Friday, August 01, 2014

The Greatest of All Games


Vin Scully once said that his thermometer for his baseball fever is a goose bump.  If that is true, my youngest son and I had a really high fever this past weekend in Cooperstown at the Baseball Hall of Fame Induction Weekend.

When I was growing up in the early sixties in Reynolds GA,  baseball was the only game I knew.  Basketball would come later and I would spend much more time playing that game later – but at the beginning – it was baseball.

It was truly the only game in town.  We were fortunate that a group of parents thought enough about the kids in the community to organize a league.  There was no such thing as a recreation department.  The parents organized it.  The local business owners and farmers financed it.  And off we went playing baseball.

We learned the game of baseball.  We learned about catching fly balls and ground balls.  We learned how to bunt and when to hit and run.  We learned to pitch and when to take a pitch when the pitcher was behind in the count. 

In the process, we learned a lot about life. We learned the importance of investing in kids.  We learned how to listen and how to be coachable.  We learned what it was like to be overwhelmed.  We learned about the thrill of victory and the agony of defeat. 

Real lessons.  Important lessons.  Life lessons.

On Saturday afternoon, it was the Game of the Week on television with Dizzy Dean and Pee Wee Reese.   The Yankees were on  TV every Saturday I think.  Our heroes were guys by the name of Mantle, Maris, Berra, Kaline, Koufax,  Banks, Mays, Aaron, Ford … and the list goes on.

We traded baseball cards.  Actually we were serious about trading baseball cards.  Some players were “hard to get” and others were seemingly in every package.  Because we read the back of the cards, we knew about almost every player in the league.  We knew their batting averages, homerun totals, RBI totals and, if a pitcher – his earned run average and number of wins and losses.

The image of each player was permanently inscribed in our heads …. and in our hearts. And we can still see those images that were on those cards today.

I have always had respect and love for the game of baseball.  Maybe it’s because it connects me to a wonderful childhood.

This past weekend, Luke and I did a lot of talking about baseball.  Almost every display we saw and every old timer we met brought back a flood of memories that I had not thought about in years.  I constantly shared my memories with my son.  We met Maury Wills and I explained he was the first player to steal 100 bases in a season.  I hadn’t thought about Denny McClain in years but was able to quickly remember he was the last pitcher to win 30 games in a season.  And I explained to Luke that I saw Pete Rose play at Luther Williams Field in Macon, GA with my grandfather when I was about 8 years old.  And the stories went on and on all weekend.

And so did my connection to my past.  And to my son.   The game of baseball has a way of taking you back and connecting dots... and daddys and sons.

Luke said an interesting thing to me when we were on the plane returning to Atlanta.  He said thoughtfully, “I went to Cooperstown a Braves fan.  I’m leaving a baseball fan.”

Hopefully one day Luke will be able to take his son to Cooperstown.  Luke will be able to relay some of the baseball stories to Hines that he heard this weekend.  And maybe he will even be able to create some mental pictures for Hines of an unforgettable trip he and his dad took in the summer of 2014.

Baseball is the greatest of all games.

Roger Hornsby said it best:  People ask me what I do in winter when there's no baseball.  I'll tell you what I do. I stare out the window and wait for spring. 

Check out this 12 minute video of our unforgettable weekend.


 



Thursday, March 13, 2014

The Legend of the Hippo Brothers


If you look up the word “legend” in a dictionary you will read these words: “A nonhistorical or unverifiable story handed down by tradition from earlier times and popularly accepted as historical.”

In simple terms it means that a legend may be true or may not be true but everyone happily accepts it as truth anyway. 

But we all feel better because we do.

L-R Jimmy Childre,Jr, Big Will, Ruth Jones (our 6th grade teacher)
and me. Picture taken in 2012
My lifelong friend, Will Crawley, died this morning.  There will be a noticeable increase in tall tales told in the next days and weeks about Big Will and his twin brother Mike, many of them nonhistorical and unverifiable. They are stories in which the legends were made but stories that we who loved them desperately need to hear. And stories that will somehow make us all feel better.

