Firsts and Favorites

May 9, 2019   //   by bwilber   //   Bob's Blog  //  Add a Comment

So, just a week after I so proudly wrote about how many fun things Barbara Doyle and I had been doing, including restaurants, concerts, weddings, and the like, we’ve basically done nothing very fun for the last week. Part of that had to do with Barbara needing to go on a business trip to New York and Boston, and the rest mostly had to do with some home projects and the weather.

For instance, the front porch and the screened porch (in back) both needed a good “spring cleaning” after the long snowy winter. There’s also been some painting to do in a guest bedroom, new framed photos to be hung, and other such mundane activities like putting air in the bicycle tires. I mean, we’ve been BUSY! After Barb did most of the wet work cleaning off the front porch, we discovered that we’d had the two chairs and a small table on the wrong side of it, all along. The front door is not centered on the porch. It’s off to the right a little, and we’d been jamming that porch furniture onto that side. It looks much better now that it’s reversed (the furniture, not the door.)

For the screened porch, I got after that on Tuesday because I’d seen the weather forecast. After a string of brilliant days, more rain and cold was due back by Wednesday (as in yesterday) and it’s still here. You really need warm temps and sunshine to quickly clean that porch, so Tuesday was it.

We have real furniture out there. Big heavy stuff. So, the way to clean it is to move everything over to the left side, stacking up tables and chairs to get them out of the way, and that allows you to mop and clean the right side. Then you wait for that to dry. Rinse and repeat. I had a warm sunny day to work with, and there was a breeze, so the whole process of cleaning one side, then the other, and then setting all the furniture back in place only took about three hours. Yay for me.

But that left me with today. It’s Blog Day. What do I write about? I had no clue for most of this morning. I don’t really have enough “reader questions” stored up right now to do a Q&A thing, which is my standard cheater way to create a blog out of thin air. Somehow, this thought popped into my head: “Hey self, write about a string of first things you did in your life. And some favorite things, too. People will like that. It will make them look back and compile their own lists.”

I guess we’ll see if that’s true. Hopefully, this will trigger some fun thoughts in your collective heads. Feel free to send me a note or comment at the bottom of this blog if that’s the case. Here we go…

First Baseball Game

That would be impossible for me to know. Like most kids born to racers, the first race they attend is typically in the womb. Post-womb, I don’t have any recollection of the absolute first game I attended as a kid. But I can figure a lot of it out. I was born during the summer of 1956. My dad was the bullpen coach for the Chicago White Sox. I don’t know if my mom went back to Chicago after I was born, but I’d assume that was unlikely. So it wasn’t then.

In 1957, Dad was a scout for the Baltimore Orioles, and I was just one year old, so it probably wasn’t then. In 1958 he was the manager of the Louisville Colonels, the Triple-A minor league club for the Orioles. I don’t remember that summer, but I know we went to Louisville. So there you have it. I have no memory of it, but my first game had to have been that summer. The first games I really remember are from 1960, the summer I turned four. That would be when Big Del managed the Charleston Senators, the Triple-A club for the Washington Senators, who would move to Minnesota the next winter. I remember being there. Wrote about it in “Bats, Balls, & Burnouts” too.

The man gave me his glove, for cryin’ out loud! Gotta be my first fave. (Click on any image to enlarge)

First Favorite Player

I was going to say Harmon Killebrew, because from 1961 until the end of that decade, my dad worked for the Twins as a scout and manager and I idolized “Killer.” But I realized I had a favorite player before then. When we were in Charleston, the great Zoilo Versalles really looked after me, and he befriended me in a wonderful way. He was a class act, and a great player. Before we left to go home at the end of the summer, he gave me his glove. That’s got to make him my first favorite player.

First World Series Game

Game 6 of the 1964 World Series. Cardinals vs. Yankees at the original Busch Stadium, previously known as Sportsman’s Park. It was me and my mom. I was pretty amped up as an eight-year-old. I didn’t remember the fact the Yankees won that game, but I clearly remember that the Cardinals won the Series. And seeing Mickey Mantle and Roger Maris was a big deal.

First Organized Baseball Activity

I wrote about this in the book too, and referred back to it a number of times. It was the spring of 1962 and I was in first grade at Mary Queen of Peace. There was no first-grade team, so they put me on the second-grade team. At our first practice, at Schall School in Rock Hill, Mo., a coach hit a fly ball into the outfield so we could chase it, but it came right to me. I just reached up and caught it, despite the fact my mother was yelling “MOVE! Get out of the way!!!”

