Heroes


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.

A couple days ago over on Facebook I posted about getting a pair of cheap seats to the Vin Scully Appreciation Game at Dodgers Stadium in September and how by not spending $1,400 for butt rests down near the field I would have mooooore than enough to get a “SCULLY 67” customized Dodgers jersey honoring The Greatest Broadcaster Of The Last 67 Years And Of Aaaaaaall Time who I unabashedly idolize and cherish!

Turns out easier said than done.

Almost immediately after securing the tix, I went to the store at MLB.com and tried with aaaaaalll my might to order one but for reasons unknown to me, when you enter “SCULLY” in the name box, it gets rejected. Period. To paraphrase the pop-up error message: “Noooooot! Please try again.” Don’t believe me? See the screengrab below (click to enlargify) and/or go try it for yourself.

failjersey

Suitably apoplectic, the only alternative I found to circumvent the heinous ban was to enter Vin’s last name backwards — “YLLUCS” — and then actually consider making the purchase and taking the jersey to a tailor to have the letters re-reversed into the proper order, at additional expense of course. I kid you not, this was a length I was willing to go. This is how much I want to celebrate and recognize the retiring institution that is My Vin, who has been around every spring and summer of my e-n-t-i-r-e-t-y  — all the more remarkable because it’s happened in my native city where history and longevity don’t mean shit. Additional disclosure: This fervent drive to represent is augmented by the fact that for the previous two seasons as a DirecTV subscriber, thanks to the greedy SportsNetLA debacle, I was unable to watch games and hear Vin at will as I had been aaaaaall my previous years on this planet.

But first bless me, I opted to do a desperation search for “Scully Custom 67 Jersey” in faint hope of finding any other options. And as miracles would have it found an eBay page for a obscure little local El Monte outfit called TNS that was offering what appeared to be Exactly What I Wanted readymade for sale — and at $6 less than what MLB.com was charging.

So I went ahead and ordered it, triple-crossing my fingers that I wasn’t getting supreeeeemely ripped off.

The jersey arrived from TNS (here’s their Facebook page) Tuesday night — and boy did I NOTNOTNOT get ripped off. In fact the jersey deserves a triple OMG for being beyond my expectations. Feast yer eyes at the authenticity and gorgeousness with details like an embroidered Vin Scully signature and a microphone patch on the sleeve!!! And the fit? Perfection!

I will wear it soooo proudly for Vin Scully Bobblehead night Tuesday, September 20, and Vin Scully Appreciation Day, his final home game of his illustrious and incomparable 67-year career, September 23.

Buster is a mind-changer. Most of my life I considered tortoises to be plodding, simple-minded and uninteresting creatures. But then along comes this Russian tortoise into my life in October 2001 and she burned that opinion to the ground — and continues to do so.

Even though this clip ends in her failure to escape and me coming to her rescue, it’s a great reminder of how awesome she is and how incredible tortoises can be — how curious, how energetic, and how stubbornly unstoppable. Her ancestors don’t date back 200-million years because they just sat around the planet.

She looks at the almost two-foot-tall pile of river rocks I’ve arrayed on the left not as a way to be kept in, but as a way to get out. And though she suffers several setbacks in her escape quest, she ultimately gets thiiiiiiiiiis close to succeeding — all the more incredible when you consider how poorly equipped a tortoise is to such a rigorous endeavor.

Regardless of how inadequately outfitted Buster is to climb over a pile of rocks, “quit” is simply not in her vocabulary. Well… neither is “vocabulary,” but you know what I mean.

So on this Thanksgiving Day, I’m thankful for a lot of things and one of them is Buster’s indomitable spirit, which keeps inspiring me — especially so at this latter stage of my life when I’m attempting to scale my own disproportionate rockpile and achieve a place in a new career field.

My thanks to the Blogfather Tony Pierce for this inciteful post, bringing this riveting and heartrending presentation by comedian Anthony Griffith to my attention:

 

Above is a shot taken yesterday from Broadway of the landmark Higgins Building on the southwest corner of Second and Main, looking east at its backside bathed beautifully Hopper-esque in the afternoon light. Susan and I had a wonderful excursion that started with lunch at Cole’s, and then a stroll up to this building so that I could express my requisite awe in the wake of my discovery that one of my heroes, Clarence Darrow, kept an office here while representing the infamous McNamara brothers who bombed the original Los Angeles Times building (at First and Broadway) in 1910 and killed 20 people.

Afterward we visited the Bradbury Building, Grand Central Market, and rode Angel’s Flight to the top of Bunker Hill, which we descended via Hope Street to go to the Central Library and pick up the new biography of Darrow by John Farrell I had on hold, Clarence Darrow: Attorney for the Damned. From the library we worked our way back to the Drkrm Gallery on Spring Street south of Seventh to check out an exhibit of Ansel Adams’ photographs of Los Angeles in the 1930s. Lastly we explored the incredible space of The Last Bookstore at Spring and Fourth Fifth.

