Aloha! And, Swing Hard In Case You Hit It

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August 27th, 2021

First things first. Aloha from Kauai. Kapaa town, to be precise, on the east side of the island.

It’s Friday, I know, but there were a few contributing factors to my one-day delay with this blog. The most pressing were the the many details surrounding “just being here” and enjoying the R&R and the place itself. You have to stop and smell the sea breeze. It’s a very special place, but only if you treat it as such and embrace the island.

It’s also August 27th, and that’s a significant date in Wilber family history. More on that later. This particular piece of history has lasted for 70 years now. It can wait a few more paragraphs.

Today is my fourth day on the island, although it doesn’t seem like that. I flew all day on Tuesday and only the good graces of multiple time zones allowed me to have some time to see my sister Mary and her hubby Lonnie for a bit after they picked me up at the airport. I spent that night in a beautiful room at the Sheraton, basically across the street from the condo, overlooking the ocean and the pool. Ahhh… I could feel the relaxation easing its way into my psyche and my body. And I got that wonderful room thanks to my incredible wife, who has accumulated stacks of loyalty points with various hotel brands, thanks to her busy pre-Covid travel schedule. Back in “those days” she was a true road warrior, racking up hotel perks by the bushel. One of those perks got me that beautiful room, which came complete with the sound of the Pacific crashing ashore below my balcony. There’s nothing quite like the sound of waves breaking on the beach.

Mary and Lonnie were flying out on Wednesday, heading to St. Louis to see daughter Kimberly and her husband Chris, before they will then head down to Florida to see more kids and grandkids, but their flight didn’t leave until late Wednesday night, so we had a full day together.

One of the many benefits of being Mary Smith’s little brother (and Lonnie’s brother-in-law) is having a pair of tour guides who seem to know everyone while they also have personal experience regarding just about any place you might stop.

All in all, not a terrible place to enjoy the company of family

Kapaa has changed a little since the onset of Covid. Some restaurants and bars didn’t make it, but others have sprung up to fill much of the void. It’s just a little different, that’s all. But it’s still amazing, and the subtle shift has given Mary and Lonnie the chance to find new places to rave about. Jimmy’s Grill is one of those places.

It’s the last business in town as you head north toward Princeville or Hanalei. It’s unassuming and comfortable, terms that pretty much describe most establishments on Kauai, and it’s right next to the beach. Yes, roosters and chickens will walk by at any time to check out what you’re doing. It was a great place to stop for a libation and conversation. Mary and I can tell some stories, trust me.

We cruised around, relaxed some more at the condo, and eventually they finished packing for their long trip. Then it was time to head over to The Oasis to see Aldrine Guerrero create magic with his ukulele. He usually plays on Wednesday nights at 5:00, and you had better be there by 4:00 if you want to actually see him. We got there at 4:00. Except Aldrine had to cancel the show at the last minute. Despite being out in the middle of the ocean, Covid is very much a thing in Hawaii just as it is on the mainland, and everyone plays it cautiously when even a sniffle or a cough comes calling. Fortunately, everyone on Kauai is masked up indoors, so there’s that, but Aldrine didn’t want to risk it.

When we left The Oasis, Mary and Lonnie hatched a plan to get the car loaded and then take dinner to their friend Bob, who is more typically called Dr. Bob because he is indeed a doctor. He’s also a wonderful guy. After much discussion, it was decided we’d stop by another new food source in Kapaa, to pick up some Thai food and take that to Bob’s amazing house “up the hill” and basically in the jungle.

When we got there, Dr. Bob had the table set. We opened the to-go boxes and each grabbed a plate, instantly forming an impromptu buffet line of delicious Thai magic. I’m not a Thai aficionado, and have rarely ever gone down that culinary road, but I’m a fan now! My gosh, it was great and I got to bring home the leftovers. Lunch yesterday was equally spectacular.

After much fun and multiple plates full of Thai goodness, we bid Dr. Bob adieu and I took Mary and Lonnie to the airport. They had a long night and morning ahead of them. Lihue to Phoenix, then Phoenix to St. Louis. All told, with the layover built in, it was about the same duration as my trip west. Darn close to 12 hours.

So, yesterday was my first real day here, with no plans and no requirements. Just island time.

I mean, if you’re going on a walk, this is a pretty good way to do it.

I took a nice long walk along the shore (Kauai is great for amateur walkers who like the beach and the ocean but prefer paved trails) and racked up a couple of miles. I’ll build it up from that. Frankly, I still haven’t bounced all the way back from my hospital/illness adventure and one of the ways that’s evident is in my lack of energy. I need the walks! By the time I leave here, I’ll be cranking out the miles.