I was born less than a month before Big Will in the fall of 1954.  We grew up on Macon Street in Reynolds, Ga.   In the fall of 1959, I attended Kindergarten at Mrs. Crawley’s Kindergarten.  Thad and Mary Louise Crawley built a small Kindergarten building on their property, across the street from the Methodist Church.  It was at that very young age and in that little Kindergarten building that my first memories were made of the Crawley twins who always stood out from the other kids. After all, they looked exactly alike and always dressed exactly alike. 

And they were bigger than everybody else.

The next year we started the first grade together just a block over at Reynolds Elementary School.  There were two first grade teachers that year - Mrs. Ogburn and Mrs. Verna.  We had Mrs. Verna. For the next eight years we had every class together, attended Sunday school together, attended church together and eventually MYF (Methodist Youth Fellowship). We even sang (if you call that singing) in the children and youth choirs together. And there were more than a few birthday parties in the backyards of friend’s parents along the way. 

I remember standing behind the gymnasium at school one day after we had begun to learn about the birds and the bees.  I vividly remember Big Will being really bothered by what we were saying.  His comment I never forgot was, “There is no way my mama and daddy do that!”

After those eight years, we went to high school together. In May 1972, we graduated from high school together.

 After high school, we went our separate ways to different colleges to further our education but we always stayed in touch. 

It was during those years that the legend began to grow. The Hippo brothers they were called – although for some reason I never called them that.   Big Hip (Mike) and Little Hip (Will) became known throughout the state for their many and wild escapades. Friendships increased exponentially. Some knew them in person.  Some knew only by reputation.  For several years they hosted an annual Hippo birthday bash in October.  People came from all around to be entertained by the Hippo brothers. The stories that came from those parties are now accepted as historical but some are thankfully unverifiable.

I remember introducing them to my fraternity brothers at the University of Georgia.  It was homecoming and since I was a freshman and a pledge, I was part of the group that had to build our homecoming float that was displayed at the fraternity house on the front lawn.  It would also be our job to tear the huge display down after the homecoming festivities were over.  Late that Saturday night, the Crawley twins appeared at my fraternity house and quickly made friends with everyone there.  Next thing I know, they tackled the Homecoming display and took it completely down to the astonishment and loud applause of my pledge class and other brothers looking on.  Admittedly, a little alcohol was involved that night.

The story of them getting banned for life from a certain “all you can eat” catfish restaurant has been told many times.  One sat at the table while the other went to the restroom.  After a few plates of fish, they would swap out.  After more than a few visits, the manager finally caught up with them.

As they grew in years, they begin to settle down as most of us do.  Big Mike became well known and respected as a paramedic and Registered Nurse.  Big Will owned a landscaping business. 

Then trouble came.

Big Will's liver began to fail.   Many of us watched and were inspired as the brother Mike looked after the brother Will.  Through Big Mike’s connections in the medical world, he was instrumental in getting Will on the transplant list and eventually getting him a new liver and a new life. 

During that very difficult time and illness and thinking his time was at hand, a very sick Will begin to look deep inside himself and made peace with the God of his youth.  Mike saw Will’s renewed faith and the same transformation took place in him.  Everything changed for both of them after that.  They now looked at life through different lenses.

Incredibly, Will’s life was saved when he was literally given a new life after the transplant.  Ironically, Big Mike, the new man with the new faith became sick and died of liver cancer.

Mike saved Will’s life in getting Will a new liver.   But in doing so, Will just might have saved Mike’s life for all eternity. 

For the past seven years, Will has existed on earth without his best friend and twin brother. Since Mike’s death, Big Will admirably went back to school and received a couple of degrees, including a Masters in Public Health. But the truth is, when Big Mike died half of Will died with him.

Their older brother, Charlie, has been looking after Will since his stroke in December and making sure all his needs were met.  Big Will gave Charlie very little guidance in preparation for his death.

