Tuesday, October 16, 2018

Coors Tour - Nevada - Dave’s Midwestern Ohio Memories

A Series of Guest Blogs by an out-of-state Fish Report reader originally from this area about fond memories of growing up in Midwestern Ohio during the 50’s & 60’s (Receive a weekly email whenever there is a new blog post. Just enter your email address in the designated spot below the blog and follow instructions to set up the weekly alert.)

Coors Tour - Nevada

Last week’s blog described the first leg of a so-called "Coors Tour" to California during the summer of 1970 between my junior and senior years in college traveling with several fraternity brothers in a caravan. Our love of Coors beer, only sold out west, inspired our trip. Click on this link for a short Coors video that helps to better appreciate our inspiration. Does this catch qualifies for the Fish Report Hall of Fame, Craig?

The saga continues as we depart Salt Lake City heading west on Interstate 80. We had two vehicles in our caravan, the Chevy Greenbrier van nicknamed the Coorsmobile that I wrote about last week and a wild ’68 Mercury Cyclone GT that we called the Circus Wagon. You’ll see why in this photo.

The Circus Wagon’s owner was Harry from Virginia and as a big stock car racing fan, Cale Yarborough was his favorite, driving car #21.

Heading west out of Utah into Nevada, the caravan had to fill up with gas in Winnemucca and as we pulled out of the gas station, little did we realize that both vehicles were now in a funeral cortege, literally right behind the hearse! Those two vehicles sure did stick out in that procession.

Although we didn’t cause an accident with the hearse like shown in this photo, we no doubt did create some chaos among the mourners until we quickly turned out of the line-up once our screw-up was realized. To this day, we still laugh about that incident (and many others) at our regular luncheon get-togethers with my fraternity brothers.

The gambling mecca of Reno provided the next stop for our caravan. None of us had ever been to a casino, so it was indeed an adventure. One of the guys had learned about a “fool-proof” system for playing the craps table. So of course, we had to try the gambit. It involved betting on the field.

First time at a craps table can be mighty intimidating for midwestern neophytes like us; however, his system proved to work great (at first). The Field bettor wins if a 2, 3, 4, 9,10,11 or 12 is rolled, with 2 and 12 paying double. Back then, there were quarter tables, with 25 cents chips. We’d bet one chip on the field and if we lost, the bet would be increased according to the following sequence 1, 2, 5, 10, 20, 40, 80, 160. If we won, the sequence would start over again at one chip. In other words, the bettor is hoping to never lose 8 straight times. If the occasional 2 or 12 is rolled late in the sequence, it would pay double with a sizable win. During that gambling venture, we never did lose 8 straight times and won about $200 between us, just betting quarter chips, while drinking free Coors beer the whole time. We were hooked!

Since that first venture in a casino, I’ve tried numerous times to replicate that success, always eventually throwing 8 straight losers and walking away with empty pockets. Now it’s almost impossible to find a craps table with less than a $5 minimum, so the losses mount up pretty quickly with each loss. So much for that system; or maybe I should try it next time drinking Coors!

While in Reno, we toured nearby Virgina City, the home of the popular western TV show at the time Bonanza. The show was about a family named the Cartwright’s who had a large ranch called the Ponderosa.

From there we headed to Lake Tahoe, finally arriving in California for the first time in our lives. Not so much today, but back then, visiting California was the wish of most college kids, and we exemplified those desires. I seem to recall getting out of the car at the state line and kissing the ground.

The music, movies and TV shows all made California out to be this idyllic place with perfect weather, white sand beaches and beautiful girls. We had all grown up watching the Mickey Mouse Club, filmed at Disneyland in Anaheim.

Annette (lower right) was my favorite, which was the case for every other boy back then. By the time we were in high school, she was grown up and starring in a whole series of California beach party movies. Made for great drive-in movie fun; but I digress!

Lake Tahoe was absolutely stunning, with its crystal blue water, stately pines and majestic mountains. That first exposure to California reinforced every perception we had of the Golden State.

On that note, our California adventures will be further chronicled in next week’s blog.

Tuesday, October 9, 2018

Coors Tour - Dave’s Midwestern Ohio Memories

A Series of Guest Blogs by an out-of-state Fish Report reader originally from this area about fond memories of growing up in Midwestern Ohio during the 50’s & 60’s

Coors Tour

New Supreme Court Justice Bret Kavanaugh had admitted during his testimony to drinking beer with his friends while in high school and college. I’d have to plead guilty to that charge as well. Being of German descent, drinking beer is in my DNA, at least that’s my excuse! My favorite brew at the time was Coors beer, which was not pasteurized and meant that it could not be stored at room temperature, but had to be refrigerated after leaving the brewery in Colorado (or maybe not - see below?).

