history


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.

At long last, reunited.

After posting yesterday about the long-missing vintage watch rather accidentally found as a result of a plush toy rescue, I brought out its matching partner for a reunion and then did a little e-digging to find out more details about the dynamic duo.

To accomplish that I had to remove the mechanisms from the cases in order to get at the identifying numbers, and I managed to do so without damaging the delicate devices.

A most intriguing part of that was getting closer looks at the engravings on the insides of the cases — not just the maker’s stamp, but if you look closer there are several others appearing to be hand-etched either indicating the various craftspeople involved in the building of the watch and/or any repairpersons who serviced it.

Inside the King case.
Inside the Queen case.

I learned via Pocket Watch Repair Dot Com (http://www.pocketwatchrepair.com/histories/longines.php) that the watches’ serial numbers corresponded with a manufacture approximately in 1951.

From Vintage Watch Resources

Then from Vintage Watch Resources Dot Com (https://vintagewatchresources.com/longiness-year-identifier/) I found that the model closest resembling mine was called “King” with the smaller version called “Queen.”

The primary difference in the King model shown (at right) on that website is the chessboard pattern of the face whereas the faces of mine are both monochromatic. I suppose that may be due either to a different model year or possibly to fading over time, but the latter seems unlikely. I’ve been familiar with these watches since the late ’80s so if any such change occurred it was well prior to that, and I’m pretty sure my stepdad kept these watches stored and not exposed to any elements that would cause such a change.

Of note Vintage Watch Resources lists the watch’s original price as $405. In 2020 dollars that equates roughly to $4,020. Cha-ching!

Until yesterday, when this image rather randomly popped up on my Facebook feed from a group I follow, I’d made countless unsuccessful attempts to find any photographs of a place I worked during my junior and senior year in high school that was so near and dear to me: Hunter’s Books.

Situated on the southwest corner of Rodeo Drive and Little Santa Monica, my history with the place is one filled with fond memories and a fair share of intrigue, which one day I may go into in far greater detail. How I got my job there as a stock clerk itself involved a bit of stealth. I was sitting in chemistry class awaiting the arrival of one Mr. Thorpe, who I despised. I overheard a fellow student by the name of Marc Sugarman talking to another about a job for which he was supposed to apply at some bookstore on Rodeo. He said it was a done deal, all he had to do was show up and the gig was his — but he wasn’t really feeling it.

Since I was definitely in need of gainful employment at that time, as soon as school let out, I hustled on over and met with the stock manager, Barry, a short middle-aged guy with a gray goatee and spectacles. I told him I heard there was a job available, and he made some comment about me not being who he was expecting, meaning Marc. I feigned having no idea what he was talking about and boom, I was hired, wherein I joined a ragtag crew of underground characters who worked primarily in the basement or back. There was Reggie, the loveable short black frenetic homosexual who was in charge of shipping and receiving. There was the middle-aged and also gay Arthur with his huge mustache and his Joseph A. Bank wardrobe in charge of returns. There was Wiley, a tall quiet black man of a certain menace who primarily assisted Arthur and who almost always had some white gunk in the corners of his mouth and never had much to say. And stock clerk  Manual, the aspiring guitarist philospher , with his giant afro, his snide laugh and his coolness. Rounding things out was Dennis, an actor, whose receding hairline tormented him enough to seek out the Bosley Medical Group’s that left him with a line of hair plugs circumnavigating his forehead like a picket fence. Upstairs the sales floor was dominated by Susanna, an elderly German frau never without a scowl and menthol cigarette dangling from her lips. Her assistant was Margaret, a lovely young black woman who had a thing for James Dean. Last but not least was Larry, the boss of us all, who ruled from his roost up on the third floor.

Like I said, I have plenty of stories about this place, but I’ll save them for later. In the meantime I’m just thrilled that this photo materialized.