He told him only two things:  He wanted to be cremated. And he wanted to be buried next to his twin brother.

For those of us who knew Big Will so well, we are certainly saddened at the news of his death.   But at the same time we are smiling because the Hippo brothers are together again. 

On earth as it is in heaven.

But make no mistake; the legend of the Hippo brothers has only just begun.

Sunday, December 30, 2012

Simply a Gift

Randy and Paula Jacoby moved to Reynolds, GA in 1993 when Randy became Pastor of the First Baptist Church of Reynolds.  The next year they became the proud parents of two beautiful little twin girls – Ahnna and Abigail.  Although the family left Reynolds in 1999 when Randy accepted the call at First Baptist Church of Folkston, GA – I have stayed in touch through the years.   I just have a thing for remarkable families – and this family is definitely one of the remarkable ones.

A few years ago, the Jacoby’s adopted a little girl from China.   Addie is now a huge part of this family and because of the magic of Facebook, I have watched her grow with this family.    I have also thought many times as to where Addie would be if not for Randy, Paula, Ahnna and Abigail.   They gave this little girl a wonderful life.  They forever changed her present and her future.

Today the entire family  (including Addie) is back in China.  For certain, they are not taking Addie back. But they traveled during the holidays to bring back another little girl with them.   I have been following them the last few days from Jacksonville to Detroit to China and watched as they did a little sightseeing.  This morning I saw pictures for the first time of little Mia, who is the latest addition to this amazing family.

In looking at the pictures, maybe Mia looks just a little scared.  This little girl has no idea what is in store for her.   The truth is, just as it was for Addie, her present and future has been forever changed.  She will be loved unconditionally and all her needs will be forever met - beyond what she can even imagine.   She doesn’t know all that yet but from our perspective, it is very easy to see.

Her life will not be perfect.  She will laugh much but she will also cry along the journey.  Like the rest of us, she will experience disappointments and bumps in the road along the way.  She will experience illness from time to time and even separation from people she loves as time goes on.  But there is no way she could ever compare her new life to what her old life might have been.  And she did nothing to earn her new life.  It is simply a gift.

And that, my friends, is not only the story of Mia Jacoby but it is the message of the Bible.

Thanks to the Jacoby family for reminding me of that as we begin a brand new year.  Our present and our future have been forever changed.  We didn't earn it or deserve it.  It is simply a gift.

Saturday, May 19, 2012

Go Get 'em Girl

We asked for it.

In fact, we raised our hand and willingly volunteered. “Nothing to it,” we said. We had done it three times before.

This time, it actually happened at a local BBQ restaurant. We knew the teenage waitress and her family through our church. We knew her mom and step dad were moving to Florida and we knew the girl would soon begin her senior year here. We also knew all were trying to figure out a way for the girl to stay here and not disrupt her senior year in high school.

We asked her a few questions while she was taking our order. While the ribs were being prepared, my wife and I talked. By the time she brought the food to the table, we popped the question. "Why don’t you live with us this year,” I think is how the question was asked.

Long story short, she did. Kylee Gallavan moved in with us in June 2011. A week from today, she graduates from high school. The following Monday the gig is over. Kylee will move to Florida for the summer and then on to college.

To say the year has been eventful would be an understatement. We are not as young as we once were. There have been some great times for sure. I don’t think Kathy and I would have ever gone to a Taylor Swift concert, if it weren’t for Kylee living with us. What a blast we had that night! We have met a lot of great teenagers that have been in and out of the house this year, causing us to have a new faith in the next generation that will be taking over when folks like us fade away. And the great memories go on and on.

But there have also been a few of what the Bible calls, “trials and tribulations,” along the way. There have been boyfriends and break-ups , long talks about life and the future and shorter normal teenager talks about cleaning your room and getting out of bed. There has been cozy love and there has been tough love. She’s seen us at our best and she has seen us at our worst. And we have had the same opportunity.

