Sunday, October 5, 2008

Random Baseball Trivia I Don't Expect to Find

How amazing is this game?

I was in Vermont over the weekend to attend a cousin's wedding--hence the lack of updates.

I had never before been to Vermont, and for a city kid, the fall colors are striking. Everywhere you look it seems like a suitable place for a photograph. There are yellows and oranges and reds in New York this time of year, sure, but it doesn't compare. The colors in Vermont are brighter, fuller, more though someone has used a paint brush to accent each and every tree leaf.

I had never before been somewhere where the local news on the radio advises citizens that the year's firewood is too green for use, and that if there is anyone with spare firewood, to please donate it.

So I was there with the family, downstairs in the hotel/motel bar, drinking and catching up with people I see at weddings and bar mitzvahs but not really anywhere else, and eventually we start talking about baseball.

I'm not sure how the conversation arises, but it does, and someone--maybe me, I don't remember--mentions something about the Rays and the White Sox playing, so the hotel clerk/bartender, who sports a Rollie Fingers-like mustache, turns the TV on and mentions that he prefers the Red Sox.

So, of course, I start talking, and he starts talking. The rest of the gathered family moves upstairs, but I remain there for just that extra minute because I can't refuse a baseball conversation--even if it involves the Red Sox.

The man, whose name I don't know, imparts a nugget of knowledge--an answer to a trivia question, perhaps--something inconsequential to probably everyone else in the motel except for him and me. Him, because it involves his family, and me, because, well, I live for such things.

He says that his grandfather, the first name I can't remember, but the surname being Pope, played for the Yankees.

He was a pitcher in the days before relief pitching--a utility pitcher, they were called.

You won't find him in any of the books, and baseball-reference has nothing on him, because back then, in the days between the end of World War I and the beginning of Yankee Stadium (the Original), they didn't keep stats for relievers.

It's not surprising that baseball can reach rural Vermont--in fact, I'd expect it. This is, after all, not unlike the town of Cooperstown.

Still, baseball is timeless here.

The man's grandfather retired and set up a butcher's shop, or so I am told, and if not for the memories, he is lost to the world.

I'm not sure if I'm struck more by the power of the game or the power of the memory, but it's a moment I won't forget.

I can't.


  1. Nice post, I like that story. I noticed that a lot on WFAN and 1050 during the last week of the Stadium - people would reminisce and thought they had details wrong or mixed up and maybe exaggerated, the essence of the memory was true and the hosts would normally just let them go ahead and express their feelings.

  2. According to the Yankee media guide, there were no players named Pope. Maybe he was a farm hand who never made it to the big club.

  3. t: This is very possible. I was unable to find the pitcher on baseball reference or baseball almanac.

    So either I was being lied to, or, as you say, the guy never made it big.

    I sincerely hope it's the latter =)