NOT BUMMED OUT! ( for old baseball fans)

Last week I had the honor of presenting to Carl Erskine the Heritage Place Award, given to six senior Hoosiers each year for their lifetime service to the Indianapolis community. For those who don’t recognize the name, Carl is a retired banker from Anderson, Indiana. He also previously pitched for the Brooklyn Dodgers team that won their first—and only—World Series in l955.

When I was a grade-schooler in New York, I feigned sleeping at night for six months of the year with a tiny transistor radio hidden under my pillow, praying for a home run by center fielder Duke Snider or another no-hitter by Carl (he had two). If you had told that nine-year-old kid in l955 that his baseball hero would one day become not just a friend, but a golfing partner, he’d have thought you were nuts.

Although it has been 62 years, my memory of October 4, 1955, is clear. Even then I knew the majesty of those hallowed words: Seventh game of the World Series. This would have traditionally been a time for Dodger fans to wring their hands and prepare for the inevitable. Da Bums, as they were called, had faced the Yankees in what seemed like a hundred previous World Series games (four, actually) and lost every time. If the Dodgers hadn’t finally won in 1955, I probably wouldn’t be writing this story now. And giving Carl this award would not have felt quite so special.

I remember our tiny TV with the rabbit-ears antenna. The black and white picture was quite fitting, because that game was clearly a battle between the forces of good and evil. I perched myself on our wooden coffee table, after pushing it right up to the television. Even then, I was not very good at dealing with tension. On several occasions when the Yankees threatened to win (and they always did), I retreated to my room until the peril had passed. I’m embarrassed to say that I still do that during Pacers and Colts games.

I don’t have a distinct memory of each inning, but I recall a great catch by leftfielder Sandy Amoros and I was surprised that Duke Snider bunted in the fifth inning, considering The Duke was the top homerun hitter of the ’50s. Of course, I remember that final out, Yankee catcher Elston Howard flailing at the final Dodger pitch. I sprang from the coffee table and let out a scream. The Wolfsie family embraced in a group hug. Mom and Dad were Dodger fans, too.

The day after the Indianapolis awards dinner, Carl and I played golf. We talked about his son, Jimmy, who was on his way to bowl at the Special Olympics in Terre Haute. Carl also told me a dozen great baseball stories, including some I hadn’t heard before. Then he talked about Betty, his wife of 70 years. “You know, golf is like marriage,” he said. “I’m not always very good at it, but I want to keep doing it for a long time.”

“Still lots of time for both,” I told my 90-year-old boyhood hero. “You’re about to go into extra innings.”

 

 

 

 

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KNEEDY PEOPLE!

As soon as Mary Ellen made plans for our last vacation, I made an appointment with the orthopedist. My left knee was killing me and I didn’t want to be a drag on our daily activities. My knee problem goes back to an old football injury in college. I was drunk and fell out of the stands during Homecoming.

When I arrived at my appointment, I asked why my former doctor had unexpectedly retired. The receptionist said he wanted to devote more time to running triathlons and skiing, which is really nice for him but for the patients who were scheduled for knee surgery, this is kind of rubbing it in.

My new doctor said he needed to take a few pictures of my knee.  I told him that wouldn’t be necessary and showed him some great shots of myself in Bermuda shorts on my iPhone from our recent New Orleans trip. But X-rays were still required.  They clearly showed the reason for my discomfort and surgery would be my only option for relief.

“Dick,” said Dr. Estes, “I understand you and your wife are going on vacation. Not too strenuous, I hope, considering your knee.”

“She wants to go to Canada and go hiking.”

“Sounds a bit rocky to me.”

“Yes, we’re visiting Banff National Park.”

“No, I mean your marriage. What kind of wife makes a husband endure that much pain?”

Dr. Estes confirmed I needed a new knee, but in the meantime he recommended a cortisone shot right in the problem area. Several years ago when I had a similar pain, I got the identical injection. The same nurse was still working in the practice.  She walked in with the kind of big grin that only someone who was going to stick a needle directly in your throbbing kneecap could have.

“Oh, hi, Mr. Wolfsie. Well, I guess you remember the drill.” It was not my place to offer marketing advice, but I told Julie that “the drill” is not the best word choice to put a patient at ease.
The cortisone helped, but most of the trails near Banff were far too rugged for me to negotiate, so I waited in the car while my wife and son walked along the Hoodoos. I waited for them while they hiked in Johnston Canyon and I waited for them while they explored the Marsh Loop. Wait, wait, wait is pretty much what I did all week. Brett told me he took some great photos, and I even had to wait to get back to the hotel to see how much fun I missed.

I attempted to hike one trail that had a sign saying “handicapped and stroller friendly,” since it was flat and paved. I question the friendliness part because while I was hobbling along as fast as I could go, a guy in a wheelchair was griping at me to speed it up, and a toddler in a stroller was shaking his fist and crabbing at me to get over to the right so he could pass.  I turned around and went back to wait for my family.

When I got home, I called the doctor’s office to be scheduled for knee replacement surgery. “Okay,” said Leslie, Dr. Estes’ assistant, “but the earliest he can fit you in is September. Will you be okay waiting?”

“Of course,” I said, “I’ve gotten really, really good at that.”

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