First Pet

Our dog, Zorro. Named after the guy who gave me his glove.

My Perry Como sweater. Slick style for a four-year-old

First Favorite Sweater

Who the heck remembers their first favorite sweater? I do, of course. I’ve posted this photo a number of times. It’s from that magical summer in Charleston, and I’m wearing my first favorite sweater. We called it my “Perry Como sweater” because the singer by that name wore stuff like it. I loved it. Also love the shirt my dad is wearing in this photo.

First Bike

I have no idea, actually. I remember it had training wheels, and I could ride it around our cul-de-sac with those on it. Then, one day, they came loose and fell off. I didn’t know it until I got back to our driveway. Ta Daaa!

First Artistic Accomplishment

I have never had one of these in my entire life. OK, cutting myself a little slack, there was that video audition tape Buck Hujabre did when they were staying at our house during the “Jersey Boys” tour. I was the second character, off-screen. Nailed it.

First Records

As written about very recently, my first 45 was “PT 109” by Jimmy Dean and my first album was “Meet The Beatles.”

First concert

The incredible Mississippi River Festival, on the campus of SIUE

Well, I went big for this one. It was The Who at the Mississippi River Festival. 35,000 fans in a wonderful natural amphitheater on the campus of what would be my college in a few years. It was August 16, 1971. I was 15, and I went with a girl I barely knew and two other 16-year-olds I didn’t know at all. Somehow my mom thought this was as fine idea. It was like Woodstock. Amazing. And the MRF was amazing, too. There was a huge circus tent over the stage, with about 1,900 folding chairs under there, and then the lawn held about another 25,000 on blankets. For The Who, the crowd spilled over the tops of all the hills and all the way back to the entrance gate. We were lucky to be about halfway down on the left side. The MRF was still going when I was in college at SIUE. I saw The Eagles there about 255 times. Actually, three times. I think. The MRF is now long gone.

First Hockey Game

Couldn’t tell you any specifics, but before the St. Louis Blues came into existence we used to go down to the St. Louis Arena to watch the St. Louis Braves, a minor league team for the Chicago Blackhawks. There was no glass, just chicken wire in its place. And wooden seats. And terrible lights. And they let people smoke. And The Arena was mostly made of wood.

First Pro Basketball Game

Again, no clue exactly when it was but my dad liked to go see the St. Louis Hawks, at the old Kiel Auditorium in downtown. Bob Pettit, Zelmo Beaty, and Lenny Wilkens were stars. And then, in 1968 the team moved to Atlanta.

First Pro Football Game

Again, couldn’t tell you the year, but I know for sure it was the St. Louis Football Cardinals at old Busch Stadium (Sportsman’s Park). The quarterback was no doubt Charley Johnson.

First Radio

The Grain Belt version of the Hamm’s Beer radio my dad gave me.

And I mean a radio that was all mine. When I was around seven or eight, I’m guessing, my dad came home from some function with the Twins up in the Twin Cities, and he brought home the coolest AM radio ever. It was all mine. It was a Hamm’s Beer/Minnesota Twins/WCCO radio, with a glass panel across the top. You could, theoretically, keep score with a wax pencil while you listened to the game on WCCO. The manufacturer must not have made many, because I’ve never so much as seen a photo of one online. Today, I was thrilled to at least track down this photo of the exact same radio, except it’s a Grain Belt Beer version and the Twins and WCCO aren’t involved. I played my Twins version every night before going to sleep, listening to KXOK in St. Louis. A prized possession, long since gone.

First Sip of Beer

Hahaha…  Gotta be a Falstaff or a Busch, from a can, opened with a “church key” opener, in the backyard on a summer day when I was 10 or so. Dad started me young. I thought it tasted horrible.

First Real Girlfriend

By “real” I mean a girl I went on actual dates with. Linda Young who went to Nerinx Hall, an all-girls catholic school. Sophomore year in high school. She ended up marrying one of my St. Louis U. High classmates, Don Mueller. There is no doubt she got the better end of that transaction. Kind of like the trade the Cardinals made when they sent washed-up reliever Ernie Broglio to the Cubs for a young outfielder named Lou Brock.

