Posts Tagged ‘1970 World Series’

Fran the Fan

September 11, 2017

Three Rivers–home of Fran’s team

Fran the Fan was the antithesis of Baseball Barb (see just below). She was quiet, brunette, slim, short, almost never raised her voice, and would never, ever, never, ever throw a glass of beer at the bar. Among other things she’d remind you it was a waste of both beer and money. One of the running gags was that Fran would end up a banker and Barb a cocktail waitress.

She was, like Barb, married to one of the guys. In their case Mike, her husband, was the loud one and the one you always knew what he thought about anything. They were regulars at Barb’s Booth and the idea the table was named for Barb rather than Fran explains as much about the difference between them as anything I can write.

She was a stats geek (we didn’t call them that back then) who could tell you what newcomer Johnny Bench hit in July as well as what Bob Gibson had done during the 1964 World Series. She kept it all in her head and didn’t consult a book or anything. We later found out from Mike that she kept notes at home and would look them over before heading off to the NCO Club to join us for the game of the week. Still, remembering the things she did was impressive enough without the Cliff Notes.

In case of a running debate on anything baseball, Fran was the go-to person for the answer. Want to know Carl Hubbell’s ERA in 1936? Fran would have known. I don’t remember that actually ever coming up, but if it had I would have put money on her knowing.

As fate would have it, Fran was a Pirates fan. In 1970, the Pirates won the National League East title and squared off in the playoffs against Cincinnati. They showed the games on the same tape delay system they showed the American League games and Fran hung on every pitch. She died a little when the Reds won game one, even more when they won game two. Which brings this to game three.

Pittsburgh got a run in the first and Fran grabbed her beer and swallowed about half of it. Now we all loved Fran, but we also knew she wasn’t’ real good at holding her liquor. Of course when the Reds took the lead in the bottom of the first more beer went down Fran’s throat (BTW I had to look up the game to get the specifics on score and order of scores–I didn’t remember after all these years).

That got Mike’s attention and the conversation went something like this:

“You’re not going to down half a glass every time someone scores, are you?”

“If I feel like it.”

OK, that was something we worried about. We’d seen Fran with too many beers (this is the stronger German beer that we were served in the Club, not the US version) and it got stupid quick. So Mike informed us no one was to buy more for Fran. That went over well with his wife. We weren’t quite sure what to do. Most of us were more afraid of Fran than of Mike.

So Fran got up, went to the bar, and ordered three more, all for herself. By the time she was finished with all three the Pirates had tied up the game 2-2. That was good enough for her, so she swore “That’s plenty,” and stopped drinking. The fact that she’d downed all three already may have had more to do with her comment than the score.

Of course it couldn’t last. Cincy got a final run in the bottom of the eighth to go ahead 3-2 and Fran started to get up and head to the bar.

“I thought you’d had enough.” This from her husband (the rest of us had enough sense to keep quiet).

She sat down and suffered through the ninth. Two outs, two singles, and Pittsburgh had runners on first and third. A grounder to second finished them off and sent the Reds to the World Series (I had to look all that up). Fran was horrified and grieving already. As you know, baseball grief is its own special kind of sadness and Fran was crying. Fortunately everyone had the sense not to offer her a drink.

All of this made she and Barb buddies. They’d been at the same table for the entire season, but weren’t particularly close. Barb thought Fran “a mouse” and Fran was certain Barb was “a loudmouthed jerk.” But now they had a common enemy, the Cincinnati Reds. The Series was fun to watch with Barb screaming and Fran quietly putting curse after curse on the Reds. By the time it was over and Baltimore had won, they were fast buddies who settled down for the relative quiet of watching football.

All of which is meant to prove that not only do opposites attract, but that baseball can make friends of people who have almost nothing in common. Ain’t it a great game?


