Sunday, May 31, 2020
THE STAINED GLASS WINDOW
Rick @ https://www.rickwatson-writer.com/ recent post reminded me of this story originally posted in February 2013, It was a two part post, but these days who doesn't have time to read a slightly longer post. Also, with all the crazy shit happening these days, it is an example of judging people on the way they appear.
It was a plain window which my wife and I felt needed to be upgraded as it was somewhat of a focal point in the entrance. I thought it would be nice to replace the plain glass with a stain glass decorative window. We were referred to a man who specialized in stain glass windows, “Walter the Glass Guy.”
I called Walter to see if he could come and look at our window.
“Hello, Is this Walter the glass guy?”
I explained the project; we wanted to exchange a small glass pain with a decorative stain glass window.
“Sure, I can do that; I’d like to come out give it a look, take some measurements and show you some examples of my work. Ah…just one thing…don’t be afraid when I come to the door, I’m harmless.”
Walter’s admonishment may have been the strangest thing anyone trying to do business has ever told me. I was curious and somewhat nervous the night he was scheduled to visit.
When I answered the door to Walter’s knock I understood. Walter the glass guy was over 6’ 6” tall. He must have weighed 325 pounds. He had hair and a full beard which resembled someone who has not seen civilization for years. Without his warning I might not have opened the door.
Not the real Walter...but close!
Walter recommended a stain glass pattern which included a dove and a rising sun emitting large beams surrounded by a blue sky. We chose his pattern, he measured the window and left. When he was gone we realized we never agreed on a price. We tried to call, but for the next week Walter the glass guy would not answer his phone.
Needless to say I was a bit worried. I didn’t want to pay…make that I could not afford to pay more than $300 for the new window. I was hoping for $250. What would I do if Walter showed up with this custom window and charged me $500, or even $1000? The man was a giant. If I pissed him off he might kill my wife and I, disappear into the mountains and never be seen again.
My imagination may have run wild, but this dude was huge. His hands were twice the size of mine and no matter how gentle he seemed or professed to be, Walter was scary!
A week after his visit, Walter called. He was finished and ready to install our new window. Walter came the next day. He took out the old window and replaced it with a stain glass creation more beautiful than either of us ever imagined. How those giant frying-pan hands could create such a delicate piece of art was beyond me.
“Walter, it’s beautiful…ah we never talked about a price. How much do you want?”
I was prepared for $500, hoping for $300, and mentally figuring out a payment plan for anything higher. I was damn sure not going to haggle over the price and piss off a man mountain!
“Oh..ah..I was thinking…do you think $140 is fair?”
The sigh I let out shook the house. “Ah yes, that’s fair, that’s very fair.”
I wrote Walter a check for $200 made out to cash per his request, and told him anything less for such beautiful work would be stealing.
“Thanks Mr. Hagy I appreciate that. I might not cash this right away, I’m leaving tonight for Baltimore, got a big pool tournament. When I’m not working with glass, I’m shooting pool.”
That is the last we saw of Walter. Three days later I got a call.
“Is this Joe Hagy?”
“Mr. Hagy, my name is Jim O’Brian. I own “Big Jim’s Bar and Pool Hall” in Baltimore. Do you know someone named Mickey Hasslet?”
“Never heard of him…why?”
“Well this guy Mickey has a check made out to cash and signed by you. Check is for $200, said he won it from Walter the glass guy.”
“Oh…Walter…yes, I gave him that check for work he did for me. The check is good.”
“Well OK, thanks Mr. Hagy, I don’t trust that Mickey, dudes a no account drunk. Only thing he’s good for is he shoots a mean game of pool. I’m going to hang onto the check. If I see Walter I’ll give it to him and let him work it out with Mickey. Hell, Mickey was so drunk when he tried to cash it, he don’t even remember I got it.”
“Oh…OK, sure, give it to Walter, he earned it for sure. Thanks.”
I called Walter several times before he finally answered. I told him about the check and Mickey, and I told him the bar was holding the check for him.
“Yeah, Mickey won the money from me fair and square. Hell he was so drunk I couldn’t believe he could even see the table. Turns out the little bastard is so good he could beat most anybody even though he could barely stand. The money is Mickey’s fair and square.”
That is the last I ever heard from Walter.
Mickey never claimed his $200. Walter wouldn’t collect it because it was Mickey’s fair and square and "Big Jim" never cashed the check.
I was scared of not being able to pay for a beautiful stain glass window. I was afraid of pissing off a long haired bearded giant. I ended up with a beautiful stain glass window.
Friday, May 29, 2020
Reading what our leaders in congress and the White House say regarding actions during this pandemic reminds me of my days as a low level manager years ago.