Our goal was a simple one. We strongly believe the greatest investments in life have nothing to do with money. We simply chose to invest a year of our lives in Kylee. As in all long term investments, potential dividends will come later.

Our prayer as she leaves is also a simple one. That she would know more and more as she lives out her life how high and wide and long and deep is the love of God.

I put this little slideshow together as a parting gift to Kylee.

We love you Kylee and wish you the very best life has to offer. Go get 'em girl.


Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Conversation Pieces

Sitting rather conspicuously on a bookshelf in our den is a large, brown bottle of salicylic acid. Next to it is a very old bottle of Davis rubbing alcohol. I’ll admit my wife looked at me warily a couple weeks ago as she watched me place them carefully on the shelf.

“What in the world is that?”

I think those are the words she used.

“Conversation pieces,” was my reply.

For the record, I did a little research on salicylic acid tonight. This is what I discovered:

“Topically, salicylic acid is capable of penetrating and breaking-down fats and lipids, making it capable of causing moderate chemical burns of the skin if at very high concentrations (such as near or actually the majority ingredient) within a solvent. It is capable of damaging the lining of pores in such cases if the solvent is alcohol. Caution should be exercised when handling large volumes of salicylic acid, and protective gloves are recommended for any repeat, prolonged exposure.”

The point being if you mix salicylic acid with rubbing alcohol, you have some rather potent stuff. Protective gloves would be very appropriate.


I ran into Leonard Whatley recently and he told me he had something he wanted me to have. I followed my retired Reynolds GA pharmacist friend out to his car expecting a chocolate cake or maybe even one of my dad’s old hats. Instead he showed me a couple of antique bottles. As soon as I saw them I laughed. I remembered a story he told me years ago that I have told hundreds of times all over the country.

In the late 1950’s, our family friend Sid got a bad case of the itch. The technical term for the itch is tinea cruris. For our purposes, it’s the kind of itch you are not supposed to talk about in public. Sid drove into town to Clay Whatley’s drug store (Leonard would later purchase the store from his Uncle Clay) and with a worried expression on his face told Clay, “I’ve got a terrible case of the itch. I can’t sleep at night and I’m keeping Eula Maude up at night too.”

Clay calmly walked in the back of the store and mixed up a concoction of salicylic acid and rubbing alcohol.

Actually he mixed the concoction from the very bottles that are now sitting on our bookcase.

But Clay had some words of warning as he handed it over: “Sid this stuff is hot. What you need to do is go home and fill your bathtub up with cool water. Right before you sit in the tub, you just dab a little of this on you. Sid, a little dab will do you. It won’t take much.”

Sid drove home, went straight to his bathroom and filled his tub with cool water. Right before he sat in the tub he dabbed a little on him. He stood there a moment and thought, if a little bit of this stuff will work I believe the whole bottle will work much better. He emptied the whole bottle and rubbed it in.

He sat in the tub and in just a few minutes, he yelled at his wife, “Eula Maude!!”

Eula Maude came to the bathroom door and asked him what he wanted.

“Go get the car!” Sid quickly yelled back.

“Sid, are you in the bathtub?”

“Eula Maude, for one time in your life, please do what I’m asking you to do. Go outside, get in the car and drive it to the back door. When you get there, honk the horn.”

Eula Maude quietly went outside, got in the car, drove it to the back door and honked the horn.

Sid jumped out of the tub, ran outside buck naked, jumped on the hood of the car, pulled his legs back and yelled, “Drive woman drive!”

And now every time someone sees the two antique bottles on our bookcase, I get to tell this story.

Conversation pieces.

Monday, April 09, 2012

If You Have a Swing You Have a Shot

The man nobody thought could win made one of the most incredible and creative shots in Masters Tournament history to win the coveted Green Jacket yesterday at Augusta National Golf Club.


I’m not sure how it played out in other living rooms across the United States, but in my living room it was about as fun as it gets. There was yelling, laughing and a few high fives flying as we cheered him on.

