Take Me Out to the Ballgame

[Self-portrait, in my Army barracks room with my Honeywell Pentax SLR camera with multiple lenses, Ft. Buckner, USASTRATCOM (a/k/a Communications), Okinawa, 1971 (Oy, my Minnesota ‘rithmetic tells me that was 41 years ago?)]

In the summer of 1969, I received a very special invitation from Mr. Percy Unumb.  Mr. Unumb was the Alexandria draft board, and he advised me that I was about to spend the next couple of years of my life in the service of our country.  Now I always thought Mr. Unumb had a perfect name for his position, particularly in a time of war, because when you received his invitation, “you numb.”  While the Vietnam War and its era are beyond my abilities to comment upon here, I can report from a personal standpoint I was incredibly fortunate to have spent my entire Army 2-year career on Okinawa.

For military personnel not in a war zone at the time, one of the requirements (as written in your employment contract) was to purchase the camera and stereo equipment to last a lifetime.  Most of us did . . . and most of it would have.  And thus began my stellar “career” as a photojournalist – meaning some of the time I carried a camera around with me.

We’re between high school seasons, so I decided to dust off the archives to find out what was in there.  Needless to say, lots of stuff.  But the season for the national pastime is about to begin.  And before we head South, to escape the heat and humidity around here,  I present some of my earliest efforts in the field.  Little did I know at the time, but many of the protagonists are now in the Hall of Fame (though people under 50 may not remember them).

The early years:

[Uncle Dick, me, and a young girl of indeterminable origins.]

[Uncle Dick, Mom’s brother, was a great favorite of his nieces and nephews, and all the kids in Victoria Heights, because he would play ball with us.  Some day there will be a “piece” specifically about him.]

[Dick swings, and misses, at a whiffle ball in our Victoria Heights backyard, 1962.]

As kids growing up in Alex in the 50’s & 60’s, the Alexandria Clippers were our team – and Bob Hawkins was one of our heroes:

[Touch ’em all, Bob (after another homer).]

And of the era, Mom’s softball team – and still how many more years did it take to become a school sport?

And in 1962, our VFW baseball team finished 2nd in the state tournament:

Meanwhile, back in Okinawa, probably the first game I ever “covered” – April 1971:

In August of that year, I came home on leave and covered a Twins game where a lot of fans came disguised as empty seats:

[Hall of Famer, Jim “Catfish” Hunter, Oakland Athletics (or were they the “A’s” then?).  Hunter admitted in later life that he actually preferred walleye.]

[I believe that’s Sal Bando on deck – not quite a Hall of Famer.  Harmon’s playing 1st.]

[Hall of Famer Rodney Carew.  Can you named the A’s cather, or the Twins 1st base coach?]

[“Catfish” once pitched a perfect game against the Twins.  The next time the Twins faced him, Carew led off the game by hitting one about 100 feet over the centerfield fence!]

[Should be Hall of Famer Tony Oliva.  Other than Roberto Clemente, nobody hit the ball as consistently hard.]

[Should be Hall of Famer Jim Kaat.  Looks like Bert Campaneris on-deck.]

[Hall of Famer Harmon Killebrew.]

[I always seemed to catch Harmon in a check swing.  Harmon was honest enough to admit he tried to hit a homerun every at bat.]

Shortly after the Army decided it could get along without me, I returned to ole Metropolitan Stadium to catch the Twins v. the dreaded Yankees, August 1972:

[Hall of Famer Bert Blyleven.]

[Twins manager Frank Quilici and catcher George Mitterwald.]

[Is it Bert’s famous curve ball?  Guessing Danny Thompson at short, who’s in left?]

[Bobby Murcer hitting for the Yanks.]

[Bert]

[Mel Stottlemyre.]

[Cesar Tovar.  Once played all 9 positions in a 9-inning game for the Twins.  Name the Yankee catcher and third baseman?]

[Danny Thompson.  Good ballplayer, died young, cancer as I recall.]]

[Harmon]

[Yup, another check swing.]

[Bobby Darwin.  I believe the only player other than Harmon to hit a ball in the left field 2nd deck at the Met.]

A basketball trip to the Windy City in February 1973 netted the following:

[Looks like the kind of winter they’re having this year!]

Back to the Met in May 1974 – before the end of summer I would be off to Washington, D.C. for the next 27 years:

[Against the Cleveland Indians.  Can’t name anyone in the photo.  Ha!]

[Buddy Bell hitting.]

[Bert’s pitching again!]

[Hall of Famer Gaylord Perry loading one up for the Tribe.]

[“Now where’d I hide that Vaseline?”]

[Bert]

[Charlie Spikes.  As I recall, he hit Bert pretty good.]

On to D.C. where the real “pro” team played!  🙂  Our Department of Labor softball team, The Mavericks, won many titles over the years – once winning 63 straight games over parts of three seasons:

[1985]

[1986]

[Uncle Dick.  Yup, the same one, the guardian of the trophies.]

[“The Nanner.”  For her local fan club.]

[1988.  For those who may have wondered about recent e-mails from Eddie G, that’s him front row, left, next to me.  Chippewa Falls native, and thus a Bucky Badger fan.]

[1992.  That’s the Potomac River in the background.  The team is looking toward where the FDR Memorial is now located.]

[A team photo with Secretary of Labor Robert Reich.]

[My 15 minutes of fame!  The Mavs made the front page of the Sunday Washington Post in August 1995.]

[Back in Alex, two years ago I ran across the keystone combination for the 1964 Cardinal baseball team.  Rusty Rolandson (l), class of ’64, played 2nd base then (and went on to become an All-American shortstop for the Gophers) and Jerry Deleski, class of ’65, played shortstop, and to their knowledge they think they still hold the Cardinal record for double plays turned in a season.]

[Until next time, I’m ETS’ing out of here from Kadena AFB, Okinawa.]

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4 Responses to Take Me Out to the Ballgame

  1. Mike O'Brian says:

    Your photographs are absolutely amazing! Would you mind if I shared some of them (with proper credit of course) on my page “Lost Ballparks” on Twitter and Facebook?

    • tomobert63 says:

      Thank you. And please, be my guest. But I have to ask, how did you come up my contribution to modern literature?
      (p.s. I don’t have a cell phone (there is only so much technology one can stand), so this is my only means of communication. ~ Tom

  2. Jim Pohl says:

    If your Twins pictures were taken during the 1971 season, the A’s catcher had to have been Dave Duncan, but I’m not sure about the 1st base coach. I think Frand Crosetti was coaching 3rd about that time. Could the 1st base coach have been Frank Quilici?

  3. In A’s vs. Twins, the A’s catcher is Gene Tenace (#38). The on-deck hitter is Angel Mangual (#2), not Bert Campaneris (#19). The photos are from the 1971 season. Thanks for sharing these wonderful pictures!

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