Every year we had to list our plans, which included a mission statement, goals, benchmarks, and reporting. Running any organization needs planning. Benchmarks are needed for measuring success, and reporting is needed to confirm progress toward meeting goals.
Every year we spent a week locked up in a conference room arguing over a mission statement with goals, benchmarks and reporting that we would put into our yearly plans.
Plans are great, except when the shit hits the fan, the shit covers the plan.
This Covid thing is the shit hitting the fan.
That’s why when I read a message from my Congressman claiming he is calling for,
the President to develop a comprehensive, coordinated strategy for testing and contract tracing with clear benchmarks and timetables, and public reporting of key metrics.
I got a flashback.
What my Congressman is calling for sounds great and professional, but it sends me back in time to that conference room spending a week making bull shit sound good for higher management, and creating benchmarks for which we were sure we could claim success.
Were those planning sessions worthless? Not completely, but kind of yes.
The actual goal was always,
“To process the business efficiently.”
But we had to say that in 900 words or more and make it sound really professional, and then provide plans for how to meet our “mission statement.”
Then we would have a fire we had to put out.
No one ran to the plans to see how we should handle this fire. All fires are a little different.
My Congressman’s mission statement demand,
call on the President to develop a comprehensive, coordinated strategy for testing and contract tracing with clear benchmarks and timetables, and public reporting of key metrics.
Does sound really professional and important, but What is “comprehensive,” what is “coordinated” and with whom, what are the “clear“ benchmarks and timetables? Every one of those is a three day discussion with a host of “I told you so’s” just waiting to happen.
No plan will be “Comprehensive” enough. “Coordinated” with all the right people is not possible. Someone is going to be left out or included unnecessarily.
Is it even possible to have enough “Contact testing?”
What “benchmarks” will not be open to criticism?
“To limit deaths to not more than 30 per 1,000,000 people.”
Well that seems pretty heartless.
“No one will die from Covid.”
Well there is a benchmark that cannot be reached.
Mission statements are bull shit. Everyone knows it.
Mike Tyson was right when he famously said, “Everyone has a plan until they get hit in the face!”
Everyone knows what needs to be done during this pandemic.
Provide testing. Protect old and medically vulnerable people. Keep infected people quarantined. Provide healthcare with the resources they need to safely do their job. Safely allow people to go back to work and keep the economy from creating more misery than the virus has created. Develop a vaccine!
I remember years ago when at work and the shit suddenly hit the fan, those “Mission Statement” people were the first to claim, “I was concerned!” “didn’t anyone test that?” “What does the plan say?”
And while these ass-holes were busy positioning themselves to claim they were concerned and that benchmarks were not being met, the rest of us put out the fire.
We worried about “mission statements,” and what could have been done better, when the fire was out.
Wednesday, May 27, 2020
In the great scheme of things, given all the problems, sickness and death due to the pandemic, I am somewhat ashamed to complain about little things.
But complain I do!
Mrs. C and I were at home staying away from tiny red balls with spiky things on them and watching TV; specifically Judge Judy.
We old people love Judge Judy.
It was an interesting case involving one dick-head trying to get his deposit back from another dick-head who was holding on to a deposit mostly because the other person was a dick-head.
In other words, a typical Judge Judy case.
After arguing back and forth and Judge Judy beating up on both the plaintiff and the defendant, a verdict was finally about to be delivered.
The show goes to commercial.
“Which dick-head do you think will win?”
“The plaintiff is the bigger dick-head.”
“Yeah, but Judge Judy does go with the law, I think she will rule against the defendant, but still tell the plaintiff that he is a dick-head.”
Back from commercial and:
WE INTERRUPT THIS SHOW FOR AN IMPORTANT NEWS DEVELOPMENT FROM NEWS 2 NEW YORK…
“Crap, could they just wait like five minutes, how important is this news?”
“This is Jenny Jennington, important news just in. The important news that I am about to report is new news and we are the first station to report on this news because we are really fast at reporting important news…”
“Holy Shit, what is the news?”
“This just in, the space launch has been cancelled!”
“Oh no, not cancelled! That couldn’t have waited five minutes?”
News 2 New York, then spent the next 10 minutes telling us what would have happened if the launch was not cancelled, and when the launch may next take place.
I sure would have liked to know which dick-head won their case, but at least now I learned of the space launch being cancelled as soon as it was cancelled, because waiting to learn of an event that I was not watching being cancelled would be horrible.
Clearly News 2 New York needed 10 minutes to tell their "Judge Judy" audience that a space launch was cancelled, because running one of those small printed messages under Judge Judy saying,
“The Space launch that you were not watching because you were watching Judge Judy instead has been cancelled.”
Yeah, I know, OMG Cranky, what a big problem…!!
