Say Hey, old guys, and a Fallen Hero

Shots in the Darke

One of the greatest baseball players of all time rounded third for the final time last week with the passing of 93-year-old Willie Mays. The Giants center fielder (first in New York and later in  San Francisco) spent 22 seasons in the majors, thrilling fans with his grace, speed, and dazzling skill in every aspect of the game: hitting, baserunning, fielding, and throwing out runners with a howitzer of an arm. His career record of 3,293 hits, 660 home runs, 12 Golden  Gloves, and 24 All-Star games (remember that for a few years, there were two games per year)  will forever make him a legend of the diamond. And he missed two years while serving in the  Army during the years of the Korean War! 

When I was a kid growing up, he was one of my favorite players, along with Al Kaline, Ted Williams, Ernie Banks, Vada Pinson, Frank Robinson, Stan Musial, and Sandy Koufax, among others. The “Say Hey Kid” was a true ambassador for the game even after retiring and received the Presidential Medal of Honor in 2015.  

At age 41, he was traded to the Mets and had two undistinguished seasons, becoming an example of a once graceful athlete who played beyond his expiration date. Like in other professions as evidenced recently, sometimes, as Kenny Rogers sang, “you have to know when to hold ‘em, know when to fold ‘em”. You still can’t take away the greatness that was number 24!! 

With the conclusion of the NBA and NHL playoffs (how about those Florida Panthers winning game seven of the Stanley Cup, extending the string of non-Canadian teams not claiming the Cup since 1993), the sports world enters a slow spot on the calendar as far as baseball, football, basketball, and hockey are concerned as well as high school and college athletics (okay, okay I’ll give you Tennessee Vols fans a shout out for winning the D-I NCAA  baseball title).  

However, there is still much going on with the Euro Cup and Copa America of soccer, auto racing of various forms, golf, and tennis, not to mention the Olympic Trials for the right to represent Team USA in Paris in a few weeks as we’ve been constantly reminded by NBC, the prime carrier of televised events once again this year.  

Darke County’s veteran runners ran into young guns as ‘16 Olympic Bronze Medalist  Clayton Murphy from Tri-Village came in seventh in the men’s 800-meter final this time around as he got boxed in the final 300 meters and couldn’t find space to make a finishing kick.  Versailles’ Sam Prakel didn’t place in either of the 1,500 and 5,000-meter events, but once again, both athletes made local and area fans proud of their career accomplishments! 

The Trials have made for great viewing, even if you are only interested every four years. Is there anything sadder than seeing the individuals who finish in fourth place in an event to which they have devoted years of training, knowing that only the top three qualify for the trip to  France? Once again the US will field teams which have had outstanding training, support, and facilities to be competitive with the world’s finest. 

From the odds and ends zone:

According to Sherwood News, a post-pandemic record of 265 weddings per day were held in  Las Vegas in April. Chapel packages, like those at the famous A Little White Wedding Chapel,  start from as low as $80 for a “Drive Thru Tunnel of Love Ceremony,” although they can cost as much as $495 for a full “Elvis Tribute” wedding. Ain’t love grand?!? 

I had a great time this past week, spending a few days at Buckeye Lake east of Columbus with my three best friends from high school days. Our theme as we gathered as a group for the first time in many years was “Four 75-Year-Olds Looking for Trouble,” and we found it, or rather, it found us! Cruising along in a pontoon boat we were pulled over in the middle of the lake by a  Sheriff’s Patrol boat—evidently there’s a no-wake zone in mid-lake of which we were unaware  (although the captain in command named Warner does have a “need for speed”). Claiming innocence and looking harmless, we got away with just a verbal warning and were told that if we did it again, they would report us to our wives! 

Kathy and I built one of the new homes at the Brethren Retirement Community a few years ago and truly enjoy the benefits of living there independently. The BRC just opened a new set of bocce courts with all of the trimmings, and the interest in participating in the game is growing rapidly. Bocce is one of the world’s most popular sports, promoting flexibility, strategy, and,  probably most importantly, socialization among all ages. Look it up, it’s easy to understand and play! 

The community has come together here in Greenville and Darke County and has now raised  over $85,000 for the purchase of trees to replace those destroyed in the City Park and the  Cemetery by the May 7th tornado. What a great outpouring of community pride! 

Finally, a great tribute to one of Darke County’s fallen servicemen as the remains of New  Madison’s Harley Alexander were returned home after over 80 years. A large assembly of vehicles escorted Navy Coxswain Alexander through Greenville and on to New Madison June 28th for final internment in a display of patriotism and respect. Alexander’s destroyer, the USS  Glennon, was first damaged after striking a mine on June 8th, 1944 and then sunk by on-shore  German artillery on June 10th, 1944 while supporting the Allied invasion of Nazi-occupied France, resulting in 38 sailors being wounded and 25 reported missing, including Alexander. It wasn’t until March 22nd of this year that a positive identification of his remains were confirmed after exhumation from the Ardennes American Cemetery in France. A fitting welcome home for a veteran who was a part of liberating Europe from the yoke of Nazi tyranny! ‘