Skylab launched in May 1973 and 6 years later NASA announced the space station was reentering earth’s orbit, but they had no idea where.
The sky was gonna fall on us. Paranoia reigned. T-shirt were printed. I was at summer camp in Northern Wisconsin; a three hours drive from mom and dad and I missed my bedroom and baseball cards.
We all knew the odds of a human being getting struck by skylab debris was like 1 in 600 billion, but we also knew about people buying lottery tickets. The anticipation and sweat felt the same.
I don’t think I ever stopped dwelling on the end of the world and my own disintegration. I just toned the fears down or my survival instinct shoved them into a far away file called subconscious. They escaped when I got sunburned and my skin peeled and I refused to take a bath. I was afraid of being sucked down the drain.
Seems stupid now especially since I was willing to let some stranger stand behind me with two knives criss-crossed together and chop chop chop cut my hair. But he did give my brother and I Bazooka Joe bubble gum and there was more good news.
People were struck by lightning and didn’t die. Holy cow! Amazing. I guess it had to be the perfect amount of voltage shooting down from the sky but a right-brained person could turn into a left brained one; a baritone into a soprano, a Duane Kuiper into a Ralph Kiner?
I watched Kuiper in action the other day; thanks to the you tube/mlb agreement signed a few years ago; liberating games from MLB locked vaults; full games-original broadcasts.
It was a long overdue paradise; but an old fear emerged and slowly crystallized into an irrational certainty. A copyright glitch or government takeover or a nuclear bomb was gonna tear down this Alexandria library of baseball games. I had no choice. I went Al Capone on my separation anxiety.
I downloaded over 100 baseball games, especially regular season ones that turn out to never be regular and so there was and is and always will be Wrigley Field in early May, 1984.
Duane Kuiper and his 1 career home run in over 3,000 at bats pinch-hitting for Giants pitcher Matt Williams in the top of the 6th. Cubs announcer Harry Caray mentions something about the wind and right on cue, the camera flashes to the Ernie Banks retired number 14 flag waving atop the left field flag pole and Harry goes silent for a second and Kuiper grounds out to shortstop.
Bill Veeck is at the game; sitting in the center field bleachers of course; with the people and Harry reminds us that he’ll be broadcasting games from there when the summer sun arrives.
Harry’s color man sidekick during the 4th-5th-6th is Milo Hamilton and he remembers. He points out that Cubs manager Jim Frey’s wad of chew is in the Danny Murtaugh class of Tobacco pouches stuffed in one human mouth. The paid attendance is 4,625 but rounded up to 4,861 with the walk ups.
Leon Bull Durham is going for his 7th homer in as many games. He doesn’t hit one but Bob Brenly does and Ron Cey hits a grand slam for the Cubs. The wind is blowing out. Jeffrey Hack Man Leonard does not play.
Dutch Rennert is the home plate umpire and that deserves its own line.
He calls balls and strikes with vaudeville enthusiasm; turning 90 degrees with hop and giddy up; takes a massive inhale while screaming Strike and during the exhale lowers to the ground; arm on knee pointing towards the dugout and screaming 1 or 2 depending on the count and if it’s the third strike, take cover; fireworks finale; the arm comes down like a sledgehammer at a county fair high striker strongman game.
The Cubs won 11-10 and I feel incredibly refreshed; more like a time machine than nostalgia.