Thursday, April 28, 2011

The Bleacher Preacher in defense of Atlanta Braves pitching coach Roger Mc Dowell

Welcome first time visitors to my blog. Sometimes people will stop by for just a second or 2, and in many cases much longer. I wished that those who have returned, would leave a comment once in a while. It is not easy for me to put into words why I do this... however I have been blessed to have had one heck of an interesting life. I covered a lot of bases and often recorded them with my camera. I have been involved in sports, and politics as a participant or observer. I have been described as a gay Forrest Gump, or even as such without the word gay. In the past few days, I read about a former ballplayer, and now pitching coach with the Atlanta Brave's, Roger Mc Dowell. Our paths first crossed in the N.L. Pennant chase late in the 1984 season. For those that are visiting here for the first time, let me brag about becoming a legendary fan of the Chicago Cubs. It began in 1945 when I was 8 years old. That year my dad Hank, gave me a crash course in Baseball 101 and Cubs History. He then took me to my first game at beautiful Wrigley Field. A month or so later, when the Cubs clinched the N.L. Pennant, I asked him to take me to the '45 World Series. He said I was too young , but made me a PROMISE that he would take me the next time! The following year I heard the expression WAIT UNTIL NEXT YEAR for the first time. Baseball was the official language between my dad and myself ever since. In 1981, he was in a coma,at the Evanston St. Francisco Hospital. He awoke from the coma once. I was there... and in a soft whisper he said 'WE GOTTA GET RID OF KINGMAN!" He was not able to keep his PROMISE to me in his lifetime, but I have been looking for closure in mine.

In 1984, I thought I might get a chance. Without great detail... the Cubs was hot news on the sporting pages across the country. From Opening Day, the All-Star break and into the home stretch of the N.L. pennant chase. I was a Chicago transplant in San Francisco. A few years earlier I had gained the moniker as the Bay Area Resident Cub fan when I was the publicist for the S.F. production of the Stage Play "BLEACHER BUMS". It was supposed to be a 6 week run that ran for over a year. I turned the Lobby of the Little Fox Theater into Wrigley Field West. I was being quoted in local newspapers. When the run ended... I continued doing Chicago tie-in promotions whenever the Cubs and Bears came into town.

There are more complete stories about 1984 on this blog. I decided to return to Chicago for the last month. I had some T-shirts made and my battle cry was HOW DO YOU SPELL BELIEF? CUBS! I brought with me my life size Generic VOODOO Doll. I arrived in time for the dreaded N.Y.Met series. Before the game, I was photographed by the Associated Press, and interviewed on several local TV stations and made the Front page of the Chicago Sun-Times. The next day after walking around the friendly confines with the doll... I entered the ballpark in time for batting practice. The Mets were taking their swings. A Met pitcher yelled up to me I saw you on CNN and then he flung a Frisbee at me. We did that for a few times and his name was Roger Mc Dowell. It was the beginning of a long mutual friendship. My Voodoo Doll was then made into a Padre model for the Play Offs after capturing the N.L.E. Division. When the Cubs won the first 2 games, I honestly thought my Dad's PROMISE would finally be fulfilled. However... the Cubs dropped 3 in a row. For the next few years,whenever the Mets were in town, I kept a Frisbee in my back pack. Roger would always come out to the Left Field Bleachers, and we would fling the Frisbee for a few minutes. In 1987, both the Cubs and Mets were not contenders. In the final month of the season the Mets were in for their last series with the Cubs. As usual, I packed my Frisbee. It was a rainy day and no need to bring my voodoo doll. There were very few people in line when the gates opened. There was a tarp on the infield and chances were the game might be postponed. Then I saw Roger in the dugout, he then trotted out to greet me, and asked if I brought the frisbee. I nodded and as I was taking the Frisbee out of my backpack, a "rookie" security guard came over and warned me if I threw the Frisbee... I would be tossed out of the park. I pointed up toward the scoreboard and when he turned around, and I threw it to Roger. And he tossed it back to me. The Security guard said I was "OUT!" My 75 game streak for that season came to an end. I was really mad. There were just a hand full of fans in all the bleachers, and I was escorted out of the park. It stopped raining,and the game started on time. It was hard for me to get used to the noise of the little crowd from outside the park. I decided to call Cubs General Manager Dallas Green. He told me to go to the front entrance, and he would meet me there. However, before he got there the head of security told me to leave or I would be arrested. I called the Sun-Times, and then Sports Illustrated. That night I called Harry Caray at the Ambassador East, and told him I was going to become a "Free Agent Fan". He said I was foolish. The next day, the story appeared in the Sun-Times and a few days later in SI under the title"Defrocked!", in the ScoreCard Section.

The following year, I continued to fling a few Frisbee's and play catch with Roger, and he entertained the fans. Sometimes by having the fans drop him their camera, and he proceeded to take pictures of the fans in the stands, or his teammates, or just make a funny face and snap a self portrait. He also managed to cool off the fans by hosing them down with the hose from under the bleachers. Then he was traded to the Phillies... and he continued to always come out and talk, play catch or model a Interstellar Propeller beany that I gave him. Then he became a Dodger, but remained the same good guy. Along with Orel Hershiser, they created a game of chance. The would bring a large empty plastic barrel, and put a new Dodger jacket in it, along with a bat, a signed team ball and a crisp one hundred dollar bill in to it. fans from throughout the bleachers took turns trying to make a basket with a baseball. When some lucky fan made the winning bucket, they received a standing ovation from their peers and cheers from Roger and Orel.

Even after becoming a Coach, Roger always took part in the Beer Ball Game, trying to throw a ball from the outfield warning tract into a Beer Cup. In fact, there is a youtube out there of him doing that. However... I was shocked to read about Roger and his anti-gay antics at Pac bell Park last weekend. I appreciated that he made a public apology. If I did not know Roger, I would of been the first one in line to protest his actions. In the past I wrote letters to Commissioner Bud Selig when Cubs Pitcher Julian Taverz, and the Brave's John Rocker made anti-gay remarks. However they have been known to be hot heads and also prejudice. I took the time to send Bud Selig an email.

Today talked with a sports reporter from the Atlanta Constitution Journal, and I asked her to convey my good wishes to Roger, and made the suggestion that he would consider making a good faith contribution to the San Francisco Harvey Milk Academy Public School, and the Atlanta Gay Community Center.


Jerry Pritikin aka The Bleacher Preacher said...

I believe it is important to all baseball fans to understand, that we all make mistakes. However not to judge a 25 year career for one moment of stupitidy.Roger has offered his apology. Please accept it. He has been a a great fan favorite in the Friendly Confines of Wrigley Field and elsewhere. He is my visiting team favorite for the past 25 years. I wish him and his family the best.

Jay said...

Roger McDowell is obviously a prick. His punishment needs to be severe. Otherwise all the hype about how professional sports is trying to end homophobia will be revealed as the charade it is. I for one will not be convinced that they are serious unless McDowell is fired. The very fact that McDowell's "apology" was so half-hearted, blaming his actions on "hecklers," shows that he doesn't think he did anything wrong.

Jerry Pritikin said...

I guess you never made a mistake... or knew someone who did, and would not consider their apology. In my 4o years of fighting for gay rights... I found scores of gays who were heterophobic... LIKE I SAID... WE ARE NOT ALL PERFECT, HOWEVER CONSIDER THE SOURCE BEFORE JUDGING. I KNOW I DO.

Jerry Pritikin said...


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