Tag Archives: cleveland indians

The long walk home…

CleBusses

 

I used to call my boys “young and stupid” while they were growing up. You see – the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree.  I did a LOT of stupid things when I was a young man.  I attribute a portion of my problems to the time I grew up, which was much more simpler and innocent.  Another factor was my home life.  I lost my mother when I was 10, found out I was adopted at 12, never met my real father and left home by 16.  In other words, I wasn’t exactly overwhelmed with parental supervision.

One thing that never wavered throughout my youth was my love for baseball and the Cleveland Indians.  My grandmother used to take me to games and she was patient enough to let me beg for autographs outside the Gate A parking lot after the game. My most prized autograph was Rocky Colavito who signed a 10 cent scorecard for me.

It’s funny how perspective can be cruel.  When I was 12, from my PERPSECTIVE, I couldn’t believe how gigantic the stadium was.  the rampsChiefWahoo taking you from deck to deck seemed to stretch forever.  Even the walkways from the lower to upper deck seemed immense.  I remember well the Fourth of July series with the Yankees, when old Cleveland Municipal Stadium used to sell out. You could feel the old structure waving in the breeze as people banged seats and yelled at the top of their lungs.

I remember making a mess with peanut shells and those glorious hot dogs with stadium mustard.  As I got older, Saturday home games would include a trip up to Prospect Avenue for a visit to Record Rendezvous to pick up the latest WHK Fabulous Fifty Tunedex.  Or a leisurely stroll through Kay’s Books for some comic book bargains.  My limo for these trips was a Cleveland bus – sometimes two.  One trip to Downtown Cleveland when I got a little older turned out to be a very long day.

My friend Don and I decided to go to an Indians game. Now we never had a whole lot of money, but we always managed to save a quarter for the bus home. But on this day we didn’t.  We were older now, and from our PERSPECTIVE, walking home couldn’t be that big of a deal.

Tired feet

Well of course it was.  It took over two hours to walk from Downtown Cleveland to East 55th and Broadway.  It was dark by the time we got home, and I don’t remember being punished as I’m assuming the two hour plus walk was considered time served.  All kinds of bad things could have happened – but they didn’t. I learned my lesson though, I never did that again.  I can’t see my grandsons doing this today.  Not because  of emergency cash, cell phones and social networking but because from their PERSPECTIVE a baseball game wouldn’t be worth leaving the house.  My how times have changed….

 

 

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Batting champs and lefty power…

Summers during my Junior High days were spent on the Mound School playground.  I played “rubber ball against the wall” almost every day.  We loved it so much, we actually started a league.  Chose teams, made up lineups for each game and kept statistics.  I was so angry at the Indians for trading Rocky Colavito, I became the Detroit Tigers.  Not only did I get my revenge on Frank Lane, I wound up with a pretty good team.

We bought balls for .25 cents and took care to “break them in”.  We had to wear off the hard skin off or the ball or they could actually split from a had swing.  We got them good and soft before they were game ready.  You could actually throw a curve ball with these, although when I threw too many of them my arm hurt a lot.

One of the league rules, was that you had to bat the way the ball player in your lineup batted.  So the good news was I got to use Norm Cash every game – the bad news is I had to bat left handed.  I quickly learned why lefties were such sluggers, because I didn’t hit too many pitches – but when I connected – that ball was gone.  I had a more pronounced upper cut swing from the left side and very little, if any, bat control.

We hit against a 20 foot fence and the goal was to hit the fence on a fly for a home run, but very often it would go WAY over the fence.  The corporation that owned the lot had ADT security, so we’d have to scale that fence and get the ball and back onto the playground before they arrived.  Sometimes they would turn off the alarm and come onto the playground to chase us away.

Pitching stats were kept also, but I was only an average pitcher.  I remember oh too well those games when by the 5th inning my arm hurt so bad it felt like it was going to fall off.  But you just played through it, and of course most of the time you got clobbered.  but my batting stats were pretty competitive.

When the game was over, I made a beeline for the candy store on the corner of 55th and Mound and got a cold bottle of RC and either a bag of New Era Potato Chips or a Milky Way.  Before the next game, we all got an updated list of batting average and pitching leaders (just like in the Cleveland Plain Dealer).  Pretty impressive because back then, no calculators or computers, it was all done by hand.

I doubt very seriously that there are kids anywhere in the Cleveland area doing what we did and batting as Grady Sizemore or Carlos Santana.  Too bad… they don’t know the tremendous fun they’re missing…

 

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Cooling Off…

Visiting my grandparents house during the summer didn’t just mean getting to play baseball or wiffle ball with my friends.  We played hard, usually many hours at a time.  When we took a break, we were thirsty.  My friend Russ often provided the refreshments.  We cooled off with a long drink of water from the hose on the side his house.  Why not pop you ask?  Money was scarce, and if I had a dime in my pocket, I was always tempted to buy a couple packs of baseball cards.

But then, there were THOSE days.  The 95 degree days when you couldn’t stop sweating no matter how much you drank.  And the water from the hose seemed to get warmer and warmer.  For THOSE days, we had a solution.  It was just a short walk to the corner of Madison and 106th.  There was a gas station there that eventually stopped selling gas and became just a place for car repairs.  The two bay doors were ALWAYS open though, and the chest style pop machine had the COLDEST bottles anywhere.

The other unique thing about this machine was the pop they stocked it with.  It didn’t have just Coke or Pepsi but a very nice variety of fruit flavors as well. My favorite was Suncrest Orange (followed closely by Suncrest Grape).  In my own neighborhood, the local store didn’t even stock Suncrest, so it truly was a west side treat.  You had to open the chest, deposit your dime, find the row you wanted and move the bottle through the metal maze to the end.  You then popped the cap off on the built in opener/cap catcher  on the front of the chest and you were ready.  Tiny crystals of ice would fill your mouth with each refreshing gulp.  To this day, I’ve never found a machine with a bottle so consistently frosty.

We didn’t play ball all the time.  If the wind kicked up, we couldn’t play wiffle ball very well because it was hard enough to control them without a wind.  With the wind blowing you could never get it near home plate.  On those days and during brief periods of rain, we retired to the front porch. We could talk about baseball and the Indians for hours.  Most guys would have cards on them just about any day and there was always the chance for a card trade.  Strategically trading your doubles and triples was an art form.  If you didn’t do it, your chances of completing a series was a lot tougher.

If the weather really got nasty, we’d go inside with Russ and he would play records.  His taste in music didn’t always jive with mine, but we enjoyed listening to the 45’s and continuing our talk about the Tribe.  So no matter the weather, we had a lot of fun.  And if I had the dime, the pop was tremendous!

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