OK, you’re right…never mind.
Friday, May 22, 2020
The more we learn about science, and life, and by “we” I mean really smart people, the more we begin to take things for granted.
There was a time when people worshiped phenomenon’s that ruled their life. Rivers were worshiped, trees were holy, cows sacred and mountains magical. People prayed to these necessary elements of their life, they represented that which they could not understand they represented life, and therefore they represented God.
As smart people begin to learn and explain all that surrounds us, these things lose their charm and their majesty. When we understand them, even if it is only really smart people that understand them, they lose their grip on us, they just become facts and things.
I think in large part, people are losing their belief in God, their need to fear and respect an unknown power as they feel they now understand that power.
A mountain is created by Earth's internal pressure and volcanoes and …Hell, I don’t really know, but I know really smart people can explain them.
The Sun provides heat and light and has done so for a billion years. Really smart people can explain how it will continue to provide for another billion years. Well if really smart people can explain this phenomenon, then it must be no big deal.
We pray and show awe to that which we do not understand. When we peal back the how’s and chemistry of life, it loses some of its intrigue, God is diminished in our eyes.
Perhaps a virus that smart people do not yet understand and do not yet know how to treat is an eye opener to the majesty of God.
We are sooo smart. We (and once again by “we” I mean really smart people) can create life in a test tube, we can change a persons gender, we can create light and store energy. We don’t need God to explain things, everything has an explanation, some just have not yet been discovered or proved.
Yes, many will ask for God to deliver us from this virus, and when the virus is defeated, it is really smart people who will be given credit. They will be thanked and God will be forgotten just a bit more.
I, not being one of the really smart people will ask,
“What makes really smart people really smart? What made the building blocks of science that really smart people are beginning to understand?
Where did the first molecule come from?”
Regardless of how smart really smart people are in explaining the life around us, there will always be just one conclusion, not the tree, the mountain, the river or the cow, not the sun or a virus.
The final answer to the secret to life will always end up with God.
Many of us are too smart to see that.
To me there is only one explanation for a sun that has burned for a billion years and is likely to burn for another billion years. Always, burning at approximately the same intensity, providing the same amount of light and heat.
Meanwhile, wash your hands and wear a mask.
*Inspired by Bali @ http://www.bailiandi.com/2020/05/sun-connection-and-let-people-decide-now.html if it makes no sense, blame Bali!
Thursday, May 21, 2020
They say if you fall off a bike you just have to get up and try again…actually that may be a horse, but sort of the same thing applies to a bike. They also say that once you learn to ride a bike you never forget, you know that “It’s like riding a bike” thing.
Who are "They?"
I don’t know who “They” are either, but they say you should listen to “Them.”
I don’t know who “They” are either, but they say you should listen to “Them.”
When I first learned to ride a bike I fell a lot. It was not a problem, young people may get a bruise or scratch, but they heal quickly. When I was older and rode all over town I was a really good bike rider. I rode with friends on the handlebar, I rode with no hands on the handlebar, I could even lean left or right to turn without touching the handlebar.
When I was even older, way older, it turns out it is not like riding a bike. Oh I could still ride, but a bit rickety and with little stamina. It seems you need stamina to ride for any length of time. I am a bit leery of falling because at my age when you fall, things break, things like bones, and they don’t heal very fast at my age.
So, even though it is great exercise and a good way to reduce a carbon footprint, I got rid of my bike and either drive or walk to get from point A to point B.
Most old people should probably not ride bikes. It is too dangerous for most older people. Of course some old people can still ride and it is good for them. I think every person should know if it is safe for them to ride a bike or not.
If a lot of old people get hurt riding a bike that is bad. Maybe the Government should protect them and not allow old people to ride bikes.
Actually, some younger people get hurt riding bikes because they take so many chances, and really young people do get scrapes and bruises while they are learning. Maybe riding bikes is just not safe. Maybe Government should lock all bikes up until a much safer bike is invented.
If bike riding was outlawed until a safe bike was invented, it would save a lot of scrapes, a bunch of broken bones and even a life or two. That would be a good thing; except the majority of the safe bike riders in the country would be denied a form of exercise and transportation that is beneficial.
Maybe a better idea would be to spend more time teaching new riders how to ride, and suggest that everyone, including the skilled daredevil riders, wear helmets.
Older people should probably just stay off bikes, unless they are still fit enough to ride, and then they should be extra careful.
It might even be a good idea for some people who are not fit enough to ride a bike to just stay indoors and watch others ride.
Most people can make that decision for themselves.
You know, until a safe bike is invented.