First Car

A 1972 VW Beetle. Powder blue. Purchased as a new car for about $2,200, and my folks actually traded in my sister Mary’s Austin Healey Sprite to bring the price down. Mary was away at college in England, at the time. Somehow, and I don’t know how, she never held the whole “let’s trade in Mary’s car while she’s away” thing against me. Thanks Mares!

First Cassette Tape

My first tape deck was installed in that VW. The first tape I bought was “Aladdin Sane” by David Bowie. Seriously.

First College Varsity Hit

A double into the left-center gap during the early part of my sophomore year, against Missouri Baptist College. Coach Roy Lee gave me the lineup card to commemorate it. I still have it. As a freshman, I played on the JV and got a whole bunch of hits, but I don’t remember the first one.

First Professional Hit

Yes, our logo included a ballplayer wearing a kilt

I hit a grand slam in an intrasquad game in Bristol, before the Appalachian League season started, but that didn’t count. I’m talking about real base hit in a real game, forever etched in the stats. I didn’t remember the exact date, but I still have this Paintsville Hilanders pocket schedule so now I know it was June 24, 1978 in Paintsville, against the Bluefield Orioles (and their clumsy shortstop named Ripken). We had opened the season in Bluefield the night before but I didn’t play. Then we drove the bus overnight to get back home and play the same Orioles the next day. Nice scheduling! I hit a line-drive into left field. I’m sure I mashed it.

First Real Job

I’m not talking about working for a week helping out at my mom’s office. My first real job was as an usher for the St. Louis Usher Service. I worked Cardinals games at Busch Stadium, and Blues, Billikens, and Spirits of St. Louis games at The Arena. Man do I wish I still had that fluorescent blue jacket and the navy blue slacks with the red stripe down the side. How does stuff like that just disappear over the years?

First Book Read

Go Shorty Go” a kid’s novel about a small high school kid who makes the varsity football team as a kicker, after he overcomes a lot of bullying. I read it about a dozen times.

First Book Written

Well, that would be “Bats, Balls, & Burnouts” published on May 20, 2017.

Second Book Written

And that would be “How Far?” which is still a work in progress. I finished Chapter 15 this morning.

 

And now, a quick list of favorites….

Favorite Pizza

St. Louis style in general, but Farotto’s in particular

Favorite Concert

See The Who, above. It’s easy to remember when the first concert you see sticks with you as the one that can’t be beat.

Favorite TV Show Ever

Gotta be “Seinfeld”

Favorite Album Ever

Don’t really have one but “Abbey Road” and “2112” are on the short list.

Favorite Movie

I used to say “Buckaroo Banzai – Across the Eighth Dimension” but as the years go by it has to be “Miracle”

Favorite Steak Restaurant

It’s either Manny’s in Minneapolis or Churchill’s in Spokane. It’s a tie.

Favorite Non-American City

So far, I’d say Amsterdam

Favorite Current Ballpark

Target Field, with PNC Park in Pittsburgh a close second

Favorite Ballpark Ever

See above

Favorite Football Player Ever

Bobby Joe Conrad, wide receiver for the old St. Louis Football Cardinals. A great player, but more importantly we shared the Bobby Joe moniker

Favorite Baseball Player Ever

Bob Gibson

Favorite Vacation Spot

I’ll go with Lava Lava Beach Club on the Kona side of the Big Island of Hawaii, but that’s only because Kona Village was destroyed by a tsunami. It’s under reconstruction, so we’ll see…

A truly GREAT bunch of guys. And we were GOOD!

Favorite Baseball Team I Played On

The Sauget Wizards. And it’s not close.

Favorite National Park

Glacier National Park is unbelievable, but nothing compares to Yellowstone

Favorite Drag Racer

Too many to list and it wouldn’t be fair, but Del Worsham, Tim Wilkerson and good old Norm Wilding have to be name checked

Favorite Race Track

zMAX in Charlotte. It’s just too impressive not to hold the top spot, but I love Sonoma.

So there you have it. I hope some of these random odds and ends brought back some good memories. Feel free to leave a comment, or drop me a line, or message me on Facebook.

As always, if you did like this blog, please click on the “Like” button at the top. That would be my Favorite Thing Readers Can Do.

See you next week! Who knows what tales we’ll tell.

Bob Wilber, at your service and full of fun memories.

 

 

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