised when my dad came home with tickets to watch the Bears play the Yankees in an exhibition game later in the summer.

We went with a bunch of guys from my dad’s work, including Tony Rizzuto, who was related to former Yankees infielder Phil Rizzuto. We picked a guy I didn’t know who was an airman at Warren Air Force Base who was a big Yankees fan. I’m thinking the game was in 1963 or 64 because first baseman Moose Skowron was traded to the Dodgers by then and Joe Pepitone was the new first baseman

Our seats were in the right field bleachers. Roger Maris played a couple innings in right field and Mickey Mantle was in center. Bobby Richardson was at second, Tony Kubek at short and Clete Boyer was at third.

I think Yogi Berra was the manager and Ralph Houk was the general manager by then. Seems like Jake Gibbs got most of the catching duty that game, but Elston Howard and John Blanchard were still the main catchers.

Seeing that game is a highlight in my life experiences.

mazeroski

This is the 1961 Topps card with Bill Mazeroski rounding the bases after winning the 1960 World Series with a home run.

I started following baseball when we got a TV set in the early 1960s. I remember watching the World Series that year and the Yankees losing to the Pittsburgh Pirates.

The image of Bill Mazeroski rounding the bases is still etched in my mind and to this day – remember? He hit the World Series – winning home run,

I’m still not much of a Pirates fan. Anyway, the following season was the friendly duel between Maris and Mantle in their quest to hit 61 home runs to surpass Babe Ruth’s record of 60.

triangle park

Many a baseball game was played at the Triangle Park in the Cole Addition of Cheyenne, Wyoming. The playground equipment is in the middle of what was our infield.

During that summer of 1961 my school mates played pickup baseball games at the Triangle Park in the Cole Addition of Cheyenne. Sometimes we played only with two or three on each side, but I do know that Husty Twitchell belted out 61 home runs well before Maris!

Part of my rekindled addiction to baseball – baseball cards.

I dug out a bunch of my baseball cards from storage. It had been maybe 15 years since I’d browsed through my collections. Back in the late early 1990s I traded all of my bulk collection for a start on the challenge of certain Yankees teams.

I started with the 1961 and 62 teams that won back to back World Series Championships, 1953 Yankees, which is my birth year. The toughest are the 1932 Yankees which still have Babe Ruth and Lou Gehrig on the roster.

george halas

My final Yankees collection is the 1919 team. I was surprised to learn that George Halas – founder of the Chicago Bears and the NFL was on that team.

When I stopped paying attention to my hobby, I started collecting the 1919 Yankees – which was the year of the infamous White Sox cheating scandal.

The main reason I lost interest in the hobby was because of the glut or cards on the market and rise of the internet, which took all the challenge out of run-of-the mill collecting.I did fill out the few cards in the 1961 set I collected using ebay. When it gets down to the last few items of anything in a collection, you just want to be done with it, right?

Now that ebay has become better, I have found that ebay is really the only way I can fill out the 1919 collection since the cards and autographs are so scarce.

Back to baseball tradition.

I supported the Rockies from 1993 to 1998 and gave up my season tickets after the All Star game. That was quite the event for Denver and I’m glad I was able to experience it.

Compared to the Florida Marlins, a team that came into the league the same year as the Rockies, that franchise has enjoyed much more on-field success than the Rockies. The Marlins still have trouble filling the stadium seats, but have had better success on the field.

fb dad coors

I took my dad to the first game at Coors Field on March 31, 1995. It was the replacement Rockies playing the replacement Yankees.

The few times I’ve been to Yankee Stadium and Fenway Park in Boston, the air is electric. The fans are dedicated. Not only are all the seats filled, but the bars and restaurants around the parks are filled, too.

The Rockies are on track to have another mediocre season, but team management is poised to make a lot of money from the casual Rockies fans.

There’s no doubt that the New York and Boston markets have way more baseball tradition and only time can develop that.

I’m not sure how that will work out here in Colorado since the starting point of team ownership seems to be more about making as much money as possible and getting by with an inconsistent team on the field.

Although Rockies GM Dan O’Dowd is looking like a fantasy baseball genius by getting rid of Dexter Fowler and replacing him with Charlie Blackmon in center field.

Speaking of center field, it used to be that the upper center field deck was often times empty because no tickets were sold there because attendance was so low.

coors field empty seats

The Rockies previously didn’t sell seats in the right – center upper deck. This season, there’s a new “LoDo dining experience” call the Rooftop Bar up there now.

This year, additional seats were added and a premium bar – restaurant experience was added called The Roof Top.

My party didn’t make it up that far today, but it looked like everyone was having a good time.

I hope I’m wrong and the Rockies have a great season and make it to the World Series, so at least those patrons in the Roof Top bar will have something to cheer about.

Meanwhile, I’m looking for an autograph of 1932 Yankees coach Jimmy Burke, if anyone happens to have one laying around.