Once I got back, it was time to do something I have never before done in all my trips over here to cat-sit and condo-sit for Mary and Lonnie. I went to the pool.

I know that sounds absurd, and I can’t quite explain it, but despite the fact the condo is literally just steps from a sparkling swimming pool, I just never did that. Often it was simply a matter of the place being too crowded, but that’s probably a weak excuse. I don’t know. Maybe I was just being antisocial. Yesterday, I broke that long streak. And you know what? I grabbed some free Vitamin D from the sun, and every time I got a little warmish I’d take a brief dip in the cool water. Maybe it helped that I was the only one there. I’ll be out there again today, and much like the walking theory I’ll build myself up to lengthier stays poolside. No sunburn from overdoing it for me, but it will be nice to get a little color and feel the poolside vibe.

This would be the average distance away from me that Maxie will ever be. “And where are those rubs you promised?”

Here at the condo, my roomies Maxie and Biscuit are great. Maxie is a VERY outgoing cat. He’s never far away and always interested in having is head and ears rubbed. Biscuit is more reserved, and it takes him a while to warm up to strangers. Even me. I mean, I was here just a couple of years ago, right? You’d think he would remember me. But, it’s all good. They’re great kitties and fun to be around.

My sleep patterns are evening out, and that’s a good thing. I’m already going to bed at a somewhat normal time, and waking up at 6:00 isn’t an altogether awful problem. More time for walks, dips in the pool, and good meals. I walked up to Lava Lava Beach Club last night, and had their burger for dinner. It was great, and the red onion set it off in a very stout way. Let’s just say it’s a good thing everyone on Kauai is masked up. Those masks served a dual purpose for me last night. Health and politeness. I’m sure my onion breath was pretty killer.

So, what about August 27th? What’s with that? If you follow me on Facebook and have been there today, you probably know the answer.

On this date, 70 long years ago, Del Wilber stepped to the plate for the Philadelphia Phillies as they played the Cincinnati Reds. He hit a home run on the first swing he took. 1-0 Phillies. A few innings later, he came up again to face the same pitcher, Ken Raffensberger. He again took one swing. He again hit a solo home run. 2-0 Phillies on the two swings the back-up catcher had taken to that point.

Two innings later, Big Del strode to the plate again and dug in. Would Raffensberger throw him another strike or would he pitch around him to keep the score 2-0? He threw Dad another strike. The big guy took his third swing of the day. He hit his third home run.

Three at-bats. Three swings. Three solo home runs. Three runs batted in and three runs scored. Final score, Del Wilber 3 and the Reds zero.

Yes, I have the bat. It hangs in my office. He decorated it after the game with the line-score, and his stats.

Why did Raffensberger throw him another strike after he’d already clubbed two homers off him?

“He didn’t think I could do it again,” Dad would always say when asked about it. “Nobody did.”

No one had done that before him. No one has done it since. Three at-bats, three swings, three solo home runs to account for all the scoring in the game. It was perfect.

It was a Perfect Game for the baseball lifer. No one else has ever done it that perfectly.

Baseball did a lot for my dad. The game kept him employed from the end of World War II until he retired in his 70s. He played, coached, managed, and scouted. He played parts of nine years in the big leagues. He was mostly a back-up catcher, but back then there were only eight teams in each league, so maybe 32 or 33 catchers in all of the big leagues. Think of that today. There are probably around 70 catchers on active Major League rosters on any given day. Even the back-up guys make good money.

The most my dad ever made was around $9,600 a year. He made much less as a coach or scout. He loved the game and all of the other man who were there with him. Teammates named Ted and Stan and men on the other teams named Jackie, Yogi, and Joltin’ Joe. That’s why he played. He poured his life into the game.

He played in 299 Major League games. His career batting average was .242, and he drove in 115 runs. Pretty damn good.

Throughout his time, hit 19 home runs in the bigs. Three of them came on one day. This day. 70 years ago.

The five biggest and most important “home runs” he ever hit, however, were named Del Jr., Rick, Cindy, Mary, and Bob. It was a true gift for all of us to have him as our father.

And those three home runs. Can’t forget about them. 70 years ago today.

As for today’s headline, that was another favorite line my dad wold impart to me as so-called baseball advice. “Hey, swing hard in case you actually hit it.” Thanks Skip. I tried.

Time for a walk. Gosh, where should I go today? It doesn’t matter. The ocean will be there, and the breeze will be delicious. Life on Kauai is good. All good.

As always, if you checked this day-late installment out and kinda sorta maybe liked it, this guy out in the middle of the Pacific would be thrilled if you clicked on the “LIKE” button at the bottom.

See you next week. Aloha!