By LARRY HYPES
Bluefield Daily Telegraph
Ah, baseball. In both Bluefield and Princeton, the games this summer have been delightful. Whether in Bowen Field or Hunnicutt Stadium watching the Rays and Blue Jays has provided some great evening entertainment. Like many of you, I make it a point to visit both ball parks every year. That is only fair, since our newspaper covers both Mercer County teams. Jim Holland and his staff always have something going on at the Princeton facility making every game something just a little extraordinary. Likewise, here in Bluefield, the management is forever coordinating some type of promotion and I am adding to my baseball t-shirt collection with some nifty ones here in the summer of 2013.
With more than a month remaining in the Appy League season, these two squads would welcome your attendance as they battle to make the playoffs. The price is right and there is not a bad seat in the house at either place. Believe me when I tell that the furthest seat from the field at either one of our local fields is closer than the nearest seat at some big league parks. Food is always good, too, and the fact remains that these are professional athletes who display some great skills out there.
For many of us, having Tazewell High grad Zak Wasilewski has been the highlight so far. I am prejudiced, having had Zak in my English class just a couple of years ago. It brings back a lot of memories to recall it has been more than 20 years since another Bulldog lefty, Billy Wagner, left THS to take his game to the next level after a stellar career at Ferrum College. Both played for Lou Peery, who retired at the end of the past high school season. Wagner was a major league star of many years and we hope that Wasilewski can enjoy similar success.
I think it is fair to say that the local fans in both Princeton and Bluefield root loyally for every player on the “home” team, no matter what their mailing addresses might be. We all develop favorites and continue to cheer for them as they advance on up the ladder. It’s great to watch the fans of all ages yell for their guys during the summer of dreams. Best wishes to every one of both teams for the rest of this season.
Not too many nights ago I saw Butch Currence. His dad, the late “Stubby” Currence, was the sports editor of the Daily Telegraph for more than half a century and a friend of mine. I told Butch it seemed like the press box should still be up above home plate atop the bleachers. That is where it sat for decades here in Bluefield when the wooden bleachers were in place. I was a student at Bluefield College when the stands burned back in the early 70s and for a couple of years, local fans brought lawn chairs to watch the games while the new place was being built. That work was largely coordinated by the then-sponsor Baltimore Orioles, the Bluefield Boosters, and the city of Bluefield. Butch just grinned and we each took a quick trip down memory lane.
For some reason the other night as I watched Zak fire the ball homeward, the thought of the first World Series I can actually remember came slipping past. That was in 1958, when (Selva) Lew Burdette of Nitro, West Virginia, lost three games to the New York Yankees as the Milwaukee Braves fell. Burdette had been very much a local hero in southern West Virginia just a year earlier when he won three times in the ‘57 Series when the Braves won over the Yanks. However, let me add right now that ‘57 was a bittersweet season for me because Milwaukee clinched the National League pennant on a Hank Aaron home run against the St. Louis Cardinals. That’s right, been a Cardinal fan that long.
Baseball fans are like that, somehow. They knew where they were and what they were doing when Sandy Koufax got his 15th strikeout in the first game of the ‘63 Series or when Aaron hit his 715th round-tripper against Al Downing in April 1974. Weren’t you watching both games? Some coal miners might have been excused for missing either, because Koufax got the whiff in a day game while Aaron hit his at night so depending upon the shift schedule, the workers might have been on the job.
Somehow, the idea of time and baseball is everywhere and nowhere at the same time. It is a sport without a clock. Nobody knows when a game might end, as long as at least one of the teams keeps hitting. There is simply nothing like it, although we still love football and basketball and all the other sports.
That Beaver-Graham showdown will be coming up in just a few weeks. When the leaves turn, our thoughts often turn with them and that is as it should be.
Until then, take yourself out to the ball game where runners move 90 feet at a time.
Larry Hypes, a teacher at Tazewell High School, is a Daily Telegraph columnist.