…. You all think I do this for the mountain of $$$ I rake in from book and CD sales and public appearances and, yes, that is nice; but, the true joys are the off-beat random e-conversations that are forever springing up like leaks in an old garden hose… This week those reminisces included Jimmy Reese, Gordon Solie and The Famous Linda Vaughn …. A “First Ever” pairing of that trio for sure.
The overt capitalists among you are forever beseeching me to charge to subscribe to this site. One dear reader has even offered to pay just to read my occasional slams at a certain arrogant regional tabloid … except he says my comments are “priceless”. Actually I do “charge” you …. in the form of your contributions to my compost heap of topic subjects.
A word, a name, a bygone game … who knows what will germinate and then bloom forth here as a column for the ages.
Earlier this week I had concurrent conversations with two long time readers about two names from the past. These readers are among the wonderful army of K.O.O.Ks (Keepers Of Odd Knowledge) that visit here. Gawd Luv Ya!
“He roomed with Babe Ruth’s suitcase” was one description of Jimmy Reese. “The acknowledged master of the fungo bat” was another. A special friend of My Friend Paul is another. Jimmy Reese was the last living teammate of Babe Ruth. Jimmy died just a few years ago after a life in the modern era of baseball that was “Little Big Man” in it’s expanse.
As a “rook” with the Yankees, Jimmy was assigned to room with George H. Ruth on the road. However George H. hardly ever occupied his hotel room, choosing instead the nocturnal pleasures of a lengthy list of Baseball Annies in each American League city. Babe’s Falstaffian appetite for feminine companionship meant Jimmy basically roomed with Babe’s suitcase and hardly ever saw The Bambino until they both showed up at the park for the game. Jimmy hoping to pinch hit …. Babe with a hangover and probably a case of the clap.
After his non-Cooperstown worthy playing days, Jimmy stayed in the game for 78 years via steady work as a coach. It was as a coach that he developed a unique skill that ranks among the most enviable in all of sports to K.O.O.Ks such as your not-so-humble scribe. ….. Jimmy Reese became a virtuoso of THE FUNGO BAT.
Surely 99% of you (not named Teena!) know what a fungo bat is. For Teena’s sake, allow me to explain. A fungo bat is a special bat used to hit infield and outfield fielding practice.
Originally it was a regular bat with a shaved flat portion of the barrel that, in the hands of a virtuoso, could cause an orb of horsehide to dip, dive, scoot, spin and spit sunflower seeds into a Dixie cup hiding behind second base. The fungo eventually evolved into its own entity as a long skinny bat with a really skinny handle …. Think Olive Oyl with a knob on one end. Lightweight was essential as a coach might hit 500 grounders and flies to his players in a normal practice.
No one could play a fungo like Jimmy Reese. He could, upon request, toss up a baseball and with his maple Stradivarius cause that ball to do things defying gravity and the laws of nature (not unlike The Famous Linda Vaughan but more about her later). What Willie Mosconi could do with a pool cue, Jimmy could do with a fungo bat.
“They” say if you put a pebble in front of a shortstop, Jimmy could duplicate Bill Virdon’s game-turning bad hop to Tony Kubek’s throat in the 7th game of the 1960 Series. YIKES!
The test for a major league fungo artist is “pop-ups to the catcher”. Jimmy could hit rainmakers, bloopers, left, right, and straight up AT WILL. Try it. Go out to a local ballfield with a bat and ball and try to toss the ball up and hit a pop-up straight up …. Have your son or wife videotape your futile efforts.
My Friend Paul and I spent part of a recent afternoon e-chatting about Jimmy Reese and hitting fungos. It was time very well spent.
I believe it was on my first visit to The Brickyard, yes, I’m sure it was …. About 9-10 years ago for one of the first NASCAR Brickyard 400s. I was set up in a small room on Gasoline Alley and, lucky for me, my next door neighbor was a LEGEND of Auto racing – The Famous Linda Vaughn.
If you consider yourself the slightest racing-ophile you have heard of The Famous Linda Vaughn. You can have the Foyts, Unsers, Andrettis, and Lone Star JRs … I’ll take an afternoon of being in the company of The Famous Linda Vaughn. …. later that day, I met three gals in the Valvoline suite with butts you could bounce a quarter off of … but they weren’t “Famous” like Linda Vaughn.
Some say she was Barney Oldfield’s girlfriend. Maybe she was. Some say she laid the first brick at The Brickyard … or maybe the first bricklayer.
Linda Vaughn was Miss Hurst GoldenShifter and maybe Miss NameEveryAutoPart over the decades. When I met Linda she was reping for Purolator.
I don’t know how to describe Linda Vaughn and do her justice. She is NOT Morganna and she is definitely not “just a bimbo” who might pop up in a toilet stall in Tampa. Was she the inspiration for Tex Schram and Gil Brandt’s Cheerleaders? … no … that’s not Linda either.
