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Gronvold: ‘Holy cow, I caught it!’

By Staff | Sep 23, 2016

As the major league baseball season stumbles to its regular season conclusion, the late Don Erickson must be smiling. “His Cubbies”, as he called Chicago’s National League team, have clinched their division and a spot in the playoffs and probably home field advantage, thanks to their having the best record in baseball (as of this writing).

They clinched the Central Division title when archrival St. Louis lost a late Sept. 15th game in ‘Frisco. They had to wait to officially celebrate until after the next day’s game, an extra-inning thriller won by Miguel Montero’s walk-off homer in the bottom of the 10th.

Miguel who? Does it matter? With Cubs manager Joe Maddon, everyone contributes.

Don Erickson, the beloved long-time RHS vo-ag teacher and all-world FFA advisor, had a 6-8 a.m. weekday radio program on KGCA and he would give baseball scores from the previous night. Early in a MLB 162-game season, if “his Cubbies” won a few games, he was upbeat and hopeful that ‘this will be the year’. By the end of each season, when the Cubs were 40 games out of first place, he would try to put a spin on it and ‘wait until next year’.

The Cubs have appeared in postseason play a handful of times since losing the 1945 World Series in seven games to the Detroit Tigers, who were one of Pierce County’s favorite teams back then. But the Cubs faithful continued to watch their loveable losers playing mostly day games in the vine-covered friendly confines of Wrigley Field.

Thanks to cable TV, I could work a ten-hour midnight shift at Kenai Automated FSS and come home, turn on WGN and watch Harry Caray and the Cubbies, with a 10:15 a.m. (Alaska time) first pitch. Caray’s famous catchphrase “Holy Cow!” punctuated each broadcast, along with, “It might be, it could be, it is! A home run! Holy cow!”

Harry Caray had been a long-time play-by-play announcer for the St. Louis Cardinals. I heard one of his games as I drove through the Arkansas Ozark Mountains in September of 1967. After stints with Oakland and the White Sox, he became a Chicago Near North Side fixture. He suffered a stroke just before the 1987 season and a host of ‘guest’ announcers, including Brent Musburger, grandson Chip Caray and comedian Bill Murray, kept his seat warm. When Harry returned to the booth, his speech had slurred slightly, his pronunciation and identification of players’ names sometimes erred, but we didn’t care.

Harry Caray died in 1998, just shy of his 84th birthday and what would have been his 53rd season of calling Major League games. His son Skip, a long-time Atlanta Braves broadcaster, tells of waiting in line at Chicago’s Holy Name Cathedral to escort his stepmother, Harry’s wife Delores (“Dutchie”), to their seats at the funeral. There seemed to be a delay of some sort and Skip Caray asked an usher what was up. “They’re holding things for television” was the usher’s reply. Such was Harry’s legacy.

In the 50’s, Rugby’s city fathers and mothers made sure we little ‘uns had something to do with our summers and sponsored five Little League baseball teams: The Lions Club, the Fire Department, Farmers Union, M.J. McGuire and Gronvold Motor Co. Each spring they would hold a ‘draft’ and each team was stocked with players from age groups 8 through 12. I was chosen for GroMoCo’s team all five years and played sparingly in the first year. Next-door neighbor Mel Presthus was our manager. Many other adults coached, umped or assisted and we played a full slate of games on two diamonds, some nights featuring a double-header.

We also had an all-star team, made up of representatives from each of the five age groups. One year we drove to Winnipeg to play a team of Manitoba all-stars during the Red River Exhibition. It was the biggest fair I had been to in my young life. We stayed in the homes of our foreign rivals and one day made a foray into Chinatown to buy fireworks. That was the highlight for me.

In my first season, as an 8-year-old in 1956, I got on base for the first time. It must have been a walk. Then, when the pitcher threw a wild pitch, our first base coach told me to run to second. I obeyed, but when I reached the bag, some older opponents, wise beyond their years, told me, “What are you doing, Billy? You can’t do that, go back to first.” I figured they wouldn’t impart false info, so I scampered back to first, much to the chagrin of my coach. The ball had rolled under one of the ‘dugout’ benches and had been retrieved by then.

That year, Bobby Johnson (son of Dr. C.G.) was playing left field. Like most of us, he was as green as the outfield grass, so when a pop fly came his way, he held up his glove and closed his eyes. When the ball plopped into his mitt, he looked at it and was heard to exclaim, “Holy cow, I caught it!”

Gronvold is a former Rugby resident and decided not to pursue a career in baseball, for the good of the game.

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