Wednesday, May 20, 2020
A couple of weeks ago I gave Wells Fargo an atta-boy for catching a scam charge on my credit card from Best Buy. Wells Fargo saw something fishy and sent me an email request to confirm the charge. I denied it and Wells Fargo removed the charge, stopped my card and issued a new card.
The other day I checked my account and the same Best Buy charge hit again. It hit on my new card number. WTF?
I called Wells Fargo, and they contacted Best Buy for me. Guess what, the charge was legit. Except it sort of was not legit.
So here is what happened. A few years ago Best Buy repaired a computer problem, and I also bought a new, cheap PC. The cheap one was for my music stuff and was downstairs with my guitars. The repaired one is for all other computer stuff. Anyway, when I paid for the repair which was like $140, the Geek Squad Geek asked if I wanted the Best Buy purchase insurance. The insurance cost $213.65. When he told me it would also cover the $140 I figured it was a pretty good deal.
That was two years ago.
Turns out when I agreed to that contract, I also agreed to it for every year as an automatic charge against my card. I missed it last year, I don’t always check my card that carefully, or I just accepted it I don’t really remember…I’m old OK.
When the charge was explained to me I told the person that I don’t know what service I purchased EVERY YEAR, but I don’t want it any more. They agreed to refund the charge and I have an email confirming they will.
Yes, I will look for it.
My complaint is,
Number one: (My best Joe Biden Imitation) The Best Buy Geek, who must get a piece of the action when he sells a contract, should make it clear that the contract renews automatically every year.
Number B: When the charge comes due, Best Buy should send an email asking for confirmation that the service is still wanted. This charge is $213. If Someone is not aware it is going to go through, then that charge may cause an overdraft or an embarrassing card denial. This is a world of high technology, send me an email or a text message for crispy sake!
Number Thirdly: When Wells Fargo turned down the charge and changed my card number, Best Buy went to Visa, and Visa gave them my new card number to bill me. WTF? Shouldn’t Visa just tell Best Buy that the old card has been replaced and they should contact their customer (me). Yes they should, no they didn’t.
So what did that contract get me? It only cost me $70 for the first year, then $213 that I did not see last year and almost another $213 this year.
Nearly $500 to guarantee repairs on two computers, one two years old the other four years old. One computer only cost $340. I also had some internet protection, which I already have through both my cable company and Microsoft.
There are lots of these kinds of scams, just most are for smaller dollar amounts. A few years ago, Mrs. C went through her VISA bill and discovered around 6 different charges she had agreed to that she did not realize were recurring every month. Each was for around $5, an amount that is easy to overlook.
Anyway all is straightened out, I hope, but just a warning, when you buy with a card check your bills and beware of automatic recurring charges for services that you may not want.
As they said every week on "NYPD Blue", “Be careful out there!”
Tuesday, May 19, 2020
What to DO What to Do
Well the big question these days with regard to the virus, is
“When do we end the lockdown and transition back to life as it was?”
OK, not life as it was, but life.
I have an opinion, but then I am a jerk, so I will keep it to myself.
What do the experts say, because we are told the steps we take should be fact based and science based. Listen to the experts.
Problem is, the experts tell us we know very little about the virus, we find out new things every day. They also say that if we loosen up quarantine restrictions, the virus outbreak will peak again. We need to wait until we have a vaccine. They also tell us we may never have a vaccine.
Other experts tell us that if we do not go back to a new normal, the economy will collapse and not recover. Hmm…to me that means starvation and drug abuse and mental issues. Hell, you had me at starvation!
Who do we listen to. Certainly not WHO do we listen to, we know they’ve missed the call on several levels.
Here is the thing about experts, they will tell you shit that is crap because they can. They, like everyone can have ulterior motives and sometimes those motives are dangerous.
Years ago, to go off topic, when I was but a wee lad, I played arcade games. In these games, which you played for a dime, you could score high and win “Free” games. I enjoyed playing those games and there were days where one thin dime would get you an hours play, thanks to the “Free” games. Then one summer, the free games were gone. Politicians determined that the “Free” games was a form of gambling, and gambling was evil and against the law in New Jersey. I stopped playing those games; without the “Free” they became too expensive.
Several years later politicians determined that allowing casinos in Atlantic City would be a good idea. I could not win “free” arcade games one year and the next, drunks could blow that months mortgage payment rolling dice. That was my lesson on government looking out for our best interests.
OK, back on topic.
At the start of this pandemic we were told not to use face masks. My first thought was,
“I understand we need to save resources for hospitals and first line protectors, but why not just a homemade cover, couldn’t hurt could it?”
Experts said “Yes it could!” Do you remember why? They said that the virus is spread by touching things and then touching your face. If you had a mask, it would irritate your face and you would touch your face when adjusting the mask.
Let that settle in for a moment.
