Basketball, Exercise, and My Right Foot

ATHLETES ARRIVE SPORTING MANY SIZES. This one was a scrawny six foot one hundred fifty pound two-sport athlete in highschool. Almost. The heartbreaking fact is I was both the thirteenth and the sixteenth candidate cut from the 1972-73 Fernandina Beach Highschool Pirates tryouts, first in basketball and then in baseball. The significance of the numbers thirteen and sixteen were heartbreaking, meaning I was the very last player cut on the very last day of tryouts. Each time it was an equally scrawny six foot one hundred fifty pound kid, sporting the additional flavor of being bespectacled mind you, who beat me out for the final slot on the fall and spring rosters—a kid from the Yulee sticks named David Haney. It was a small school in a small town. We were best friends most of that year. I got to travel with both teams, sit on the benches, and keep score and statistics. Mostly I was thrilled just to contribute mad skills where I was needed and well-trained.

Current Events 1972-73

Life, as in a work of fiction, contains truths and untruths. Strange how that works, but in storytelling, it’s all about the imaginative ride.

  • Francis Ford Coppola’s The Godfather has entered public consciousness and Mario Puzo’s book on which teh fil was based was also making the rounds…
  • Richard M. Nixon easily wins second term as Watergate scandal looms…
  • Rod Stewart’s version of “Reason To Believe” dominates the AM radio wall of sound…
  • A young pitcher named Vida Blue was well on his way to his 2nd 20-win season in three years for the Oakland Athletics…
  • George Steinbrenner III buys the New York Yankees from CBS for $12 million and baseball would never be the same…
  • Artist Pablo Picasso dies at the ripe old age of 91…
  • The American Psychiatric Association officially declares that homosexuality is not a mental disorder…

Also during 1973, the McDonald’s restaurant chain introduced both the Egg McMuffin and the Quarter Pounder to its menu. In late 1972, Fernandina Beach got its second fast food joint—Hardee’s which naturally became the hip new hangout for the after school and late night crowds—if you had a car. There already existed a “takeout only” Kentucky Fried Chicken joint downtown whose arrival I’d heard was fought mightily by Teliakis money. A deal apparently was reached and the nearby Greek Family Restaurant, owned and operated by the Teliakis clan, continued to thrive as the premier local dining experience of the era. Forty years ago, Fernandina Beach, Florida, was a sleepy and sometimes creepy little backwater. Today, as she waves to the future, sun in her eyes, she insists her name is Amelia Island, seduced and satisfied as she kisses the sky with luxury high rise sprawl and splendid oceanic restaurants, mere jewels in her shimmering cloak of mysterious charms.

Hands down, baseball would always be my first love, and the only sport in which I had played on real and quality teams. Yet I had put in enough hours in the backyard, on pickup courts, and on intramural teams, turning in enough star level performances to qualify as a rank amateur in basketball. Despite the fact that I have closed hips which force my legs into a “V-shape” when I stand, walk or run, insuring my speed, stamina and grace are not always activities that command a potential coach’s respect, at my best I once knew how to handle the peach, if not at the level of a thoroughbred Indiana Hoosier or hard-boiled Brooklyn kid born with a greatness I could only watch from a distance. The two greatest players I ever saw enough of or played with and against in person to bond as a player or a fan were a freshman hotshot named Bob Parsons from Brunswick, GA and a young 6’5″ sharpshooter named Dale Ellis from Marietta Highschool in Marietta, GA. Parsons had mastered the Pete Maravich style of dribble and shoot wizardry like none other in our cruise. We both matriculated for three years at Jane Macon Junior High in Brunswick, and the next year, after my family moved from Darien to 915 Egmont Street in Brunswick, we discovered we lived near each other which gave us the opportunity to grab some full court a few times down at the St. Francis Xavier outdoor courts over on Union Street, stunning our opponents into oblivion as natural as Nate Robinson or Isaiah Thomas would bring it today.

Turns out Parsons took baseball to the show, not basketball. He was part of the 1972-73 Glynn Academy Terrors squad that won the State Championship my senior year. Parents lent me the car to drive up to Brunswick from Fernandina Beach to catch a couple of their regional home field playoff games. Future major leaguer Kevin Drury was also on that Glynn Academy team. Pitched and played shortstop. I faced him several times back a few years before in the Babe Ruth League. Whiffed every time. Those were good times.

Sure, a child of inertia and statistics, I considered myself a seasoned scorekeeper—a natural result of a young athletic nerd’s persistence in making sure from my first Little League team onward through Pony and Babe Ruth League baseball that as a player of moderate skills I never strayed far from the scorebooks in embracing the minutia of 6-3, K, 3ua, FO9, 5-4-3, SB, RBI, ERA scratch that made every baseball scorebook from sea to shining sea in America come alive with meaning. To supplement these real life games, I trained three of my younger brothers from our earliest days on planet curveball in the hallowed art of sports statistics by collecting cards, memorizing stats, idolizing stars and teams, structuring leagues, drafting squads, and inventing spinners and modifications on those games we played indoors to rival the fun we had outdoors, dutifully entering each of the game’s near holy statistics in the book. I even reeled in a handful of my ninth grade class circle, namely, Chris Rhodes, Gil Morgan, Chuck Hodges, Marcia Morris and Jody Hightower—yep, two girls, to join my spinner leagues as we stooged out huddled in the back of the room during Mrs. Couch’s sixth period World Geography class. Taking the field against one another back in that oh so progressive year as we followed our Atlanta Braves fall to the 1969 Miracle Mets on a radio one of us had brought to class back when baseball day games ruled, would be the last time I would see any of those friends as they went off to one high school and I to another.

Basketball

The spinner was a piece of white lined paper folded in half. Vertical lines were drawn equidistant from each other perpendicular to the blue pre-printed lines to create a matrix of operator boxes which then were filled with one of the many results of a batter’s plate appearance, such as BB for a base on balls by the pitcher, 1B for a single, HR, for a home run, FO8 for a fly out to centerfield and so on. When one’s team was on offense, each player stepped in, noted his or her lineup, and spun the paper with one hand on a hard surface such as a desk or a table, eyes closed, guided by the principle of honest randomization, and then after a few seconds with a pencil in one’s other hand, you would “land” on a square, noting one virtual player’s official plate appearance. Simple. These plate appearances continued, the excitement of a real game ruled the air, and game statistics were meticulously kept until the game was officially over and ready to be entered into the roster and league totals. I still have the notebook in which every season my brothers and I ever played are tallied as lifetime and seasonal records for those major leaguers of the late sixties and early seventies. That notebook is over forty years old now. Unfortunately, those games we held in Couch’s class are lost to history.

Once the kinetic vibracy of sport had entered my consciousness and my lungs, there was no off-season. I played and kept records of other fantasy leagues long ago lost to personal embarrassment as I tossed the last bundle of them into the common dumpster just a few steps from my apartment in Smyrna. This was during my contentious breakup with my first wife for fear I was remaining childish too far deep into my twenties. I played lots of imaginary and even reflective highschool and college games, all that made the dumpster that sad day. But as the song says, I’m younger than that now, so I’ve created this web site as a monument to my lost art. I also purchased a Spalding backboard system, and hope to get in some good exercise shooting hoops. I need it.

bob-parsonsBob Parsons is a former infielder for the Pittsburgh Pirates organization. A 1978 graduate of David Lipscomb College in Nashville, TN., he was a First Team All-American second baseman in 1978 and helped lead the school to the 1977 NAIA National Championship. In 2002, Bob was inducted into the Lipscomb University Athletic Hall of Fame.

Speak your mind, Pilgrim...

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