As a San Fernando Valley resident at the time and far removed from the greater LA basin, it’s rather ironic how I came to experience what I did on April 29, 1992, and where; roughly a 4.5 mile straight line to the riot’s epicenter at Florence and Normandie. I was a student at Pierce College in Woodland Hills at the time and a photography class assignment to illustrate the theme of “Man’s Impact On His Environment” (speaking of ironic) was coming due. On the early afternoon of April 29 I got on my motorcycle from my home in Sherman Oaks and rode to Baldwin Hills with the idea of photographing the oil derricks pumping there along the hills and ridge lines. Dissatisfied with the compositions I found I ended up at serene oasis that is nearby Kenneth Hahn State Recreational Area at one of the horseshoe pits, taking set-up shots of my shoe print and a crushed flower in the dirt.

 

While I was doing this a woman came over, sat on the backstop of the pit and watched me for a few moments until she finally asked me if I’d “heard the news?” I stopped and shook my head. “They were found not guilty,” she said and I knew instantly she was referring to the officers on trial for the beating of Rodney King. I expressed my incredulity and then promptly went back to taking pictures of my shoe print. She waited a few more moments before standing up. “I don’t think you understand,” she said, and I looked back up at her. “I’m getting out of here.” I stared blankly. “And I’m black,” she finished, and started walking purposefully toward the parking lot.

Finally and fully I comprehended what she was trying to get through my thick white head, and when I did I offered up an emphatic “Thank you!” wished her good luck and wasted not another second getting back to my motorcycle at which time a pick-up truck drove slowly past me, stopping a few spaces down. In the cab were two young black men with two more riding in the bed and all were staring at me with a fury the likes of which I will never forget. There was no mistaking their rage and that it was focused directly at me and the color of my skin. Fortunately — no: miraculously — parked farther down past them at the end of the lot was a black-and-white — not LAPD but rather a “Safety” police vehicle, whatever that meant. I couldn’t see if there was an officer inside, but its presence made the four men hesitate enough looking from it back to me and back to it to give me enough time to get my helmet on and my motorcycle started and like a bat outta hell I was northbound on La Cienega and gunning the throttle.

By the time I got to the bottom of the hill, the Fedco at Rodeo and La Cienega (now it’s a Target) was already on fire and being looted, and I split the gridlocked lanes between cars many of whose drivers looked terrified stuck there in the gridlock as if a tsumani was bearing toward them from the rear and they had no escape.

When I got home to the relative calm of the valley I turned on the television and the Los Angeles I had earlier been in the middle of had turned into a living burning hell. I locked the doors, loaded the gun, and stayed glued to the newscasts broadcasting the horror and the heartbreak of a city seemingly hell bent on burning itself down.

I watched the endless replays of the attack on Reginald Denny, and who’s to say what might have happened to me if that woman hadn’t warned me or that police vehicle hadn’t been there, but I’m thankful either way I didn’t have to find out.

Days later after the chaos had been quelled and a certain order had been restored, I was in the dark room at Pierce College developing images from those few frames I snapped for the photo class assignment (I believe I got a C grade for the passable quality of the photos as shown with comments that I took the assignment too literally), and it dawned on me that the image’s subject matter was something I could have easily recreated in the comparative safety of my own backyard instead of in the midst of the waves of rioting that flooded the city.

In the months of 1989 leading up to the birth of my daughter things were not at all great financially or emotionally, but at the time we had a relatively sweet deal managing the 20-unit Van Nuys apartment building in which we were living in exchange for free rent on the two-bedroom we occupied.

Not long after she was born in September of that year it was decided that we would relocate to manage a building in Burbank, almost triple the number of units at only about half-off the rent, in part because a friend of my then-wife’s lived in the building and encouraged her to take the opportunity. There were pluses: it was in a better neighborhood; a newer building with nicer amenities. But in the end it increased the stretch on our finances and our already rocky relationship to the breaking point and I ended up moving out in January of 1990.

