Of Views, Trenches, and QBs

Jul 18, 2019   //   by bwilber   //   Bob's Blog  //  Add a Comment

Greetings blog faithful, here on another Thursday Blog Day. This one just happens to fall on July 18, 2019. Summer took a long time to get here, in Minnesota (thanks to those April blizzards) but it’s not just here now, it’s going full blast. Not nearly as bad as in so many states south of us, but our humidity is rising, the temps are up around 90, and man we’ve had some rain. Tons of rain (although I don’t believe we typically measure rain by the ton.) It might be the wettest summer of all time here, and I think that’s the case for much of the country.

Still special. 14 guys who stunned a lot of people. (Click on any image to enlarge)

So, I’m pretty big into the social networking site LinkedIn.com and I use it a lot to promote various projects. I post updates on the new book, which continues to come along at a pace that ranges from a sprint to a snail’s best effort, and a couple of weeks ago I went ahead and posted a short story about the 30th anniversary of this particular bunch of bozos doing the nearly unthinkable, when the Sauget Wizards defeated the USA National Team 6-5 at their stadium near Memphis in June of 1989.

To be fair, we weren’t a bunch of random guys off the street. We’d all played a lot of baseball at very high levels. There are six ex-pros in this photo, and Neil Fiala played in the Big Leagues for the Reds and Cardinals. The rest were all solid former college players. We also had a couple of the guys on this team who were still in college (Jason Boehlow and Tim Black). We could play. Probably the most challenging part of our quest to beat the best amateur team in the country, full of the very best college players at the time, was our average age. Other than the two college guys, the rest of us were in our upper 20s, mid-30s, and even upper 30s. But we knew the game and we could play. Still, we probably had no business beating those guys.

I know I post this photo a lot, but it’s such a special group and we had a chemistry that was unlike any I’ve ever experienced at any other level. We did it for nothing more than the love of the game. We just loved the game so much we refused to quit, and as a group we were way greater than the sum of our parts.

Something else noteworthy about the photo is this: There were only 14 of us. That was it. No 10-man bullpen or third string catcher. Most of us could play multiple positions (I played all three outfield spots and at first base) and basically we all just wanted to play. We weren’t there to sit on the bench. Of this group, Jason Boehlow was the only guy to not play in the game versus Team USA. Not because he didn’t deserve to, but because of strategy. Jason was a big power hitter who played for St. Louis University, but he could also play just about anywhere and pitch if we needed him to. Coach Hughes decided it was too risky to just throw him in the game for an inning or two because we might need him in an emergency in the final innings.

Anyway, that post on LinkedIn was bizarre. Viral might be a better word. When you post something, you can click on a button to see how many members have viewed it, and then you can dig deeper to see some more analytics. I’m an analytics geek. I love seeing which viewers work for what companies, or what their professional titles are, or where they are located.

A chance to see who’s watching

Typically, 500 views is a lot for anything I post. Even at 500, you can drill down into the analytics and learn a lot about who you are reaching. Throughout the first year “Bats, Balls, & Burnouts” was on sale, I used LinkedIn a lot to promote it. Posts like that would make the sales needle move almost every time. This Sauget Wizards post didn’t just get 500 views. Or 1,000. Or even 2,000. It cleared 4,000 in less than a week. That’s FOUR THOUSAND VIEWS. I was stunned.

I’ve never seen anything like it, but the Wizards had that sort of impact on people. We did something we weren’t supposed to be able to do, and it wasn’t luck. We outplayed the USA team. We out-pitched them and we out-hit them. We earned every bit of that win, and big newspapers like the Memphis Commercial Appeal and the St. Louis Post-Dispatch took notice with large stories about us.

It’s crazy how many LinkedIn members stopped to read that short post and look at the photo of 14 dedicated ballplayers. I’m still scratching my head, but I’m thrilled by the continued response to what this group did 30 years ago.

Digging trenches, moving pavers, laying drains

Here at the house, we have yet another project going in the backyard, and it’s directly related to the patio project we did last year. The guys from Willow River Company take great pride in their work, and they stand by it. We thought (or at least hoped) that we’d solved a lot of ground water issues last year when we replaced the concrete patio with pavers and added some new drain tiles. The ground water issue is what causes the frost heave in the winter, and although it was better this year, it wasn’t totally solved. So they put us on the schedule and came back to try to improve what they’d done.

The first thing was to add a third east/west drain tile to pull water away from the house and from under the patio. That entailed taking up pavers, digging a trench, tying the new drain into the main line that runs down to a retention pond, and putting it all back together. While doing that, they took apart a section of the decorative curved block wall we have back there, and saw why it had heaved a bunch last winter. When they dug out the pillar near the house, ground water immediately began to appear at the bottom of it. So after this third drain is done, a fourth one will be added to collect and move water from under the wall. They’re great guys and such hard workers, but what I respect the most is how much they stand by their work. There was instant agreement from them that they’d be back to make it right. No matter how many times they have to come back.

On a totally different subject, I saw a post on Facebook the other day that asked the question “Who is your all-time favorite NFL quarterback? Not the one you think is the best, but the one you liked the most for any reason.”

That was easy. It’s this guy.

My all-time favorite

My oldest brother Del went to Purdue on a football scholarship and he pledged the Sigma Chi fraternity. His roommate there was Bob Griese, and Del was his backup QB. They became great friends, and are still close to this day. Del didn’t get to play too much football as a Boilermaker, because his roomie rarely missed a play, but he also played shortstop on the Purdue baseball team and during the first-ever Major League draft the Philadelphia Phillies took him in the 8th round. His roomie went on to play for the Dolphins. He was a terrific QB, and he ended up being enshrined in the Pro Football Hall of Fame. But none of that has to do with why he’s my favorite quarterback of all time.

Bob Griese was one of the nicest, most gracious, and wonderful men my brother Del and I have ever known. When they were roomies, I was seven or eight years old. I followed his career with the Dolphins as closely as I could in an era when one or two football games a week managed to show up on our TV.

This is the truth: When I was that young, and very much “Del’s little brother,” Bob Griese would sometimes call our house and ask if Bobby Joe was available. He’d just call to say hi and see how I was doing. I’m not kidding.

He also sent me a practice t-shirt from preseason camp. It was just a white t-shirt, with MIAMI DOLPHINS silk-screened on the front in that aqua blue color they used. It was huge on me, too. I wore that t-shirt for years. I was so proud of it. I literally wore it until the cotton disintegrated and it fell off of me.

When “Bats, Balls, & Burnouts” was about to be published, Bob read sections of it and was one of the first celebrity endorsers to send me a blurb for the back cover. And he signed this copy of his book “To Bob – (Del’s Little Brother.) Enjoy the memories! Bob Griese ┬áHOF 1990”

Bob Griese was my all-time favorite quarterback. And it’s not even close.

So that’s about it for today. Barbara and I are busily making some travel plans for the coming weeks. A couple of quick weekend getaways and another much longer trip to a far off island. More about that next week. Still formulating those plans. Aloha! (That’s what we call a hint).

As always, if this blog brought even the slightest smile to your face, clicking on the “Like” button at the top would bring one to mine. Almost like 4,000 views on LinkedIn.

Bob Wilber, at your service and wishing I still had that Dolphins t-shirt.

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