But back to Darrow. I’ve been an unabashed idolizer of his (and subsequent skeptic of religion) since a 13-year-old when I checked out a copy of the play “Inherit the Wind” by Jerome Lawrence and Robert E. Lee from the LeConte Junior High School library, based on the 1925 Scopes trial in Tennessee, in which he represented the defendant who challenged that state’s anti-evolution law. The first monologue I ever did as an acting class student at Beverly Hills High School was one of Drummond’s (Darrow) from that play:

Yes there is something holy to me! The power of the individual human mind. In a child’s power to master the multiplication table there is more sanctity than in all your shouted “Amens!,” “Holy, Holies!” and “Hosannahs!” An idea is a greater monument than a cathedral. And the advance of man’s knowledge is more of a miracle than any sticks turned to snakes, or the parting of waters. But are we now to halt the march of progress because Mr. Brady frightens us with a fable? (to the jury) Gentlemen, progress has never been a bargain. You’ve got to pay fo rit. Sometimes I think there’s a man behind a counter who says, “All right, you can have a telephone; but you’ll have to give up rivacy, the charm of distance. Madam, you may vote; but at a price; you lose the right to retreat behind a powderpuff or a petticoat. Mister, you may conquer the air; but the birds will lose their wonder, and the clouds will smell of gasoline!” Darwin moved us forward to a hilltop, where we could look back and see the way from which we came. But for this view, this insight, this knowledge, we must abandon our faith in the pleasant poetry of Genesis.

Anyway, through a recent issue of Smithsonian magazine I learned via an excerpt from Farrell’s book that he had an office in the Higgins during the McNamara trial and afterwards during what was the darkest time of his life and career as a lawyer, when he was tried twice on charges of bribing McNamara jurors. The first ended in his acquittal, the second with a hung jury, and a subsequent deal with the district attorney was struck in which he agreed there would be no retrial if Darrow promised never to practice law again in California. Darrow then went on to some of his greatest legal battles — including the Scopes trial.

As I looked over the buildings features and details and stood in its foyer where Darrow had undoubtedly stood more than 100 years ago, I figured it might be lost to history where his office had actually been within, but that of course didn’t stop me from googling it and finding via the LA Times that it was on the southwest corner of the ninth floor, the windows of which — second floor from the top — are visible in the picture.

By coincidence I learned that today marks the 82nd anniversary of the January 13, 1929 death of legendary lawman Wyatt Earp.

I mention it because he died right here in Los Angeles, and while I knew that already, I didn’t know where in the city. A few clicks around the internet showed me first that for awhile he lived at 4021 Pasadena Avenue in northeast Los Angeles. A few more clicks led me to this page on the West Adams Heritage Association that states when he passed away he did so at a bungalow located at 4004 W. 17th Street in the West Adams section of the city. Neither of those two residence remain, but there’s this photo (at right) of Earp purportedly taken at the 17th Street house sometime in the year of his demise.

His beloved wife, Josephine, died 15 years later in 1944 at 1812 W 48th Street in south Los Angeles, and by the looks of the residence shown in the Google map’s Streetview, the house that’s pictured may be the same.

I’m not much on absolute favorites. I’m much more a “Top 5” or “Top 10” kind of guy — the sort who always qualifies his appreciation of things, inserting “one of” into anything I’m glowing and crowing about.

  • “That is one of my favorite Frank Lloyd Wright residences.”
  • “My 19th birthday? One of the best I’ve ever had.”
  • “Without question, Dude Where’s My Car stands as one of the most awesome motion pictures in the history of motion pictures.”

If I do feel particularly daring, I might drop the “one of” for a “probably” or “perhaps.” Bold, right?

But then there’s John Steinbeck and I wipe the wish-wash away.

John Steinbeck is my favorite writer. Absolutely. No “perhaps” or “one of” about it. And I just now learned that he lived in Los Angeles for a spell. Montrose, to be exact. for a few months between 1932-33. And the tiny house he rented still stands behind an apartment building built in the ’60s on Hermosa Avenue.

If you know me at all, you know I go crazy over shit like that, because it’s easy for me to mythologize my heroes as far-removed like gods up on Olympus. I’ve practically made a shrine out of the bungalow Mr. and Mrs. Jackie Robinson lived in near Western and Jefferson in his monumental year of 1947. Hell, I’ve known for a couple years that F. Scott Fitzgerald died a loooong way from West Egg in a West Hollywood apartment on Hayworth Avenue a half-block south of Sunset Boulevard, and whenever I recall that nugget I still shake my head in amazement. F. Scott Fitzfuckinggerald!

The coincidence is that I learned both things via my friend Rodger Jacobs. The irony is that he laid Steinbeck’s LA connection on me after I commented on his blog about “London House,” a unique Hollywood residence south of Melrose Avenue just off Van Ness which legend has it Jack London lived in during a 1906 visit here. Trouble is the legend’s a total fiction. The house, built by the author’s sculptor friend Finn Frolich, wasn’t constructed until the 1920s, augmented with a bas relief by Frolich of the writer mounted near the entry. London might have lived there in spirit and memory, but spirit and memory only.  He died in 1916.

In response to my comment, Rodger (not coincidentally who’s written the preface to a new book out titled Jack London: San Francisco Stories, which you can buy on Amazon and should) wrote back to me that he once lived a few blocks from where Steinbeck lived in Crescenta Valley.

After I stopped saying “No way!” and “Dood!” to my computer screen, I got out my e-shovel and started digging around the internest, first finding out from a column in the Crescenta Valley Weekly that the home was somewhere on Hermosa Avenue between Sunset Drive and Rosemont in Montrose and ultimately finding out the address from none other than Steinbeck himself, via Google Books and its e-version of Steinbeck: A Life in Letters. Appearing on page 66 is a note written to publisher Robert Ballou, one of several from:

A visit will certainly be in order after this seriously most awesome discovery. No “one of” or “perhaps” about it.

UPDATE (5:39 a.m.): Oh my goodness — a personal connection! Correspondence included in Steinbeck: A Life in Letters shows that for a time in 1930 he lived at 2741 El Roble Drive in Eagle Rock, which was on my route back when I worked for Sparkletts. In fact, if memory serves from checking out the Google Street view image of the house, the occupant at the time was a customer of mine!

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