Back in the ’60’s, Coors was only sold west of the Mississippi River due to the logistical issues of refrigerated shipping back in those days. As budding engineers in college, who enjoyed Coors beer, we innovated and had a fraternity brother from Kansas City with a Chevy Greenbrier minivan haul cases of Coors on ice to school each semester.

We helped him rig his van for storing the beer on ice in well-insulted boxes. It worked, as there was always plenty of ice upon his arrival at school each semester. The Coors was immediately transferred to various mini-refrigerators in the rooms around the frat house, to be parceled out one can at a time so it lasted (most of) the semester till the next stash arrived.

The Greenbrier was a derivative of the Chevy Corvair (aka per Ralph Nader, Unsafe at Any Speed). 

The rear mounted, air cooled 4 cylinder end-to-end engine was located in the space under the rear storage area as shown in this photo. So we obviously had to keep the chilled beer away from the rear to keep the ice from melting.

During the summer of 1970, a group of us traveled across the country in a caravan that included the Coorsmobile.

We of course sampled our favorite brew along the way once we crossed the Mississippi River, heading for a fraternity national convention in Aspen, Colorado. We stopped in Golden, Colorado, just west of Denver, to tour the Coors brewery. It excited us all to see the home of our favorite beer. Here’s a commercial about the brewery from that era.

At that time, Coors Field and the Colorado Rockies baseball team did not exist; otherwise, for sure we would have checked out a game at that namesake iconic stadium to further sample our favorite brew.

Once in Aspen, we enjoyed exploring the Rocky mountains for the first time, riding the ski lifts, albeit in the summer without the snow. Several of our fraternity brothers recently bought vacation homes in that area of the Rockies, a desire no doubt borne during the trip a long time ago.

We continued to head west after the convention, traveling Interstate 70 across the Rockies. I recall the old Greenbrier having quite a struggle at the higher elevations crawling up the grade since the Eisenhower tunnel along I70 was still under construction.

That old air-cooled, four cylinder engine was working overtime, however, eventually we arrived in Salt Lake City where a fraternity brother’s uncle was the football coach at the University of Utah.

After touring the campus and the football facilities, I recall going to the nearby Great Salt Lake and literally floating in the lake drinking a Coors. With the high salt content of the lake, the human body will easily float on top of the water.

We also drove out to the Bonneville Salt Flats where at the time vehicle speed records were being regularly set. This article about the Bonneville Jet Wars tells more of the story about racer Craig Breedlove breaking the 600 mph barrier in the late ’60’s.

Our caravan was gradually making its way further west, eventually heading for California to sample the Coors beer there (and obviously to check out the appealing California Girls commemorated by the famous Beach Boys song of the same name). Look for that installment in next week’s blog.

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Tuesday, October 2, 2018

Racing Milestone - Dave’s Midwestern Ohio Memories

A Series of Guest Blogs by an out-of-state Fish Report reader originally from this area about fond memories of growing up in Midwestern Ohio during the 50’s & 60’s

Racing Milestone

Recently, it came to my attention that Team Penske, owned by motorsports legend and Ohio native Roger Penske, had won its 500th race, an almost unbelievable achievement. All those wins occurred over the last 52 years, starting in 1966, the year I graduated from high school. Back then and still today, I enjoy auto racing. This previous blogpost describes the fun we had at Eldora and Shady Bowl racetracks.

In 1965, Roger retired as a successful race car driver to purchase a Pennsylvania auto dealership. Team Penske was formed to provide advertising for his new dealership, eventually growing to compete in an amazing variety of racing disciplines like Indy Cars, NASCAR, IMSA, Formula One, CanAm and SCCA.

Cars owned and prepared by Team Penske have not only produced those 500 major race wins, but also earned 573 pole positions and 32 championships. The team has won 17 Indianapolis 500 victories (most recently in 2018), two Daytona 500 Championships, a Formula 1 win and overall victories in the 24 Hours of Daytona and the 12 Hours of Sebring.

Roger and his wife Kathy have a son, Jay, who was a classmate of our son in the same high school. They both played on their school's 1997 state championship lacrosse team pictured below. Our son is #1 and Jay #7, side-by-side in the first row.

