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Browsing the Internet  for baseball memories

By Paul Weeks

Published Tuesday, May 4, 2004
in the Stockton Record

No one in their vintage years before our generation could bring the past alive so vividly as we who travel the Internet today. If you're 19 or 90, it's time you took the challenge of the computer keyboard.

Into the long nights of retirement, I throw a random name out of the past into the "search" line for those whose paths I've crossed, and a parade through baseball's history begins.

There was grizzled all-time shortstop Honus Wagner of the Pittsburgh Pirates, who squatted on the edge of my cigarette-charred desk when I was a young sportswriter in Albuquerque, N.M. The still barrel-chested "Flying Dutchman," then in his 60s, spun wondrous stories:

"In one game, I was coverin' t'oid, when old lefty Rube Waddell t'rew me a fast one to nip a base stealer. I missed it a mile, and da manager raced out to chew me good. Ol' Rube, one of da best pitchas in da game, walked over and said, 'Don't chew Honus ... I t'rew him a coive!' "

Another name is that of Branch Rickey, another Hall of Fame man, who dared the color line by signing up Jackie Robinson. Rickey invited this kid reporter to sit in the bleachers with him one night while he scouted a pitcher named Archie for Rickey's St. Louis Cardinals, parent of the Albuquerque club. I don't remember Archie's last name, but he threw a ball fast as a hurricane -- and just as uncertain in its course.

He had trouble getting it over home plate, so Rickey didn't sign him up. Archie was dropped from the roster, but Rickey has always shined brightly in my scrapbook of memories. ::: Advertisement :::

There was Bill DeLancey, who caught the Dean brothers, Dizzy and Daffy, in the '30s for St. Louis. He was sent to Albuquerque to expose his tuberculosis to the desert sun -- and also to manage the Albuquerque club. He treated this then-skinny (oh, for the good old days!) kid as if he were Grantland Rice. The fans loved DeLancey, but tuberculosis ultimately won.

And there was Milo Candini. Maybe you've never heard of this long-legged pitcher who moved up to the majors. But I'll never forget him. He was on the mound for El Paso's Texans against our Cardinals the night I first was sent out to cover a game. (I'd been named sports editor after my predecessor, fired for boozing, said, "For the amount of sports you want in this newspaper, that 16-year-old kid could do it!")

As I've often said, I didn't know a passed ball from an infield fly. Flustered, I sat beside the official scorekeeper's 14-year-old daughter, Evelyn Schulman. She taught me everything -- about baseball, but not about sportswriting.

Milo walked more batters than a Boy Scout troop that night, but he struck out enough to win the game. I probably didn't realize that should have been the lead of my story until I'd covered the whole 1937 season.

So, the Internet is my happy hunting ground ...

Or just like shooting dice: I tossed another name into my baseball search -- Bobby Joratz. Indeed, there were two pages of Joratzes, but one item identified "Bobby Shew -- Robert Joratz. b. 3-4-1941 Albuquerque, NM."

The Joratz I knew was a fighting, scrambling, hotshot shortstop. Could Shew be a baby born while his dad was covering the ground between second and the hot corner?

Bobby Shew, it turns out, is a world-class trumpet player, big-band alumnus, recording artist and teacher, still traveling the world. I found his e-mail address and wrote him.

"Hi, Paul," his answer bounced back. "Well, I really fell out of the chair over your e-mail. Yes, Bobby was my dad ... I grew up with a Cardinal uniform in the closet, but finally it fell prey to the moths."

Shortstop Bobby was no family man, it turns out, and Bobby Jr. later adopted the name of his stepfather.

As the words of an old song written by a colleague goes: "A newspaperman meets such interesting people ..."

And they're still around on the Internet.

Paul Weeks is a distinguished veteran journalist who writes a regular column for the Stockton Record. He is also spiritual advisor to The Rip Post.

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