start without me
My Catcher in the Wry
I haven’t read Uecker’s book but did see him catch Warren Spahn when the Braves lived in Milwaukee. The regular catcher was injured, tired or given a day off and Uecker, usually a reliable knuckle ball catcher, started the game. Uecker went on to become an excellent baseball commentator, actor and a funny guy who commented that the best way to catch a knuckle ball was to “wait until it stopped and pick it up”. You wouldn’t drive all the way to Cobb County to watch him play.
The only other thing I remember about Bob Uecker is his father, named Gus, was an immigrant from Switzerland and a good soccer player in his youth.
I read J D Salinger’s brilliant and controversial novel, The Catcher in the Rye (published in 1951) when I was at Columbia. It was required reading for one of my English literature classes. Salinger was a student of Whit Burnett’s short story writing course at Columbia, long before my time. But I resonated with his description of 16 year old Holden Caulfield’s struggle as a teenager in New York City and his use of the teenage colloquial language popular in the 1950s and 1960s.
“I got a bang out of that!” or “That killed me!” were commonly used when we “rubberneckers” sat around “chewing the fat” and “shooting the bull” in a bar in Yonkers before going to the ballgame at Yankee Stadium.
The 2017 MLB season is about to begin and life will resume its normal course for some keen fans. But not for Jeffry (Atlantans Prepare For Daring Conquest of Cobb County Braves’ Game) who is concerned about driving on the I-75 in rush hour to catch a Braves game at SunTrust Field. I share his concerns about driving the +10 miles home after the game and a few beers. There is a rumor that the Braves moved to Cobb County to get away from the memory off Bob Uecker but I think that is a bit extreme. Bob was a good guy and an entertainer. We need some more ballplayers like him.
Commuting to and from ballgames, especially night games, is part of the fun and excitement even though sometimes it is challenging or even risky, especially on the NY subway where there is no “can.” I never had to worry about driving, parking and drinking but no can on the subway was a challenge.
Jeffry has threatened, if provoked, to tell the whole story about his near incident involving “gun play over a cooler of beer and ice” some years ago. I had planned to provoke him by telling a story about driving from NYC to Connecticut in winter to watch the New York Football Giants play at Yankee Stadium when home games were blacked out on local television. We rented a motel room outside the blacked out area for the afternoon to watch the game while emptying a large cooler or two full of beer and chicken wings. After the game we drove merrily back to NYC on the icy I-95, without seeing another car, truck or probably anything else. But I won’t tell that story!
The ten mile drive to Cobb County to watch the Braves, in summer, should not be a challenge if you leave before rush hour to catch a night game, don’t drink or eat chicken wings so you can safely drive home after the game. Or you can stay at the Sheraton Suites Galleria and walk the ½ mile to and from SunTrust Park. Either one sounds a better deal than taking the subway home to Brooklyn from Yankee Stadium, with a break in the Village to go to the can, or driving to CT in the winter to watch the Football Giants on TV.
I need to tell my young friend Gus, a good soccer player, about Bob Uecker’s secret to catching a knuckle ball. He has never faced a knuckle ball pitcher but is master of the wry grin. The under 10-year old kids use a Zooka pitching machine and Gus can hit everything the “virtual pitcher” throws at him.
A Double to RF
The 2017 MLB season is about to start and the first home game at Cobb County, a Friday night game, is only two weeks away. That is plenty of time to pack the cooler with ice, beer and chicken wings for a practice run up the I-75 in rush hour, to find a parking space and check out the local bars and hotels. Let me know how it turns out.
I can’t be there to watch the opening games at Cobb County or Yankee Stadium. They will have to start without me this year. It is not the I-75 or NY subway that discourages me. It is the 28 hour flight to get from home to New York or Atlanta. So I guess I will have to sit back in my leather chair and watch the games on television, at 9am my time, while enjoying a beer and chicken wing or two.
If I want to see a live game I can always drive 15 minutes to watch the under 10-year old kids.
- Image Credit: both the photos in this story were taken by the author, Ken Peacock.