After the championship game, the Penske’s invited the team and parents to their home for a victory party. It was quite an affair, highlighted by a tour of Roger’s library where he kept some of his racing memorabilia. I distinctly recall the mantel over the fireplace where many of his championship rings were displayed. Each one looked like a Super Bowl ring. Amazing!

A favorite photo below shows Roger, his wife Kathy and Roger’s right-hand man and my golfing buddy, Walt Czarnecki on the far right, from 2012 when Brad Kezelowski won Team Penske’s first NASCAR Sprint Cup Championship. Coincidently, it was Keselowski’s recent win at Las Vegas Motor Speedway that got Team Penske to the 500 win milestone.

While we’re on the subject of racing, recently my fraternity brothers from college gathered for our semi-annual luncheon, coupled with some sort of competitive activity. This time it was go cart racing. This short video was taken of the race - that’s me in the lead - for a while!

** Fish Report has recently added a new feature to it’s blog page. Now you can receive a weekly email whenever there is a new blog post. Just enter your email address in the spot below the blog and follow instructions to set up the weekly email alert.

Tuesday, September 25, 2018

Big Klu - Dave’s Midwestern Ohio Memories

A Series of Guest Blogs by an out-of-state Fish Report reader originally from this area about fond memories of growing up in Midwestern Ohio during the 50’s & 60’s

Ted Kluszewski

After last week’s blog about the Red’s Frank Robinson was published, a fellow Fish Report reader sent me a photo of the above Reds memorabilia item from 1956. It highlights the tremendous year both Robinson and his teammate, Ted Kluszewski, led the Reds with 73 home runs between them. The team’s record was 91-63, just two games back of the Brooklyn Dodgers, who lost another subway World Series to the NY Yankees in 7.

Kluszewski was nicknamed Big Klu, as he was 6’2” and weighed 242 pounds. He was easy to recognize with his sleeveless uniform and huge forearms. To emulate the Big Klu, I recall as a kid rolling up the sleeves of my tee shirt whenever we’d play sandlot baseball. In fact, here’s a photo of me and my sister at a young age with sleeveless tops!

Big Klu is on the Red’s All-Time Team as it’s 1st baseman and is commemorated with a statue outside of Cincinnati’s Great American Ballpark. The bats sure look like toothpicks next to those muscular arms.

In college, Ted played football for Indiana University as a tight end and was named All American on the 9-1 Big Ten team. He also played baseball for the Hoosiers, hitting .443. Quite an athlete!

He wrote a book entitled Inside Baseball for Little Leaguers that I read from cover to cover multiple times. But unfortunately the book couldn't help me hit a curveball, curtailing my baseball career in high school and driving me eventually to softball, which I enjoyed playing up until about age 40 as documented in this previous blogpost.

My favorite baseball and softball position was 1st base, which Big Klu masterfully played with his trademark glove shown here. As a kid, I really wanted one of those gloves, but they were about twice as expensive as a conventional glove, so needless to say, my wish went unfulfilled.

Due to back problems, Ted’s power began to severely erode later in his career as evidenced in the HR totals on the back of his baseball card shown here. The Reds traded him to Pittsburgh after the 1957 season as his career was essentially over. He was diagnosed with a slipped disc, but refused to go under the knife to have it corrected, as the doctors couldn’t guarantee he’d ever play again.

For 10 years, Ted was a fixture at Cincinnati’s old Crosley Field. He lead the Reds in average, RBI’s and home runs almost every year and was truly a fan favorite. We always listened to games on the radio, and when Ted came to the plate, everyone stopped to listen to the play-by-play, hoping for a big hit and another homer. In those days, there was a radio microphone placed next to the field, so as a listener, you’d hear the crack of the bat before the announcer reacted. A seasoned radio listener could almost tell by that crack what kind of hit it was. And Ted’s were always the loudest!

While researching on-line for this blog, I discovered that a biography about Big Klu’s life in baseball had been written. As a kid, I loved reading books about athletes, especially baseball players. Somehow, this in one I missed. Maybe I’ll order it on Amazon, where it has great ratings.

The Reds retired Ted’s #18 jersey number in 1998. This photo of the stadium giveaway commemorating the occasion was found on eBay.

After retiring as a player, Kluszewski became the hitting coach with the Reds under Sparky Anderson during the Big Red Machine era of the 1970s. Then in 1979, he became the Reds' minor league hitting instructor, a position he held until 1986, when he suffered a massive heart attack and underwent emergency bypass surgery. He retired afterward. Kluszewski died at age 63 from another heart attack on March 29, 1988 in Cincinnati.

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