Bubba Watson won the Masters. And the game of golf just moved to the next level.

Bubba Golf, it’s called.

In a world of professional golf where most player’s swings are analyzed by expert “swing coaches” from every angle by all the latest technology known to man, Bubba Watson has never had a golf lesson in his life. He has no coach and has never asked anyone to analyze his golf swing on a video or computer.

He just goes out on the course with an enormous amount of raw talent, takes a huge swing and has a lot of fun.

I discovered several months ago when I started following him on Twitter, that there is much more to Bubba Watson than the game of golf though. His faith oozes out of him like honey out of the comb. He will tell you quickly that the game of golf is the fourth item on his priority list. His list, by the way, goes like this: Christian, Husband, Daddy and Golfer.

In that order.

Bubba Watson’s stage suddenly got much larger yesterday as he joined the ranks of other famous Christian athletes like Kurt Warner, Jeremy Lin and a guy by the name of Tim Tebow. I happen to think it’s kinda cool.

Actually I think it is really cool.

I learned yesterday that Bubba and his caddy have a saying they use quite often on the golf course. Quite often because his free-swinging ways cause him to end up in places other golfers with the technical swings never find themselves.

The caddy reminded him of that saying yesterday during the second hole of the sudden death playoff after Bubba hit a big hook in the trees on historically the toughest hole at Augusta National.

“If you have a swing, you have a shot.”

I think I just got the title to my next book.

No telling how many folks I encounter that immediately hang their heads and throw in the towel when their ball is in the woods in the game of life.

The “ball in the woods” in life comes in the form of such things as layoffs, illnesses, death of loved ones, financial crisis, depression and loneliness.

I know there are rare times when the ball is directly behind a tree and you really have no shot. In those cases you take your losses and you move on. But in the majority of cases, you still have a swing.

And if you do, you have a shot.

Visualize it, trust your instincts and keep swinging. And don't be surprised at all the energy you get from the folks around you that will sincerely cheer you on.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

The Dog Poo of Life


Bubbles Mountain, located in Acadia National Forest in Maine, is 872 feet tall and is for most folks an easy hike to get to the top. But for me at least - it did take some effort.

I was told it would take 20 minutes to get to the top. That was probably close to being accurate. The goal was to hike to the top and enjoy the spectacular view and to discover the mountain top experience.

There were six of us that climbed the mountain. The trail was rocky and a little treacherous and for much of the way we had to go in single file. Treacherous in that some of the path was straight up and a fellow my age could easily sprain an ankle or break a leg or even a neck. The people with me were in the same boat.


But we reached our goal, the top of the mountain. It was definitely a gorgeous sight and there was at bit of accomplishment that we all made it up in spite of the obstacles. The mountain top experience was real but it was temporary. We spent a few minutes looking around and taking pictures and then it was time to head back down the mountain which was someone easier than the trip up.

Just as the end was in sight and our little excursion was almost done and we were walking out of woods - a not so funny thing happened.

I stepped in a big pile of dog poo. That could only happen to me.

I made an attempt to scrape it off my shoes before I joined my five companions in our vehicle but the shoes were not dog poo friendly. The treads were new and deep and dog poo was in every tread. And the odor I brought with me was not appreciated by the other folks in the car.

I finally got back to the hotel and tried to clean the shoes. I got most of it out of the not so dog poo friendly shoes but not all of it. A little bit of dog poo goes a long way - so I put the shoes in a bag and sealed it up. A couple of nights later I got the equipment I needed to clean the shoes and I was back in service with my not so dog poo friendly Nike’s.

Now to the point.


Life is an incredible journey. The mountain top experiences are wonderful but the prize is always in the journey. Sometimes there is dog poo in our path. We surely want to avoid it if possible but sometimes we just step in it. We are negatively affected and the people around us are negatively affected. And it can take some time to get over it.

The choice we have is to not let the dog poo of life rob us from the beauty of the journey.

It is definitely a choice we make.