I came home from work Thursday, and like most summer evenings, I grabbed my laptop and my radio and settled down to checking out the baseball stats for the evening. And while I do so, I flipped on the radio to listen to my favorite Detroit sports talk host and columnist – Pat Caputo.
Caputo – or "The Book" as he is better known inspired me to start this blog. I read his daily and comment on it almost every time he puts a new post up. And I think we have kind of become buds of sorts. I do know I would love to have a beer with the guy if the opportunity ever presented itself. A link to Pat's blog is on the left column as "Open Book".
Thursday, Brandon Inge – third basemen for my beloved Tigers – was voted on to the roster of the 2009 All Star team. He was voted in by "the final vote" – screwy system where fans can vote online as many times as they want for the player they want to get in. I had spent the last four evenings at home – tied to the laptop – plugging in votes for Inge. I must have voted a kajillion times.
I figure Inge owes me big time.
So I was happy for Inge. He is one of my favorite players – if not my favorite player – on the Tigers.
And I am not alone. Even though Inge career average is .238, he is a spectacular third baseman. But This year – Inge is hitting in the .280s.
Now this drives The Book nuts. He sees Inge as a mediocre player that fans like me put on a pedestal for no reason. Last year, when the Tigers pitching was so awful, he sarcastically said "hey .. maybe Inge can pitch, and son-of-gun his phone lines lit up with callers thinking the Third basemen who was then catching – could also pitch.
So on this great evening, The Book had started his show congratulating Inge – but before he took a breath he went on to say that by the end of the season, Inges average would be down to .242. I took exception to the back handed compliment and typed a text message in and sent it to the show – basically saying that it wasn't right to degrade a Tiger on the night he gets voted to the all star team.
Then, as I sat to listen to the radio to see if The Book would respond to my text – I checked my email.
That's when I read the email from Robb Irby – Bill Huseby had passed away after a battle with cancer.
Bill had lived two doors over from us when I was a kid living in Lawrenceville, Georgia. His name is kind of sprinkled through various posts on Head Stuffing when I remember my teen age years living on Plantation Court.
In my book, Bill was one of the coolest guys I ever knew. Sorry to use the word cool, but it meant something when I was a kid. And I valued Bill's opinion very much.
I jumped over to Facebook on my laptop – to see what my old Berkmar high school friends from the Class of 1980 were saying. Bruce Thompson had a post stating that we should appreciate our time while we were here, and Tommy Wester posted another tribute to Bill, announcing his passing and honoring him. And the list of classmates adding to the tribute were growing.
I wanted to post something to, but I had only known Bill for the five years we lived in Georgia. The last time I saw anybody there was 1980.
Then I heard the Book on the radio behind me
".. and I have a text message from Fred Brill in Windsor … "he started .. The Books temper starting to flare .. and he read my text in a sarcastically loud way ..
But I was thinking about Bill.
"Fred … Fred! C'mon now Fred ….", finished The Book, and he went to commercial. My favorite sports writer had just yelled at me so the whole town of Detroit could hear. But I didn't care. "Bill wouldn't have cared", I thought. "Bill would have thought it was funny", and I started to laugh to myself as I pictured the Bill I remembered from my youth.
So I started to write my comment into Tommy's tribute for Bill. I don't remember what I wrote – but I remember it was from the heart. I remember stating that Bill and the rest of the guys from the neighborhood were a part of me and were a big part of who I am today.
And then I sat back and remembered Bill.
I remembered playing football in Bill's back yard shortly after moving to Georgia from Minnesota and trying to fit in. And Bill and the guys welcomed me easily. And how much I appreciated that.
Bill was a leader in that group. And some of the Leadership traits that I have today I adopted from Bill, like how to diffuse a bad situation with humor. And how not to be scared of anybody – even another kids Mom or Dad.
Bill stood up for himself.
I remembered Bill on his Yamaha motorcycle – riding through the woods across the street. Popping wheelies – making jumps – and making it all look easy. And I remembered seeing a picture on Classmates.com Bill had posted of him and his son riding – Bill in what looked like the same riding suit – and you knew it was Bill because it was that same posture – the same silhouette of the guy. That was Bill alright.
I remembered playing pick up basketball in the Livesay's driveway. Bill was the first of us to get a summer and after school job at a car dealership on Peachtree Boulevard.
The other guys in that group were Robby Irby, Mike and Ronnie Lafever, Ken and Chris Stillwell, and John Bartles. The girls in the neighborhood were very pretty – very nice,and just as important and close in our group. Girls like Donna and Debbie Rice, Debbie Smith, Tracy Tomblin, Amy Livesay and Shelly Guyton.
I remembered one day my Dad took a whole bunch of us to a ball diamond he found buried way back in isolated spot – and he got us playing ball. Each of these guys played little league – and some on the high school team. My Dad could always find something to teach a kid about baseball – but when Bill went to the plate – Dad just sat and watched – Bill didn't need any help. He had it right,
When I left to go to University, I fell into another real good bunch of guys. And I fit in really well with those guys. But only because Bill and the guys from Plantation Woods taught me how to be a guy.
Later on that night I sent a twitter message to the Book – in an attempt to make peace with him – about a quote from the movie Bull Durham about the difference between hitting .250 and .300. I thought it an appropriate and humorous attempt to explain Inge's batting average:
"You know what the difference is between hitting .250 and hitting .300? I got it figured out."
"Twenty-five hits a year in 500 at bats is 50 points. Okay? There's six months in a season, that's about twenty five weeks--you get one extra flare a week--just one--a gork, a ground ball with eyes, a dying quail-- just one more dying quail a week and you're in Yankee Stadium!"
The Book tweeted me back to let me know he read my text on the air – and that he agreed the quote was appropriate. I knew it was ok because he used "LMBFAO" in the tweet.
And maybe it's appropriate in life too.
Because being friends with Bill Huseby and the guys from Plantation Woods was a lucky break for me – a break that changed me.
My groundball with eyes.
Twenty nine years later – I still remember that break. And I still appreciate Bill's and the rest of the guys generosity to let me be one of them – even if only for five years.
Rest in peace Bill. And thank you.