Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Cool... and not cool

The Philadelphia Phillies brought the Little League team from their area that recently made a splash in the Little League World Series onto their field to be honored. Pretty cool.

The Philly Phanatic is always cool with his, or maybe her antics. Nobody knows who's under that green outfit. But this time one of the umpires decided to join the fun. He put on a pair of shades, twisted his cap sideways, and started boogeying with the Phanatic on the field. Very cool. Not done, the umpire went on to toss a few long stem roses to some pretty girls in the stands. Definitely cool.

Unless the Detroit Tigers and NY Yankees meet in the playoffs, not likely, Derek Jeter is playing his last series in Detroit. The Tigers honored him before the game. Everybody from the players on up to Pres/GM Dave Dombrowski was on hand. Cool. One would have thought even Tiger owner Mike Ilitch could have deigned to emerge from his ivory palace for such an occasion. But he didn't. Not so cool.

Even former Tiger star and Hall of Famer Al Kaline was on hand. Though Kaline, now 79, retired from the game before Jeter was even born, it was pretty cool of him to show up to honor another certain future Hall of Famer. Which brings me to a personal story that happened a long time ago. It was cool -- and not cool.

When I was a little boy, my dad used to occasionally take me to a Tigers game at the old Tiger stadium. I'm guessing this was somewhere in the mid 1960s. At any rate, back in those days the Tigers used to feature a "camera day" once a year. Before the game on camera day, the Tiger players would come out and line up along the foul lines, much like teams do now when they're being introduced for the All-Star game or World Series.

But back then, on that day, the fans were welcome on the field at Tiger stadium to socialize with their local baseball heroes. Lots of up-close pictures, hence camera day, but also getting to chat briefly with the players. Of course, this was always a sold out game, and the line of fans had to keep moving along so everybody could have their chance. I was there on one of those occasions. Being on the field at Tiger stadium and walking by up-close to my baseball heroes was a little boy's dream come true.
The coolest.

All these years later, I remember three things from that day. Gates Brown, a back-up outfielder and dynamic pinch-hitter, was a scary looking man to a little boy like myself. But he was very friendly. Cool.

At that time the Tigers had a journeyman second baseman named Jerry Lumpe. He was the friendliest of them all. Chatting, smiling, posing for pix with kids and adults alike, shaking hands, taking a knee to talk to kids face-to-face, autographing anything put in front of him -- the whole good guy package. On that day, Jerry Lumpe was the coolest guy I'd ever met. I never forgot that.

But of course, we all wanted to get to the great Al Kaline, who was further down the line. Eventually we did. And what did we find?

Kaline didn't have time to talk to fans or adoring little kids. He was busy with a reporter and some other guy in a suit. The kids, including myself, wanted so badly to shake his hand and have him autograph our programs, but Kaline totally ignored us as if we weren't even there. This, on camera day, which by it's very definition was supposed to be about interacting with the fans, and especially the kids that so looked up to him -- and Al Kaline blew us all off. The ultimate of not cool. I never forgot that either.

On an unrelated note, some 9 year old girl on a shooting range in Arizona got an Uzi put in her hands with a clip of live ammo and the gun set to shoot on full automatic. She pulled the trigger and, oops, the weapon ratcheted up, as machine guns are prone to do, and the little girl wound up shooting her instructor, who was standing next to her, in the head, killing him.

That went far beyond not cool. Legal or not in Arizona, letting a 9 year old wield a machine gun, under any circumstances, is just flat out stupid.

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