For as long as anyone can remember The Famous Linda Vaughn has been in attendance at any auto race that mattered, especially Indy-style racing. And “car shows” … she stopped counting at 1,000 car shows like Bob Goalby stopped counting Pro-Ams.
You’ve heard the term “like a dog chasing a car … what would he do with it if he caught it?” THAT would be Linda Vaughn to every red-blooded American male.
I have no idea how “old” Linda was the day I met her. I’d guess between 55 and four-score. How old is Santa Claus, the Easter Bunny, Dick Clark, or Greta Garbo? Linda Vaughn appearing before racing fans is timeless. Her blond blond hair, pneumatic chest, and more curves and switchbacks than the Loveland Pass and the whole package poured into skin-tight white leather and stiletto boots. …. And a smile with enough wattage to light up Minneapolis AND St. Paul. The Famous Linda Vaughn was/is good-natured pulchritude on a soda cracker.
I watched her that afternoon as an endless line of race fans wanted their picture with The Famous Linda Vaughn …. Men, wimmen, boys, girls, rich, not so rich, short, tall, fat, bald …. Linda hugged’em all and gave’em that smile …. naughty but nice …. Your prudish Aunt Mildred would let hen-pecked Uncle Fred have his picture taken with Linda Vaughn …. That was Linda’s special talent.
How much of Linda Vaughn was “real” …. The only part that really mattered sure was …. Her love for racing and for entertaining racing fans.
“….Saying so long from the great Peach State of Georgia”. That was Gordon Solie’s signature sign-off. Before he became the announcer for NWA for Ted Turner, Gordon announced wrestling matches at The Sportatorium in Tampa. There he said “…. Saying so long from The Sunshine State.” Gordon Solie died in 2000 from cancer. His cancer was the cruelest of all for him …. It took his larynx. Gordon Solie’s voice WAS Professional Wrestling in the 60s-70s-80s.
My first TV wrestling memories were Gorgeous George and Antonio Rocca and Fritz Von Erich and Killer Kowalski from The International Amphitheater in Chicago. I loved it.
BobLee Buddies know better than to challenge my appreciation for Professional Wrestling. I lost interest when Vince McMahon took it over and it sorta lost its “charm” for me. I follow “sports” for the pure entertainment value of it. I leave it to the soul-less constipated Shineolas to make “life and death” out of it. “Life & Death” is all that is “life and death”. Sports is where I go to get a respite from “life and death” …. Professional Wrestling and Gordon Solie gave me that.
A great Lewis Grizzard line …. “my mamma thought they faked the moon shot and that professional wrestling was real.” …. Professional Wrestling has always been REAL. REAL honest-to-goodness entertainment. That’s what I wanted … and I got my wish every time for many years.
Give me a choice …. Rick Flair & Dusty Rhodes VS The FreeBirds or ANY NBA game and 98% of any NFL or MLB game. I would pay to see Rick and Dusty …. I would not take freebies to an NBA game. I did see The American Dream in a match in Atlanta’s Omni back in the 70s.
Gordon Solie was sooo perfect in his role. Gordon understood the sport and the fans and why it all worked so gosh darn well. He was Ringling Brothers “ringmaster”. He was Wrestling’s Ed McMahon to Johnny Carson. He was never the star but he made the stars shine brighter. When I think of Gordon I think of Mr Wrestling I & II and Jack Brisco (who, of course, was not married to Penny Banner … Johnny Weaver was). Don’t ask me how I know … it’s a K.O.O.K. thing.
The Maha down at EIB’s Southern Command Center and I used to watch NWA Wrestling in his basement in Lenexa KS. He could do a better “American Dream – Mr Charisma” but I could do a better Gordon Solie.
If there is a Sports Heaven … and why shouldn’t there be … I hope I get to visit some day. They will have all the “famous” coaches and players and all the bright shining moments …. and in a side room just for BobLee and his K.O.O.Ky pals will be “the special people of sports” ….. people like Jimmy Reese and his fungo bat …. The Famous Linda Vaughn in her white leathers … and Gordon Solie in a plaid sports jacket saying “catch as catch can” ….. that’s the room I wanna visit. Howsabout you?
Beside Rick …
Name the original members of The Minnesota Wrecking Crew?
Ingemar Johannsen had Toonder & Lightning in his fists. …. His right fist was also known as The Hammer of Thor according to Little Ricky Packard.
Nifong Update …. Those lovable Keystone Kops of Derm “released” their official report on the Nifong Mess on Friday. They say their illegal and stoopid “line-up” for Precious wasn’t really a line-up ???? …. it was really a tuna casserole. Derm scores yet another Home Run for municipal buffoonery.