After all this time, my biggest regret of that whole inevitable failure as a man and a husband and a father? Leaving behind the stereo I’d inherited from my mother when I moved out on my own in 1985. Mind you, it was nothing fancy. Made by Admiral, it was called the Solid State Sterophonic High-Fidelty system, and without getting too overly sentimental, it played aaaaaall the music across the first 21 years of my life. Barbra Streisand, Carole King, Nat King Cole, Henry Mancini, Rossini, Tchaikovsky, Beethoven, Mendelsohn, Dvorak, Fleetwood Mac, Vicki Sue Robinson, The Beatles, The Who, the Rolling Stones, Pink Floyd, Frank Sinatra, Louis Armstrong, countless Broadway soundtracks, Louis Prima, Kansas, Journey, Queen, and on and on and on.

What happened was I had at some point in my early independence I upgraded to a Marantz system and thus unceremoniously relegated my mom’s to the garage storage compartment where it sat throughout the duration of meeting my future ex-wife, moving in with her, getting married, getting pregnant, et cetera. Then when it came time for that move to Burbank, I couldn’t find the key to the storage compartment’s lock and just said to hell with it and left it behind.

Compounded by my mom’s disappointment that I didn’t bring it back to her when I quit using it, my abandonment of it has bothered me ever since, up to and including this past weekend, when it disturbed me that we didn’t have a functioning phonograph with which to play my Nat King Cole Christmas album this season. That in turn triggered the thought of the number of Christmases it spun on the able Admiral and so of course in this day and age I googled “Admiral High-Fidelty Stereo System,” and wouldn’t you know? BOOM. In full jaw-drop, I found one available on eBay, looking pretty much in a similar well-worn condition that my mom’s was when I banished it to the garage:

s-l1600

It should be no surprise seeing that picture auto-triggered some verklemptification.

According to the Indiana seller’s description everything works but the record player, which is in need of a needle. The asking price is a prohibitive $329.99, especially considering I ordered a suitcase style self-contained stereo phonograph from Wayfair for $70 that should arrive by Friday.

But I’d be a liar if I denied putting this old lady on my Watchlist. And you really shouldn’t be too surprised if I end up putting in a low ball offer as we get near the end of the 27 days left at auction.

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.

Oh no: not that Tara. I’m talking about the famed fictional plantation manse from a little film back in the day whose name coincidentally rhymes with the last name of the film’s central character — O’Hara, as in Scarlett. As in “Gone With The Wind,” or GWTW, if you will.
 Yeah, that Tara.

F6C958BBF538394F1E5FF56102D9B0F4
Let me back up. I ravenously follow the Photos of Los Angeles group on Facebook, gobbling up its never-ending parade of pictures of L.A.’s distant and not-so-distant past. A few days ago this photo (at right, click to enlargify), was posted of a still from an episode of the 1950s TV series “SupermClark! Behind You!an,” showing its star, George Reeves (who coincidentally had a part in GWTW) in full Clark Kent mode, on a hill back-dropped by a broad swath of our smog-inundated city. The poster, Sally Deupree, asked, “Culver City. Recognize the building in the lower left with four columns?”

I immediately recognized it as Tara, which meant Reeves was standing hat in hand on what is now a section of the Baldwin Hills Scenic Overlook State Park — which meant beyond him was Jefferson Boulevard, then the Ballona Creek channel and then the old Pathe Studio backlot, where so many of the exterior scenes of GWTW were realized.

In an attempt to get a past/present frame of reference (I last did that with the location of Wrigley Field’s homeplate in South Los Angeles), I went on a googlehunt for a layout of the old studio, and hit gold at the 40 Acres website with this 1940 map (click to enlargify) pinpointing the various GWTW sets on the Pathe Studio backlot, with Tara’s position indicated there on the left.

40acres_plot_plan_1940

Then, of course, for a present-day juxtaposition I google-mapped the location (click to enlargify):
current
Which means basically that at the deadend of Hayden Place south of Higuera Street, somewhere around the current location of Woo Agency and Omelet you can stand on the paved-over land upon which Tara once stood, not to forget Vivien Leigh, Clark Gable, and, yes, George Reeves. Cue the sweeping overture that is “Tara’s Theme”:

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