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.

Tuesday, September 18, 2018

Frank Robinson - 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

Frank Robinson

On this date in 1976, one of my boyhood heroes, Frank Robinson, played his last game as a major leaguer. He was the player-manager of the Cleveland Indians at the time, after a stellar career first with the Reds, then Baltimore, Dodgers and Angels. I was 8 years old when Robinson broke in with the Reds in 1956, winning Rookie of the Year honors. He was traded to Baltimore before the 1966 season, my senior year in high school. So, I literally grew up as a huge Frank Robinson fan, culminating in 1961, when he led the Reds to the World Series against the Yankees and was named the NL MVP, batting .323 with 37 home runs, 124 RBI’s and 22 stolen bases.

When the Reds traded Robinson to Baltimore on December 10, 1965, I, along with literally every other Reds fan, was totally devastated. The headlines in all the local papers decried the sad news.

The Reds desperately needed pitching, so traded for two pitchers and an outfielder, one of which was reliever, Jack Baldshun, a Greenville native, who went 1-5 with no saves in 57 innings during the 1966 season. The others didn’t perform much better; meanwhile, Robinson won the triple crown and led Baltimore to a World Series victory over the Dodgers! The trade is widely regarded as the worst in major league history - it sure was in my mind.

In 1982, Robinson entered the Hall of Fame, with an unthinkable Baltimore Orioles cap rather than one from the Reds, re-opening old wounds all over again!

Here’s several of Robinson’s baseball cards with each of the teams he played for. I do recall having his rookie card way back when, now long gone.

After managing Cleveland, Frank went on the manage San Francisco, Baltimore, Montreal and Washington, never having a winning season.

Robinson, 83, has served as Senior Adviser and Honorary President of the American League to Baseball Commissioner Rob Manfred since ’15.

Bring back some more Frank Robinson memories by checking out this Home Run Derby segment from 1959.

Tuesday, September 11, 2018

Lost & Found - 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

Lost & Found

Over Labor Day weekend, we traveled back home for a family photo and stayed with my wife’s mother in Russia. More on that in a minute. But first, since the Homecoming Festival was underway, we took the opportunity to spend an afternoon and evening there on Sunday. My brother-in-laws affectionately call it the Russia World’s Fair. Turns out my father-in-law, an uncle-in-law and two brothers-in-law have been event chairs and are included in this list of previous chairs since 1954.

We ran into many people our age we knew and many more younger people who looked somewhat familiar but were likely the children or grandchildren of those we knew way back when! Of course, the beer tent was a favorite place to meet old friends, one of which was the town Mayor, who kindly bought me a Wally Post Red beer, a favorite craft brew that I had written about in this past blog. Here's the Mayor's photo from a few year's ago. Thanks, Terry!

Here’s a collage of photos from past and present events:

The stay at my mother-in-law’s place was interesting in that during the course of our conversations, we learned that she had never seen her parent’s obituaries. So right on the spot, I used my phone to search google and found them in short order as shown below along with a photo of their gravestone My mother-in-law was so surprised my little iPhone had held what she had been looking for her entire life, as both of her parents had died when she was very young.

Here’s the 1919 wedding photo of her parents, William and Emma.

Living on the farm adjacent to my mother-in-laws parents were my grandparents, so upon their death, my grandmother, for all intents and purposes, “adopted" my mother-in-laws family of eight children, one of whom married my uncle. To this day, the family recalls fond memories of my grandmother, who incidentally had lost her husband, my grandfather, the year before Emma’s death. My grandmother was raising 14 children on her own as pictured below, so what’s the big deal with 8 more? Large families in those days were the norm - all the more to help around the farm.

Speaking of large families, here’s the photo of the 75 members of my wife’s family that was taken over the weekend.

My beautiful mother-in-law is right in the center!

Tuesday, September 4, 2018

Woodward Dream Cruise (cont’d) - 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

Woodward Dream Cruise (cont’d)

When my wife described last week’s blog about the Woodward Dream Cruise to her Mother, the two reminisced about the summer of 1971 when we first dated. My 1969 Nova SS pictured in last week’s blog had a set of Trush mufflers installed that made it quite loud. My Mother-in-law recalls when I dropped off her daughter after a late night out, the car’s roar would wake her up, which meant she also knew the time. She claimed the noise was audible until I crossed the railroad tracks on Rangeline Road heading back to Ft. Loramie.

Here are some of my other favorite cars at this year’s Dream Cruise. First is a Shelby Cobra, a car I always wanted but never owned primarily because I couldn’t fit in it; no leg room plus my head stuck up over the windshield! The fact that an original model now goes for $250,000 was a minor technicality, but lower cost replicas were available. Today some of the replicas actually have more leg and head room.

Other favorites were the 1969 GTO Judge and Olds Hurst 442. Friends at the time drove both classics that were really fast and had the distinctive monikers that made them instantly recognizable then and now.

Another favorite viewed at the Dream Cruise was the Hemi Under Glass Barracuda that could do amazing wheelies.

I also loved the fastback, boat-tailed Riviera from that era.

The Ford Sunliner was a really cool car with a retractable hardtop that would transform into a convertible. A high school friend had one of those. The hydraulics to raise the trunk lid and store the hardtop were an engineering feat I appreciated, but caused innumerable operational problems at always the wrong time.

The very first car I can remember was Dad’s 1951 Chevy; painted cream color with absolutely no options except 4 doors to allow us kids to pile in. It wasn’t nearly as nice as this restored beauty.

My first Ford vehicle was a 1971 Mercury just like the one below. We bought it with the money from selling the Nova SS about a year after we were married. Time for a family car, I guess.

When Ford purchased Jaguar, we owned two at one point; a 1959 XK150 and 1999 XK8, both maroon convertibles, or drop tops as the Brits call them.

Aretha Franklin’s funeral was held in Detroit this past week, and in her honor, an entourage of pink Cadillacs were included in the funeral procession in recognition of her album Freeway of Love.

Speaking of Aretha, she was in one of my favorite all time movies, the Blues Brothers singing her hit Think. In this years Dream Cruise there was a replica of the old Dodge police car the Blues brothers used in the movie, large rooftop speaker and all!

Speaking of movies, another favorite commemorated at the Dream Cruise was a Delorean featured in Back to the Future with its gull wind doors, flux capacitor and all.

Maybe they’ll make some movies about any of these strange vehicles spied during the Dream Cruise.

Mighty Mouse Cartoon.



Can’t wait till next year’s Cruise!

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