Incredibly, intensely, absurdly, ridiculously STUPID, and yet many, myself included for a while anyway, bought it!
I think this incredibly, intensely, absurdly, ridiculously STUPID reason for not wearing masks probably cost the lives of many thousands of people.
What is my opinion on reopening up the economy? You thought I wasn’t going to give it to you?…silly you.
Let the people decide! If hair salons, tattoo parlors, and gyms are opened up, you do not have to go. I’ll probably wait a bit, but that should be a personal decision, not government.
I do think that the Government, Federal, state and local were correct to shut things down, probably illegally, until things settled down a bit and people understood what was at stake, and learned about masks and distancing and hygiene. It is now time to let people decide what chances they wish to take.
We know which people are MOST at risk, be sure to protect them as best possible, and everyone else…it is your choice.
More people will get sick, many will die from this virus, but if we cower in our homes long enough, we lose everything that makes our lives worth living.
Live your life. Keep away from old people and those with preexisting conditions, social distance, wear a mask in public, but if you want a haircut, get a damn haircut.
Monday, May 18, 2020
Ken Osmond passed away today. He was 76.
You probably don’t know who Ken Osmond was. Neither did I. As a big fan of the TV show “Leave it to Beaver” I did know who Eddie Haskell was.
Eddie was polite talking to grown-ups, but behind the grown-up’s back he was the pain in the ass kid who was Wally Cleaver’s friend. If you have had teenage children, you probably knew an Eddie Haskell.
Turns out Ken (Eddie) was an interesting person. It seems like most child actor stars turn out to be drug addicted ass-hats; not Ken. Come to think of it, none of the child actors on the show turned out bad. Perhaps it was because the Cleaver father, Ward, was a Pastor in his real life.
Ken had a few roles after “Beaver,” but he was type cast because of Eddie Haskell and had trouble finding work.
Ken was married with two children and became a police officer in Los Angeles, a motorcycle cop.
In 1980 during a chase, he was hit by five bullets. Four hit his bullet-proof vest, one his belt buckle. He retired in 1988.
Unlike many in Hollywood, his marriage lasted, and by all accounts Ken was an excellent father and a stand-up guy.
I can’t say I will miss Ken, I only know him as Eddie Haskell and Eddie will live forever along with the re-runs of the show.
I kind of wish I had known the real Eddie Haskell, Ken Osmond.
Sunday, May 17, 2020
Starting around the middle of March, before mandatory stay at home advise, is it advise or mandatory? I mean if I visit a friend, will I be arrested? Sorry I digressed. Advise or mandatory, I have taken it serious and stayed at home since middle of March.
Hell; I’m old. I’m in that watch-your-step group. So in two months, except for a ½ mile walk getting the mail most every day, where I see maybe oh, NO ONE, I have left the house twice. Once I went shopping with Mrs. C, and once I went the liquor store and bought some wine. Mrs. C has left the house for maybe two or three more chores.
Two months of house arrest. Heck, I think people have spent less time for colluding with the Russians. No golf, no gym, no bowling, no trips to the store.
What have I been doing?
I have been watching TV, playing guitar, and exercising. Oh, and napping, and some quality time with Mrs. C. Mostly watching TV.
I can watch TV and practice the guitar. Have I improved, hell yes, I am now almost only awful. Plus I have callouses on my fingers that are thicker than an elephant’s skin, assuming elephants have thick skin… I think they do…anyway.
So the rest of the time I’m working out. Now I know why some people come out of prison all jacked. Hell there is nothing to do but push-ups, sit-ups, and reps on the Total Gym.
Along with working out, we no longer go out to dinner. We used to eat out three or more times a week, now we do one take out a week. Because I don’t want to have to shop, half my meals are protein drink powder concoctions. I’m down eleven pounds. In another month I will be at my 21 year old weight.
If this thing does go another month or more, I am going to come out of it like an angry off David Banner without the green skin and without being angry.
I wonder if all us old people are going through the same prison type boot camp.
If so, this summer, muggers who usually prey on seniors are going to have to stay away from hordes of old farts tearing up phone books and flipping truck tires.
“You talking to me?”
Saturday, May 16, 2020
The first and practically only time I ever heard of “Citizen’s Arrest” was from the old Andy Griffith show. I don’t remember the context, but I remember Gomer chasing after Barnie Fife for not stopping at a stop sign or something minor and yelling in that Gomer twang, “Citizens arrest, citizen’s arrest.”
It was very funny.
Nothing funny about citizens arrest when someone is killed.
Someone killed because maybe he was involved in a crime, maybe I think he looked like maybe someone. Maybe someone was killed from a citizen's arrest because he didn’t look like someone that typically might live in the neighborhood.
Citizen's arrest in this day of cell phones and cameras everywhere, should not exist.