Baseball Barb

September 6, 2017

Not our kind of glass, but you get the idea

Back in 1970 I was in the U.S. Army and stationed in Germany. It wasn’t a bad assignment. I worked a strange shift that sometimes had me working midnight to seven in the morning and other times working from four in the afternoon to midnight. Because of the time change I was able to keep up with the pennant races through the radio (Armed Forces Network–AFN) during work hours. It was the year Baltimore won the World Series.

The local hangout was the NCO (Non-Commissioned Officers) Club which let in lowly peons too because there was no place for lowly peons to hang out (no “Enlisted Club”). They had a television in the bar area (and you thought Sports Bars were new did you?) that showed AFTV (Armed Force Television). Of course if there was a game on the TV, it was on in the club and of course it was tape delayed. That meant that those of us with strange shifts generally knew the score ahead of watching the game, but it was still worth it to watch it.

We called her “Baseball Barb.” She was the wife of one of the guys and was a great baseball fan. There were two women in our group who were great baseball people (the other we called “Fran the Fan”). Barb particularly liked the Orioles and this was their year. Barb (and it was never “Barbara” or “Babs”, always “Barb”) was big and blonde and brassy and loud and everybody loved her. Her husband, Bob (Yep, it was Bob and Barb–I couldn’t make that up), worked in the same section with me so I knew both of them well and when we were at the Club we would generally sit together and watch the game. There was this one big table that sat six and was known locally as “Barb’s Booth” (it wasn’t actually a booth) because that’s where she sat to watch the game. It was right down front directly in front of the TV with the best viewing in the place. The bar was about 10 steps in front of it and the TV was on the wall just behind the bar. So you could watch the game, get up, get a refill of your favorite German brew, sit back down, and never miss a pitch. That made it perfect for Barb.

The Orioles made the playoffs in 1970. It was only the second year of the playoffs (1969 started the idea of a round of playoffs prior to the World Series) and Baltimore made it both seasons. They drew the Twins in a best-of-five set to determine who got to meet the earliest version of “The Big Red Machine” from Cincinnati. Barb was in her element. Bob told us she’d refused to listen to the radio so she could enjoy the games “live” without knowing the outcome. The Orioles then won the first game and joy reigned in Germany.

All of which brings me to game two (I had to look up the game specifics). We all settled down at Barb’s Booth for the game. I knew Baltimore was going to win, but of course Barb didn’t. We ordered drinks and as usual they came in these tall thin glasses that were designed to look like the glasses a German Gasthaus would use when they didn’t use either a Stein or a pitcher. By the bottom of the fourth, Baltimore was up 4-0 and Barb was relaxing with her second beer and enjoying the contest.

In the bottom of the fourth Leo Cardenas walked and Harmon Killebrew did what he did better than almost anyone else; he parked one to make the score 4-2. Barb was up and yelling at the TV (What she was yelling, I’m not allowed to write on a family friendly blog). Then it happened. Tony Oliva followed with another homer to make the score 4-3. It was all too much for Baseball Barb. Her hand came up, her glass went flying, beer and all, and a string of words that I can’t repeat continued.

Of course the glass slammed into the bar, shattered, and beer flew in several directions. No one got hit with any glass, but a couple of guys got a little wet. It did bring the club to silence, which was unusual. She mumbled some sort of apology to the bartender and ducked her head as he cleaned up the mess. We got through the rest of the game without incident (and with a much quieter Barb) and Baltimore won.

A couple of days later there was game 3. Baltimore won it 6-1, but again Barb didn’t know that ahead of our journey to the club. We settled in at Barb’s Booth and Bob and I went to the bar to get drinks. The bartender (same guy as a few days earlier) handed me three glasses and gave Bob a glass and a Styrofoam cup full of beer. No one said a thing. Bob looked at me, looked at the bartender, looked at the cup, looked back at the bartender.

“You hand it to her,” he told the barkeep.

“No chance,” came the reply.

Bob looked over at me. I turned without a word and took my three glasses back to the table, leaving Bob alone with the drinks. Ultimately he came over, placed the cup in front of his wife, and sat down. Barb took it well. She even lifted the cup in salute to the bartender.

