I’ll Hold Your Beer

I was watching the fifth game of the World Series along with a few million other folks when it happened. I was also watching live in 1963 when Lee Harvey Oswald was gunned down on national TV. I suppose there were hundreds of other famous, live incidents I was able to see as they occurred, but these two are possibly the ones I will remember the most.

I’m referring, of course, to the now-famous Jeff Adams. Mrs. Adams had stepped out to purchase some food, so her husband was holding her beer as well as his own. Then Yordan Alvarez of the Astros jacked a home run. As Adams spotted the baseball heading his direction, he put himself in position to, uh, catch it. 

A Heroic Move

In a heroic move, he held on to the two beers (one in each hand) and blocked the ball with his chest. The ball fell to his feet, and he was able to retrieve it. Obviously, it was a well-deserved souvenir. The home run traveled over the left field wall going a distance of 405 feet at a velocity of 106 miles per hour. I’ve played enough baseball in my lifetime to know that had to hurt. My immediate reaction was to tell my lovely Bride that it probably broke a rib.

Apparently, I was wrong. Adams was interviewed after the game and said it didn’t hurt because, “the Astros don’t hit that hard anyway.” Obviously a Nats fan… I have to admit, I would have either tossed the beer and gone for the ball, or I would have dived out of the way. I’m just happy for Jeff that the ball wasn’t head high when it reached him—although he may have caught it in his teeth if it had. I would have had to look away if that had transpired.

TV is an amazing invention. We got our first boob tube when I was two years old. My parents told me years later that I was glued to it. That was sixty-seven years ago, and I’ve watched my share over time. Sometimes I’m embarrassed about the decades I’ve no doubt wasted during that era. I’ve viewed some pretty important moments, but I’ve also had to wade through eons of unnecessary drivel to get there.

“I Was Watching!”

With media the way it is these days, I can watch Oswald and Adams whenever and as often as I want. Seeing it live isn’t all that important—or is it? It’s kind of cool to be able to say, “I was watching when that happened!” That’s small reward for losing so much of my life, but that’s the way we seem to live.

Luke tells the story about Mary and Joseph finding the twelve-year-old Jesus in the Temple. He told them, “Didn’t you know I had to be in my Father’s house?” It appears that Jesus preferred spiritual matters over TV. I’m not sure how much time he wasted in his short life, but I’m guessing it wasn’t much.

[Dave Zuchelli is a graduate of Pittsburgh Theological Seminary and currently resides in Aldie, VA.]

A Blass From the Past

I was fourteen years old the first time I saw Steve Blass pitch. He was a young, strapping ballplayer from New England. As was often the case, the Pittsburgh Pirates were in dire need of good pitching. They saw Blass as a part of their hope for the future.

I used to love watching him perform on the mound. He was highly emotional, and he was intense as he was talented. He had a pitch he called a slop drop. I guess it was a curveball, but it was a slow tantalizing breaking pitch that seemed to drop off a table. It used to drive hitters crazy when it was working well.

The Windup

The thing I remember most, however, was his windup. These days, pitchers don’t have much of one. It seems they reserve all their energy for the follow-through. Not Blass. He had an old-fashioned, full windup that was a thing of beauty. It was like watching a ballet dancer at times. The most memorable thing about it was the way he would bounce his right foot two or three times in the middle of his motion as he was rocking back in preparation to deliver the pitch.

At the height of his playing days with the Buccos, he led the pitching staff to a World Series Championship against the Baltimore Orioles. It was 1971, and I was twenty-one years old. My beloved Corsairs hadn’t been back to the Series since I was ten. It was magical.

Blass pitched two superb, complete games against the daunting Birds. They had big hitters like Frank Robinson and Boog Powell. I once ran into Boog (literally) at Camden Yards after he had retired. I was walking through the crowds by the concession stands and accidentally ran into this mountain of a man. My nose came to the middle of his chest. When I looked up to apologize, I realized it was Boog Powell. I also realized I would never want to face off with him—even from 60 feet away on a pitching mound.

The Slop Drop

Powell went 0 for 8 against Blass in that series with several strikeouts as I recall. What I remember most is Powell’s reaction after one of those strikeouts. He just couldn’t hit the Blass slop drop. After a third strike swing and miss, he broke the bat across his knee as he walked away from the plate. It was a sight to behold.

After sixty years with the Pirate organization, Steve Blass is hanging up the microphone. As an announcer, he’s known for his quick wit and his wealth of baseball knowledge and lore. I’ve never met him personally, but he seems like a guy I would love to get to know.

His retirement is nostalgic for an old fan like me, and it’s good to see a modern-day city give one of its heroes an exultant sendoff. It was hard to hold back the tears as I watched his final TV broadcast. Thanks, Steve. You’ve been a joy!

[Dave Zuchelli is a graduate of Pittsburgh Theological Seminary and currently resides in Aldie, VA.]