Sean’s Burgundy Thread: Groovin’ On A Sunny Afternoon
Published: Jun 3, 2014 8:14 am
I recently ran into a multiple myeloma friend who was wearing a t-shirt that triggered a memory of an exciting day in my life way back nearly 35 years ago.
It was in the late seventies, and I was a young college student working in the summer as a trumpet player for the (Anheuser) Busch Entertainment Corporation.
Our music group had been flown to Boston to perform at a series of special events celebrating the introduction of a newly imported Anheuser-Busch beer, Wurzburger Hofbrau.
With no gigs scheduled that afternoon, the company graciously offered to treat us to a matinee theatrical performance or to go on an escorted sightseeing trip around the city, to be followed by a nice dinner.
I wasn’t up for a play, and having grown up in Virginia immersed in years of colonial and Civil War history, not even the siren’s call of Bunker Hill, Faneuil Hall, or the stirring accounts of Minutemen and Paul Revere’s ride were enough to entice me.
Having quickly stated their druthers, everyone stared at me as if my choice would make or break the entire trip. I was just interested in salvaging the rest of my afternoon.
With the pressure on and the clock ticking, and assurances that there would be no repercussions if I chose not to accompany the gang, I swallowed hard and told the tour manager to go on without me.
My colleagues barked ‘What? You’re not coming with us? You don’t even know your way around! You’re crazy - you’ll just get into trouble! ’
I was touched by their confidence in me.
As they boarded the rumbling shuttle bus I waved and mumbled a goodbye. Maybe they were right, but darn it, sometimes a guy has to do what a guy has to do!
That’s when the proverbial light bulb went off and I knew what this guy had to do.
I beelined to the nearest subway station with a generous amount of per diem money carefully tucked away in my thief-proof front pocket. I followed the stream of people going underground as we stuffed ourselves into the Green Line train like a can of sardines.
Having never been on a subway before, I learned a few valuable lessons that day:
#1. People don’t like to talk on the subway with strangers. I was apparently a stranger.
#2. Politely saying ‘excuse me’ and ‘pardon me’ doesn’t help when you are trying to get off of a crowded train before the doors close and you hurtle toward the next stop. Pushing seemed to be the preferred method.
#3. The word ‘wicked’ isn’t just reserved for witches of the west.
After I got off at the wrong station, one policeman said ‘You ain’t from heah, are ya’? You look wicked lost!’ The officer was wicked right, I was wicked lost. But after getting my bearings, I got myself back on track.
So just what was it that compelled me to make a mad dash across town?
In a word, it was passion.
That’s right, it was a passion for my first love. It had burned wicked deep, I mean deep, within me since I was a little boy. I could think of little else.
That was until my folks bought me my first trumpet. That’s when music began to take a firm hold over me. Sadly, I kicked my first love to the curb.
But on that 95-degree May afternoon in Boston 35 years ago, I vowed to reacquaint myself with my first love.
The streets were packed as I turned the corner onto Yawkey Way. There it was. A shrine built for my first love. It was beautiful!
It was Fenway Park.
My first love was baseball. I grew up eating, drinking, sleeping, and playing baseball.
Boy, did I know about Fenway Park. Built in the 1930s for the Boston Red Sox, some of the game’s legends played on that very field, Babe Ruth and Ted Williams included.
I reverently entered the stadium and purchased a seat among the raucous right field bleacher bums. Just yards away from me was the 37-feet tall, terrifyingly imposing left field wall affectionately dubbed the Green Monster.
Some people believed in the Loch Ness Monster. I believed in the Green Monster.
My then favorite team, the Baltimore Orioles, wasn’t playing that day, but a slugger who had played for the O’s for five years earlier in his career was on the visiting California Angels’ roster.
His nickname was ‘Groove,’ and he was a power hitter burning up the league. Although his team lost the game 9 to 8 that day, Groove had managed three hits against the Sox pitchers.
In fact, he had such a good season that he was named 1979’s American League Most Valuable Player and voted onto the All-Star Team, as well.
I had a WICKED good time at that game. I have been back to Boston many times since, and I still carry on my love affair with baseball. Yes, my wife knows all about it.
So what does this story have to do with myeloma?
Fast forward to 2003, and Groove, otherwise known as Don Baylor, was diagnosed with multiple myeloma. Today, at 64, he serves as the batting coach for the Angels and has become a high-profile, tireless spokesman and fund raiser in the fight against this despicable blood cancer.
Shockingly on March 31 of this year, Groove had settled into a catcher’s stance behind home plate to receive the ceremonial first pitch of the season, when his right femur broke. In incredible pain, he was helped off of the field. The next day Groove underwent a five-hour surgery to help repair the break.
Let’s keep Don ‘Groove’ Baylor in our thoughts and prayers.
By the way, my friend’s t-shirt that caught my eye and sent me down memory lane had a picture of Fenway Park on it. Play Ball!
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