There was a refill or two during the game and the Orioles coasted to a 6-1 win. With victory in hand, Barb drained the last of her beer, looked straight at the bartender, and flipped the cup at the bar. It made it about half way. For the rest of the season, which meant the World Series, she kept getting Styrofoam cups and kept flipping them at the bar. We started calling them “Barb’s Bottles”. She missed the bartender every time.


Sometimes You Just Gotta Take the Money

January 3, 2013
Brooks Robinson in the field

Brooks Robinson in the field

Now I’ll be the first to admit that I’ve been conned a few times, usually for something like who drives or who buys the beer. And I’m also basically an honest type so I don’t do a lot of that kind of thing myself. But sometimes you just got to take the money.

Way back in 1970 I was in the US Army and stationed in Germany. It was October and my interest turned to the World Series. For those of you too young to remember, that’s the Series that cemented Brooks Robinson’s reputation as the greatest gloveman of all time among third basemen. He won the Series MVP and the Baltimore Orioles rolled over the Cincinnati Reds to post Earl Weaver’s only World Series victory. And every bit as important for my purposes is that the Series was still played in the afternoon. That meant that I got to listen to it during the overnight period (I worked the graveyard shift), then could go to the enlisted  club and watch the tape-delay game in the afternoon without having to worry about who was going to win. I could just watch and enjoy the great (and not-so-great) plays.

But we had this guy, he was fairly new, who just simply didn’t understand what was going on. He never quite understood that the game had been played the previous night (our time) and that if you listened to AFN (Armed Forces Network) radio you already knew the score. It just never seemed to make sense that if you were watching a game being played in the daytime, it just couldn’t be daytime where we were.

With the Orioles up three games to none, a bunch of us sat down to watch game four.  The dolt mentioned above was one of them. He began by telling us “his” Orioles were going to sweep. I told him Cincy was going to win game four. He told me I was crazy. I told him the score was going to be 6-5 (I looked the score up on Retrosheet a few minutes ago). He laughed, informing me that Palmer was going to close out the Series.

“No, he isn’t.” (All conversations cleaned up from GI English and after 40 years, approximated.)

“Sure he is. Wanna bet?”

“Why not? Five bucks?” OK, so I’m a jerk, but sometimes you just can’t help yourself. Let’s face it, when someone is being that willfully stupid you just gotta take the money.

“Deal. Two to one.”

“OK by me.”

So I handed a five to the bartender, he gave the bartender a ten, and the rest of the guys at the table snickered. Well, sure enough the Reds won 6-5 and I picked up an easy ten dollars. The other guy was  stunned. We tried to explain to him about tape-delays and listening to the game in the middle of the night, but it just didn’t sink in.

The next night, Baltimore wrapped up the Series, Brooks Robinson was named MVP, and we all met in the afternoon to watch the crowning. Of course the guy was there, ready to put up money again that this time Baltimore would win it all.

“No bet, slick, because you’re right, the Orioles are going to win (9-3 according to Retrosheet). By the way (we wouldn’t have dared to say “BTW” back then), Brooks Robinson was the MVP.”

It seems he didn’t understand the nature of the past tense meant by the word “was”.

“That makes sense, but I’m not sure it won’t go to Blair (Paul).”

“Trust me, Robinson wins.”

Here came the deathless line again, “Wanna bet?”

Well, now I’ve got this terrible dilemma. What do I do? I’ve taken the poor fool’s money once. Do I do it again? You know the answer, don’t you?

“Sure. Five bucks again?”

“Deal, but no two to one.”

“Fine by me.”

So the bartender got two fives and we waited. The O’s won, Robinson was MVP and I was fifteen total dollars richer. I don’t know that he ever figured out how the turning of the Earth and tape-delay worked. I had a few months left and he had a couple of years to go. I was gone before the Super Bowl, but, geez, I wish I coulda got a bet down with him.