Cherokee Chronicle Times

Outside looking in

I’m a Hall of Famer. And I don’t take this esteemed honor lightly. In fact, I was so overwhelmed I didn’t even attend my own induction at Buena Vista University last weekend.
Good old Beulah Beulah – that’s what we lovingly called it over 50 years ago when men were men and didn’t think twice about donning Beaver attire.
BVU last week inducted the acclaimed, 1968 Beaver baseball team into its Athletic Hall of Fame. The Beavers that year qualified for the NAIA World Series in St. Joe, Mo. I got the official invite. My name is in the Hall of Fame. My team photo is in there. My brother Giles is in there. But I’m really not.
Confused? Most certainly. Just like another long night at Puff’s where we of-age Beavers gathered to wash down the Memorial Park dust, crack a few of Marie’s pickled eggs, and take a few bucks from the Jersey boys on the shuffle board table.
But I digress and struck out a few times.
I was on that team. I practiced all fall and spring, had my own uniform, was in the team photo with Giles and the boys, and was scheduled to bat sixth in the lineup after studs like Doug Smith, Joe Ascolese, Danny Southard, future Major Leaguer Larry Biittner, and Bob Johnson. Tough lineup.
I commuted to BVC from Cherokee after spending a year at Wayne State College on a baseball scholarship that was pulled after I was placed on social and academic probation my freshman year. That social part occurred when the campus cop caught me climbing out of a co-ed’s dorm window at 1 a.m. with two cans of beer dangling in their plastic rings. The academic part happened before I learned you had to physically attend classes and not leave after roll call and just show up for quarterly tests. I paroled out of WSC with a shining 2.2 GPA.
I walked on at BVC as beloved coach Jay Beekman knew me from St. Mary’s High and Little League, and liked my play at first base and lefty bat. Before the season started, I was penciled in to play first base when Biittner pitched and play scorebook when he didn’t because he played wherever he wanted to and he chose first base when he wasn’t on the mound. I told Jay to pitch Larry every game but he refused.
Knowing several players were on scholarship and I wasn’t didn’t bother me as I had some dues to pay after my Wayne State debacle. But when I had an opportunity to operate police radios for $1.65 an hour in Cherokee and pick flexible hours and still go to school, things changed.
I was a college sophomore without a car. I rode the IC passenger train from Cherokee to Storm Lake at 7:30 each morning for a 75-cents one-way ticket. I thumbed my way home, thanks to Hy-Grade workers, traveling salesmen, state troopers, truckers, a middle-aged female predator who didn’t know a dentist, and total strangers. You could hitchhike and come out alive back then.
I needed a job and a car! Soon to come was one of the worst decision of my life.
I went to coach Beekman’s office a few days before our spring trip to Oklahoma and asked for scholarship money that would compensate for not taking the police dispatcher job. A wonderful and kind man, Jay told me the scholarship kitty was dry and that maybe next year there’d be some available. “You can really help us,” said Jay. “You’ll play first base when Larry pitches and be available to pinch hit at any time. The other positions are filled. We sure can use you. I hope you stay with the team.”
I weighed it all that day and night and next day. I had found a used car at a local dealer I could afford with monthly payments from that part-time dispatcher job. I was tired of being broke. Pickled eggs were 20 cents! I could work and finish college or I could play ball and stay broke. I needed answers. I needed money. I needed a trip to Puff’s. I needed my mommy!
I went to Jay’s office before practice the next day. He said nothing’s changed. It was about 38 degrees and windy. Ball fields are really cold when they’re cold. That police radio room was warm and snug. I imagined picking up my girl and scooping the loop that weekend in my brand new used car. Being a baseball Beaver and playing first base was my goal but it was not to be as I thanked Jay for understanding and shook his hand goodbye. He patted me on the back and said, “If you change your mind, there’ll be a uniform waiting for you.”
And now Jay and Larry are all gone and I’m still here…with two years of eligibility left. Hey, Coach Eddie, Is that uniform still waiting for me? If I’m going to be in the Hall of Fame, I want to earn it.

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