OK, maybe if someone is holding you up, and he drops his gun and you are able to kick his ass, you could hold him until the police arrive as a “citizen’s arrest.”
Maybe if someone yelled “stop thief” and you saw another person running from a little old lady while he was carrying a pocketbook, maybe you could stick out a foot, trip him and hold him for the police.
Otherwise, citizen’s arrest is stupid.
Driving around a park with a shotgun and a pistol, chasing after someone you think might be a thief, is not a citizen’s arrest, that is vigilante bull shit.
I’ve seen the video, maybe there is more to the story, but I have seen the video. I know the difference from someone running away from a crime, and a jogger.
This person killed during a citizen's arrest was a jogger. Trotting down the middle of a park road and not racing full speed through the bushes and trees on either side of the road is a jogger, not a thief.
Can you resist a “Citizen's Arrest?”
Not only can you, but you probably should.
Two nasty looking dudes in a truck, one with a shotgun the other a pistol tell you to stop while you are jogging. Running away or fighting back is not resisting citizen's arrest, it is fighting for your life.
I don’t always trust the police. If someone flashes a badge at you while driving down the road, are you being arrested by the police, or carjacked by an ass-hat with a fake plastic badge?
Citizen's arrest is bull shit. If someone is killed during a citizen's arrest, that is citizen’s murder.
OK, I don’t know all the facts or details of this case, but it sure does not look good. I’m sure these yahoos will now get a fair trial.
A fair trial is not something someone killed during a citizen’s arrest ever gets.
Thursday, May 14, 2020
This is a bit long for a blog. It is my favorite story from “Maybe It’s Just Me!” I last posted it in 2012. With no baseball season yet, this is my contribution. Warning, this story is about 5 times longer than my usual post.
It is not just about sports, but mostly about young boys; so ladies, if you don’t like sports but you have or have had young sons, you may still enjoy this story from my little read first book.
THE GREAT GEORGE GARBAGEBOATWALK
Yankee #14 Bill "Moose" Skowron
The game of baseball takes on many shapes to kids with little space and lots of imagination. In the streets it becomes stickball and punchball. When the streets are too crowded, stepball prevails. In the backyards of suburbia, in the late fifties when the Yankees were kings, the ultimate form was wiffleball.
The Wiffleball is a small hollow plastic sphere with holes strategically positioned so that the slightest change in grip will produce a variety of in-shoots, out-shoots, risers and drops. The weight of the ball precludes the possibility of a broken window, and when struck with a bat it can be driven such a limited distance that the smallest yard can become Yankee Stadium.
A popular game for many in our neighborhood, my brother Chris, four years my senior and I developed wiffleball into an art form. The rules were designed so that one person could form a team. We had three bases; first, third, and home. Second base was discarded as our yard was not wide enough to form a normal diamond. A fielded grounder thrown within three feet of a base and ahead of the runner was a putout. We allowed two outs to an at-bat. Any ball which did not at least reach the pitcher’s mound was foul. There were no walks, no called strikes, (you were expected to swing at anything close) and three strikes you’re out. There were never any arguments; tie goes to the runner and the rest of the rules were clear.
There was no left field in our Stadium, only left center. A right-handed pull-hitter was in danger of reaching the yard of the dreaded Mrs. Rosenthal. This became an automatic out due to the danger of Mrs. Rosenthal leaping out of nowhere to abscond with any ball which might land in her precious yard. Because of this almost all batters were left handed, regardless of our own right-hand preference.
A ball hit over the hedge in center and into the Tully’s yard was a homerun. A pop fly lofted over the telephone wire in short right field, our own pennant porch, was also a homer.
If a ball landed and stayed on the roof of our house along the right field foul line it was an automatic out and the batter had to shinny up the drainpipe to retrieve the treasured 19 cents of plastic gold.
Our bat was a forerunner of modern equipment. We used a section of an aluminum shaft from an old spear gun. It was the first aluminum bat.
The actual game as my brother and I played it was of secondary importance. My brother was older and more skilled than I, and it was a foregone conclusion that he would score the most runs. The real game was in creating the illusion of a big league contest. Each team required its own special line-up.
Unlike other kids who assumed the personalities and line-ups of their favorite major league team, we had to invent our own players because we were both die-hard Yankee fans and each refused to compete against his heroes. Inventing and developing players became one of the chief skills of “The Game.”
We developed and acted out the persona of each “member” of our teams. Yankee P.A. man, Bob Sheppard, announced lineups, pinch hitters and pitching changes. Mel Allen called the play-by-play. Great fielding plays received a “how about that” and all homeruns were greeted with the obligatory “going, going, gone” that was Mel’s trademark. We had bean ball wars, players were thrown out of the game for arguing, and all players were described as “one of the nicest fellahs off the field that you’d ever want to meet.”
