Bob Wilber grew up aspiring to follow in his father’s baseball footsteps, and while he was able to secure a full college scholarship and later spend parts of six years in professional ball, as a player, coach, and scout, his mother’s writing, communications, and public relations skills were what eventually defined his career. After a successful and adventurous sports-marketing trek through the sports-apparel business, agency work, and professional indoor soccer, he saw his first drag race as he closed in on his 40th birthday. Little did he know that he’d go on to spend 20 consecutive years as a team manager and PR representative for Del Worsham and then Tim Wilkerson, two of the most popular Funny Car drivers on the NHRA tour. At the conclusion of the 2015 season, Bob ended his drag racing run in order to take on a longtime assignment. He is currently writing his autobiography, entitled “Bats, Balls, and Burnouts” which is due for publication late in 2016.
Even after I recently realized how close I was to finishing the principal writing of “Bats, Balls, & Burnouts” it still took me a long time do it, at least in my mind. When I got within a couple of chapters it was like, “I’m right there. I can finish tomorrow.” But, the finish line was like a mirage on the horizon. When I thought I was getting closer, it just moved away.
The NHRA Mello Yello tour is in Dallas this weekend, which means there are only three races left in the Countdown and in the season. I’m not in Dallas this weekend, but I am also nearing the finish line with “Bats, Balls, & Burnouts” and the coincidence startled me this morning. When I sat down at my desk in early January this year, I began to write a book. I really had no idea how to do that, nor did I have a clue how long it would take. And here we are, in mid-October. The NHRA season and my book are on the same pace.
I bet the vast majority of the people reading this blog have absolutely no idea what they were doing on this date, October 6, in 2009. I will never forget, and it’s a very good thing. Barbara Doyle and I felt fortunate to secure lower level seats out in centerfield at the Metrodome in Minneapolis. 55,086 other folks were there in the stands with us.
Being in St. Louis is the most wonderful kind of nostalgic experience. The city grows, alters, changes, and adapts but so much of it stays exactly the same it feels like I lived there yesterday. Growing up in a sports family, it’s a bit jarring that old Busch Stadium is gone, as is Busch II, and now we have Busch III, which looks like it’s belonged right where it is my whole life. The old St. Louis Arena is also long gone, where I saw concerts and attended hockey, indoor soccer, and basketball games as a fan. But across the highway is Forest Park, home of the 1904 World’s Fair, and just down Oakland Avenue is my high school, St. Louis U. High, where the main classroom building looks much like it did when it opened in 1924. Throughout all the change, the place stays very much the same.
In the interest of fair reporting, and honesty, I’ll admit that this particular blog installment has a chance to be a bit of a rambling runaway train. Why? Because I have a lot of little things to write about, but not one big subject. That’s the way blogging works, though, and I’m quite accustomed to sitting down at my desk without a real plan. Sometimes, the plan becomes clear once the words are on the page.