Saturday, May 15, 2010

My Baseball Friends

Over lunch today with my sons Michael and Adam it was suggested I write about something Baseball. I have a picture in my living room of three baseball players... all catchers: Edward Schlenoff (my Dad) who played semi-pro baseball with the Fire Department in New York City, Me (who played at BJC and Towson University (nee Towson State College), and my son Adam who played D1 at Mt St Mary's University.

Baseball has been a major part of our lives. I thought I'd relate a couple of cute stories that many in my family weren't aware of. In 1967 I was a Senior at Towson State, playing Baseball on a team who competed in the Mason-Dixon League. During the off-season I had a couple of friends who were P.E. Majors in my classes, notably Jim Palmer and Curt Blefary. Both were Orioles stars who had World Series experience. I became friends with both and as a matter of fact got free tickets from them to Memorial Stadium during the regular season. I'd go 3-4 nights a week and just watch baseball from the bleachers.

Part of our P.E. classes at Towson involved "Professional Courses". They were 1/2 credit and covered various sports (i.e. Badminton, Wrestling, etc). One of these sports was Football. Towson hadn't started Football yet but had a coach picked out who would teach this class and prepare the school for a Football program after we graduated. His name was Carl Runk and he was really a character. He played Football and Lacrosse at Arizona State after graduating from Patterson High School in Baltimore. Carl ordered football equipment for the class to use. We had helmets, shoulders pads, knee pads, etc. However, Palmer and Blefary refused to get dressed in equipment because they didn't want to take a chance of getting hurt. Runk kept calling them "Sissies". He gave me an "A" and gave Palmer and Blefary "Bs". They were upset.

On weekends in the off-season Blefary's attorney organized touch football games at Medfield Elementary (near Poly). We would choose up sides and play every Saturday. Palmer was one QB and I was the other. Blefary demanded that he receive 85% of all passes when he was on my team. He'd show up in his Red Cadillac with the top down even when it was 45 degrees outside. I think he wanted to be noticed.

Those were innocent and fun days. Blefary would invite everybody down to Sweeney's Bar on Greenmount Avenue after the games. We stuck real close to him because neither he nor his friends ever paid! Blefary was a star and the bar liked having him around. Palmer never went because he was a goody-two-shoes.

I saw Jim Palmer at the last Baltimore Orioles World Series Reunion where Hank Bauer gave a nice talk. Hank passed away recently. You always thought of those guys as indestructible. Palmer even remembered my name. By the way, I told Palmer that there is no rule in the Major League Rulebook that says "The Tie Goes to the Runner". He's said that a 100 times on his Orioles broadcasts. I wonder why he looks so good; must be the Florida sunshine and a couple of bottles of Just For Men.

The most traumatic moment during my senior year at Towson came after Blefary gave me one of his bats that was used in the Playoffs. That was the best bat I ever had (we didn't use metal bats then). It had so many sweet-spots it could make anyone a good hitter. I made All-Mason-Dixon as a Catcher that year. However, at batting practice one day our 2nd baseman picked it up and used it during his turn in the cage... and broke it. I chased him all around the field with tears in my eyes.

Ah, those were the days...Archie Bunker, 1985

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

A Day Trip to Havre de Grace

Geri and I signed up for a day trip to Havre de Grace, Md. The natives call it "Hava de Grass". "Ya know Hon, up ere in northern Merrylin". This was part of a program sponsored by the Roland Park Country School called Kaleidoscope.

We met the bus in a parking lot of a Baptist Church in Towson. I considered going to the morning service but the bus was ready to go. As we entered the bus I viewed a sea of gray. This was no spring chicken get-a-way. I knew this group was elderly when two different ladies sitting near me were discussing their husbands' recent demise.... both of them were WW2 brides. The conversation in the bus was getting louder and louder because there was definitely a hearing loss problem among the octogenarians. While the bus was en route to Havre de Grace the same two matrons kept heading for the co-ed bathroom. I guess their anticholinergic medications (medications for incontinence) weren't kicking in yet.

First stop in the itinerary was the Visitor's Center in Havre de Grace. It was closed! 2nd stop was the boat dock. We were told to be ready to board a paddle-boat (Mississippi River Boat clone) at 11:15 for a 2-hour ride on the Susquehanna River with lunch served aboard. We were told this 6 times. Apparently the elderly ladies did not hear it the 1st 5 times so when the leader said it for the 6th time I also yelled out "11:15 is the time to board ship"!! At lunch we sat across from two retirees at a table for 4. We were yelling at them because they could not hear. It was a fun time.

The ride on the Susquehanna was pleasant and informative. We traveled under several bridges on our way upstream. We didn't know that the Susquehanna is 400+ miles long but only navigable for 5 miles. Can you imagine a 400+ mile trip with table-mates who could not hear and asked you to repeat what you said 3 times before they got the message?

Anyway, after the boat came back and docked. We had an hour or so to "schmier" around the quaint little town. Did you know there are no stoplights in Havre de Grace? They want you to trust their drivers. The only problem was that many of their drivers are elderly retirees and if our table-mates were any indication of how the rest of them drive I'm frightened to walk down the street!

It was a lovely day and we were glad to take a break from the busy schedules we have. You should try a day trip to Havre de Grace. Just watch out for the silver-haired drivers in their Buicks!