Each player on our squads had a particular skill and a unique personality. Any variance from these traits was strictly forbidden (an unspoken rule). The player’s skill and personality was dictated by his name; much like professional wrestling at this time, Killer Kowalski, Haystacks Calhoun, Gorgeous George….
For years the stars of Chris’ team were Little Louie, a quick shortstop and clever punch-hitter, and Big Mike, a slow but powerful slugger. Louie was allowed to run fast to first base but had no power as he always choked halfway up the bat. Big Mike was a tremendous power-hitter but was so slow afoot he was a sure out on any grounder. Chris cleverly managed to sneak his favorite Yankee pitcher on the mound, Whitey Ford, by introducing a crafty right-hander by the name of Blacky Buick.
Other members of my brother’s unbeaten team were Cyclone Sam, a speedster, Killer Klu, a slugger who rolled up his sleeves and assumed the stance of Ted Kluszewski, and Happy Harry, a utility fielder and team flake.
For the most part my club concentrated on speed. The outfielders were Hurricane Hank, Rapid Rupert, and Cheetah Chaz. Chokeup Charlie played shortstop, Lumbering Luke was my power-hitter, and catcher Stu Pid was my resident flake. To combat Blacky Buick I developed Flower Weekly, another crafty right-hander who threw a knuckler suspiciously like Yankee star Bud Daley.
Every game new players were invented and brought up from the minors to meet specific situations. If they played well they stuck. If they struck out it was back to triple A. I tried numerous players and constantly juggled my lineup, but never could I beat the great Chris All-stars.
Most games did go down to the last inning, a result of Chris’ manipulation to prevent “laughers” which made “The Game” dull. Manipulation of the game was of prime importance. The object was to give a glimmer of hope that my troops could possibly win, and at the same time force the All-stars to demonstrate their great skills in the clutch.
If Chris was in the middle of a big inning, he would kill the rally by sending up Killer Klu who generally struck out due to his tendency to take prodigious swings with his eyes shut. On the mound Blacky would help me back in a game by throwing his famed “elbow pitch” change-up. The elbow pitch was a weird lob which I was able to consistently hit, provided I could keep from breaking up laughing at the outrageous delivery with which it was thrown. If the game was still not close enough, Happy Harry would resort to his flaky fielding to tighten up the score. Harry would try to catch flies behind his back, in his pocket, or on a rebound off his head.
Once I was back in the game, the All-stars would finish it with a dramatic pinch hit homerun or by the superior pitching of the master, Blacky Buick.
The results were always the same. Mel Allen would announce a typical exciting finish.
“Bottom of the ninth, 6-4 Chris ahead, one out and the bases are jammed. Gripping the old aluminum comes Lumbering Luke to the plate. Luke is a real slugger who could ice this game up with one swing. Blacky goes into his windup, delivers the pitch…swing and a miss on a wicked in-shoot! Blacky remembers the third inning when Luke pounded an elbow pitch over the hedge in center and you can bet the chairman of the board won’t make that mistake again. Here comes the pitch….swing and a pop-up to short. Little Louie is under it, he pounds his palm, and the ballgame is over.”
Although I never beat the All-stars, I did achieve the next best thing in the summer of 1959. I invented a ballplayer that Chris fell in love with and had to have on his own team.
One of Chris’ favorite players was Yankee great, Moose Skowron. The “Moose”, Big Bill, Chris loved him, but as with most of his heroes he could not find a way to slip him into his lineup.
One warm July afternoon, Mel Allen announced a pinch hitter for the Joes.
“Now batting, up from Columbus, is the latest sensation, first baseman, number 14, Big George Garbageboatwalk.”
“Time out”, Chris protested, “what the Hell kind of name is Garbageboatwalk?”
“What is a scow”, I responded and without waiting for an answer, “it’s a garbage boat, “and” I hastened to elaborate, “The opposite of run is walk. Scow-run, Garbageboatwalk, it fits.”
I loved it and though he said nothing, I knew Chris loved it also.
So determined was I that Garbageboatwalk be a success, I disdained the left-handed stance we normally assumed to avoid the crazy lady in leftfield, and made and made “Big George” a right-hander, my natural stance. As much as I wanted George to be a star, my brother wanted him on his team. Unbeknownst to me he plotted a course of action which would set up the first trade and biggest steal in wiffleball history.
From the outset Chris mocked the name and refused to acknowledge my ingenuity. For weeks, every time Garbageboatwalk stepped up to the plate he saw only the best in-shoots and drops which Blacky could muster. The great Buick threw no elbow pitches and his risers had a little something extra on them.
