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If I had to name a Second Favorite Baseball Player of All Time behind Jackie Robinson, it would be Satchel Paige. No doubt. I’ve known of and about him almost as long as I’ve known about baseball and he was truly amazing.

By Scott Hodges

As it just so happens out there on the internut, I was moseying through my twitter feed yesterday and I found that my friend Tony Pierce had retweeted an amazing career highlights poster (at right, click to biggify) of the immortal Paige that an artist the name of Scott Hodges (@IAmScottHodges) had lovingly created.

Of course I combed through it slowly reacquainting myself with Paige’s illustrious career. And afterward, given the nostalgia I have for the long-gone Wrigley Field that stood as the home of the Los Angeles Angels until the ’60s at Avalon and 41st Street in South Los Angeles, I posted a comment if anyone might know if Paige had pitched at that venerable old baseball stadium.

Wouldn’t you know this afternoon I found I got answers back from another Twitter user @HeavyJ. The first was a little vague, a short article, but the second one a video knocked my socks off as legit. The article was about Paige with Cleveland pitching in a spring training game in March 1949 against the Cubs in Los Angeles. I’m a bit of a stickler for detail and it’s relatively well known that from the 1920s through early 1950s (except during WWII) Cubs spring training and games took place at their facility in Avalon on Catalina Island. The article doesn’t specify the location, so that may have been wehre Paige was at and not Wrigley Field.

The second answer was a link to a YouTube clip titled “Rare Satchel Paige Color Footage: From the Academy Film Archive,” which was described as “…16mm film preserved by the Academy Film Archive features rare color footage of the legendary Satchel Paige pitching in an exhibition baseball game at Wrigley Field, Los Angeles on November 7, 1948.”

Mind. Blown. I mean, written proof is one thing, but the odds were kray of there being actual video from 72 years ago to answer my question definitively!

PS. It’s worth noting that later in that year of 1948, 21 years after he had made his Negro League debut in 1927 with the Birmingham Black Barons, Paige made his Major League Baseball debut at 42 years old as the oldest “rookie” ever. He went 6-1 with two shut outs. He refused to be considered “Rookie of the Year.”

But I digress. Folks who go back a ways with me might recall my deep affinity for what was Wrigley Stadium, including it as a last stop on my long-dormant Watts Happening bike rides to regale those in attendance with the loooong story of the Los Angeles Angels franchise, and the ancient history of the likes of young Joe DiMaggio and Ted Williams being some of the future legends who had played against the Angels there in the Pacific Coast League. Heck I even once went to some painstaking triangulatory topographical detail (http://www.wildbell.com/2010/06/20/finding-home/) to determine that while the old home plate is now covered up by a building, the area where the mound once stood is accessible in the parking lot.

It’s the mound you can see Paige standing on in the below embed of the video (or you can watch it via its YouTube link). It’s really an incredible bit of film with wonderful shots of the crowd, the stadium and yeah, that’s MGM head honcho Louis B. Mayer seen multiple times in the stands.

It’s an honor and a privilege knowing now that Paige, one of the greatest that ever was, once stood upon it.

meandlance

How Tweet It Was.

The night before the CicLAvia that took place in April 2011, I had heard that Lance Armstrong was coming to town specifically to participate. As such, I tweeted a reminder at him and was positively fanboy-floored when he immediately tweeted a confirmation back my way.

But then again, given what we know now about his long-running penchant for dishonesty, since I didn’t physically SEE him anywhere on the course the next day I can’t be 100 percent certain he wasn’t lying out of his spandex-clad ass.

One thing is for certain: this brief exchange went from being my most favorite tweet ever to my least.

It wasn’t the first time I rode/sat/stood in awe of my hero Mr. Doodyhead McLiarface (and there was also this previous encounter during the 2009 Amgen Tour of California). But it is the last:

 

I’ve been in awe of Huell Howser since I first started watching his “Videolog” shows on KCET way back when dinosaurs like Payphoneasaurus and Eveningnewspaperus Rex still roamed the earth.

In other words: a LONG time ago.

Not only was I immediately impressed with the infectious, manchild-like enthusiasm and energy he brought to exploring so many obscure aspects of his adopted state, but also the waltz of his Tennessee twang not often heard on airwaves on this side of the country —  as well as the massive biceps he would display that ever-threatened to bust the seams of the short-sleeved shirts he wore.

And despite how things changed, for the next 35 years, Huell remained Huell, always there with a microphone at the end of one of his massive arms, and always ready to be sincerely amazed by things that might not really be all that amazing.

As chance would have it I got to meet and shake Howser’s hand and express my gratitude. Susan and I had opted one weekend morning back in, like, 2005 or so, to go to the Hollywood Farmer’s Market, that runs the length of Ivar between Sunset and Hollywood boulevards. After wandering around and buying veggies and stuff, we went to the food area to get something to eat. I forget what we ended up getting, but as soon as we sat down to dig in, there he was, larger than life, walking amongst the tables headed in our direction.

“Huell Howser!” I called out and stood up. And he smiled that big grin of his. He drew closer and I stuck my hand out. “I love everything you do, sir!” was the best I could come up with as he grabbed my hand and shook it with a bit of a humble shrug.

Without a moment more passing he brought that energy of his to bear and asked us if we’d tried the food at one of the nearby booths. We told him we had not.

“Oh you really should,” he said followed, of course, by: “It’s amazing!”

And he was past us and heading onward through the crowd.

I sat back down and looked at Susan. “Huell fucking Howser!” was all I said. In amazement.

When Howser announced his retirement a short while ago I went into mourning a bit at the realization there’d be nothing new from him to see on television. I read of the speculation that his abrupt departure might have been necessitated by illness, but I ignored that because it was tough enough processing a Huell-less TV landscape, much less a California without him.

So when I heard the news yesterday afternoon from my mom, I continued on with my day, my first reaction being one of denial in hoping my mom was wrong. But inwardly I knew she wasn’t. And a shortwhile later when I checked online, I knew there was no escaping that I’d lost one of my favorite television personalities and California had lost its tour guide.

I take solace in knowing he’ll live forever in reruns, this one being one of my absolute favorites:

At the invitation of friend, biking blogger, and LA County Bicycle Coalition Boardmember Ted Rogers, I charted out and led a group “LACBC Sunday Funday” ride that took about 40 of us from the “slums” to the stars and all around the island of Beverly Hills. We endured a couple flats, collected the attentions of curious police patrols along the way, and I was called out on a couple occasions for not being a full-blown factually correct Koolaid-chugging cheerleader about how entirely awesome the municipality (and its water) is, but all told it was certainly an enjoyable experience for me and hopefully all who came along for the 13-mile 3.5-hour ride.

I even modified a 1938 Ragsdale Movie Guide Map for use during the “lookeloodikrus” portion of the ride (click it for the bigger picture):

I was early on into my ride on the No. 14 Beverly Boulevard bus out from Historic Filipinotown to the Fairfax area body shop this afternoon to pick up Susan’s freshly repaired Ford, when this gentleman and his mannequin companion climbed aboard. Of course I tweeted about it with a pic attached and my friend Waltarrrrr tweeted back his congratulations at my encountering one of Metro’s more famous riders: Duaveed and Clara. Waltarrrrr linked me to a KROQ YouTube vid detailing their 2009 wedding. Yes, wedding.

Only in LA.

 

Actress Annette Charles, pictured above (in a near-immaculate Los Angeles River bed under the Sixth Street Viaduct with the Fourth Street Viaduct in the background) as villainess Cha Cha DiGregorio from the film version of Grease, died yesterday at age 63.

First Jeff Conaway and now her. Sigh.

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