Traveling Trails Less Traveled. By Buckshot Anderson
For February 26th, 2010 Edition.
As the days grow longer and the power of Old Sol increases, more and more signs of eventual spring appear, most recently being an increasing amount of sports chatter concerning the upcoming major league baseball season. Ah yes, "the boys of summer" are heading for their spring training camps and the heart of every baseball fan begins to beat a tad faster!
Beginning in my very early formative years I was already what one might describe as a "baseball nut." A large portion of my very small earnings was often spent on sports magazines that included a major percentage of their articles concerning baseball and stars of the game.
My earliest hero's wore Cubs uniforms. Gabby Hartnett, a catcher, and third baseman Stan Hack, both all stars, were in the twilight of their careers but new boyhood hero's such as first baseman Phil Cavareretta shortstop Roy Smalley and outfielder Hank Sauer danced across my imagination as role models and shinning stars.
But my all time favorite was outfielder and sometimes third baseman, Andy Pafko!
There may have been several "non-baseball" mental connections that caused me to embrace Mr. Pafko as my youthful favorite player. Andy was also my dad's nickname and I worshiped my dad. Andy Pafko was a home grown native of Wisconsin from the small town of Boyceville. And the fact that Andy Pafko's birthday fell one day after mine, on February 25th, just may have had some minor influence on my choice of a super-hero!
On rare occasions I could listen to a play-by-play account of a Cubs game on our battery powered radio dialed to WGN. But most of what came out of the speaker was crackle and static.
Andy played in the Cubs last World Series that they have been involved in - way back in 1945! And of course the Cubs lost!
My hero was traded to the Boston Braves after the season of 1951 and my fervor as a Cubs fan cooled considerably. Boston may have been on another planet as far as my baseball interest extended, and besides, beginning in the summer of 1951 I was actively involved in playing the outfield for John Vandervort's Lost Lake Foresters softball team.
In the spring of 1953 my interest in major league baseball skyrocketed! The Boston Braves franchise was moving to Milwaukee and the hero of my youth would now be playing back in his home state! Even before the first pitch was thrown during spring training camp at Bradenton, FL I was a delirious Milwaukee Braves fan!
In April of '53 I received one of the most memorable gifts I can recall! Dad and Mom drove me to Milwaukee for a pre-season game at brand new Milwaukee County Stadium so I might see my baseball hero play in person!
The Braves played the Chicago White Sox and Andy Pafko was the starting right fielder and batted fifth. During his first time at bat the slugger blasted the ball over the left field wall for a two-run home run! Oh my God, I thought my heart would burst! On his second at bat Andy drilled a liner through the pitchers box for a solid single. Wow, what excitement! But my joy was short lived!
Between the fifth and sixth inning the public address announcer made a bone-chilling announcement!
"Attention fans - Andy Pafko is being replaced in right field by Henry Aaron."
My mind whirled as young number 44 ran out of the dugout to replace the old familiar number 48. Who in the world is Henry Aaron? My eyes told me he was a skinny looking Black kid totally unknown to the Milwaukee baseball fans. I still recall my initial anger in seeing my hero replaced in the lineup by someone who would probably never achieve the stardom of Andy Pafko!
How wrong I was!
I was awarded a second chance to see my boyhood baseball idol play in Milwaukee on the Sunday of opening weekend of fishing season in May of 1953. I was scheduled to help dad guide a group of anglers on that day but by much begging he allowed me to join the rest of my teammates from the Eagle River High School baseball team to travel by bus to Milwaukee for an afternoon game.
The game was rained out and a busload of gloomy high school boys and their coaching staff returned to Northern Wisconsin, which had enjoyed sunny blue skies all day!
My idol helped the Braves win the World Series in 1957 but then they lost the series in 1958. Andy was traded to the Brooklyn Dodgers where he finished his career in the early 1960s.
Dad and I attended another major league game together in 1956 in Chicago. We watched the White Sox defeat the Cleveland Indians 1-0 in ten innings. It was one of those boring pitchers duels lacking exciting action.
We were seated high in the right field bleachers, which were mostly empty. My most vivid memory is watching a large group of Chicago White Soxs fans devour a huge basket of fried chicken and toss the bones and left over portions all over the bleacher area. That was quite a shock for a country boy that had been brought up with a totally different set of values!
While I was teaching in Florida during the early 1960s dad and I attended a spring training game between the Dodgers and the Braves. Few of the regular starting players played very long and about the only highlight I recall was catching a foul ball as we sat in the stands along the third base line. My souvenir eventually disappeared from sight about the time our son was six or seven. Imagine that!
The last major league game that I viewed in person was at Wrigley Field in Chicago sometime during the early 1990s. As one of the chaperones on North Lakeland School's eight grade end of the year class trip I helped my companion chaperones herd the students into the upper bleachers along the left field line.
By perhaps Divine Intervention the Cubs defeated the Dodgers although that was not what the majority of the students and staff remember most about the experience.
For whatever reason, one of the loyal Chicago fans sitting behind the North Lakeland group mooned us during the 7th inning stretch! Security personnel quickly ejected the disgusting fan but the event left quite an impression on the country bumpkins from up north.
For me, I'm not certain what was more disgusting- the mooning or the chicken bone toss.
Mr. Leon "Buckshot" Anderson is one of the few old time hunting and fishing guides left in Northern Wisconsin. Buckshot is a personal friend of the family and has known and worked with my grandfather, Howard "Pop" Dean, both of whom are members of the fresh water fishing hall of fame, Legendary Guide. Buckshot has authored 7 books on the great outdoors. All of his books can be purchased directly from him, at a discount, by email: firstname.lastname@example.org or by mail to: 2220 Deadman's Gulch Road, St. Germain, WI 54558.
Books by Leon "Buckshot" Anderson Click Here
Yes; Deadman's Gulch is the correct name, I have been on that road many times. Sincerely David D. Cruger
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