George was an immediate flop. Mel began to refer to him as “the biggest disappointment in wiffleball history.” Hitless in ten games and with eighteen strikeouts, I was ready to give up on “Big George”. It was then that Chris struck.
“Tell you what”, he offered casually, “I’ll trade you even up, Little Louie for Garbageboatwalk.”
The deal was made. I had to do it. An established star for the “biggest disappointment in wiffleball history” could not be passed up. The first trade in wiffleball history was sealed, and like the Yankee purchase of Babe Ruth it forever changed the face of “The Game”.
Little Louie was damaged goods. The veteran had lost a step, his hands were not as sure, and his bat was not as quick as it was in his All-star days. Meanwhile, George Garbageboatwalk became the greatest hitter in all of wiffleball! His first five times up as an All-star he pounded out tremendous homeruns. George batted over .700 for the rest of the year, and he averaged one round-tripper for every three times at bat.
The ultimate manipulation became a Garbageboatwalk blast in the ninth. It was the cruelest humiliation over which I had no control. Flower invented new pitches, threw bean balls, and refused to throw the ball over the plate. It did not matter; George was just too great. He was far better than my old nemesis, Big Mike who Flower could occasionally get out.
I dreaded Garbageboatwalk’s every at bat. The joy of the game was over for me. It was devastating to face the “greatest hitter in wiffleball history” and know he was once my property. Every time up the introduction was the same. In the best imitation of Yankee PA Bob Sheppard, Chris would drone,
“Now batting ing ing number fourteen een een the first baseman and onetime property of the Joes, the Great George Garbageboatwalk alk alk!”
1959 was the last season of Wiffleball for my brother and me. Chris got his driver’s license and became too grown up for his kid brother and a silly game. “The Game” and the “Great One” were soon forgotten. Chris went to college, and then to law school. Our folks moved from Long Island to New Jersey, and later retired to the Eastern Shore of Maryland. Chris married, took up law practice in Atlanta, and became father to two sons. I graduated from college, married, and became a Jersey-to-NYC commuter. My wife and I had three children, a girl and two boys.
Years later, during a summer reunion at our parent’s new home, we stumbled upon the old aluminum bat. We began to reminisce on the way we used to play “The Game”.
“They just don’t make players like Blacky Buick or Cheetah Chaz today” Chris asserted.
He did not mention George, “Guilt”, I thought to myself, “he knows he stole him. Now it’s like it never happened.”
I wanted to say something about Garbageboatwalk as some wounds never heal. I decided to let it slide, let bygones be bygones. Instead I followed up on his thought.
“Probably have a relief pitcher today named Cocaine Carl,” I joked.
“Yeah” Chris followed, “with a peculiar habit of first going to the rosin bag and then to his nose in tough situations.”
“Or Millionaire Mike”, I continued, “a DH with special designer shoes and Gucci batting gloves who spends most his time on the dugout phone talking to his stock broker.”
We continued on this vein for some time when Chris issued a challenge. It would be he and his two boys versus me and mine. I accepted but suggested we play the game straight so as not to ruin our image with the boys.
“Yeah”, Chris agreed, “God forbid they find out we used to be kids too.”
And so we purchased a new, now 69 cent wiffleball, established ground rules, explained the game to the boys, and play began.
Three against three, Chris and I both full grown; he no longer had the obvious advantage of strength and coordination. In fact age was now to my advantage and I had my first real chance to actually defeat the All-stars. As agreed upon we did not play with the old childish flair. There was no play-by-play announcing, and we assumed no alter egos at bat. On the mound, though unnamed, the pitchers’ deliveries were unmistakably those of Blacky Buick and Flower Weekly.
It was a low scoring, uneventful game as the boys were usually easy outs. Going into the bottom of the ninth my team held a 3-2 lead over the All-stars. Little Chris, my brother’s oldest, popped out and with Grant, his youngest, at bat I felt my first victory was at hand. Grant managed a bloop single, but I still felt in control when my greatest fear was realized.
As Chris strode to the plate, I recognized a familiar grin on his face. He underwent a strange transformation. His 5’9” slightly paunchy frame seemed to grow to 6’2” 210 pounds of steel. Muscles bulged and a vein in his now 17” neck started pulsating. Aluminum was flaking off the bat under his now powerful grip. Nothing was said, but in my head I heard the familiar echo of Bob Sheppard’s voice,
“Now batting ing ing, number fourteen een een, first baseman and one time property of the opposition on on…..”
A lump formed in the pit of my stomach. If guilt had caused Chris to forget, competition and the threat of his first loss had revived his memory. The outcome of “The Game” was once again a foregone conclusion.
The Great George Garbageboatwalk was coming to bat!