Ku­dos to ‘Cooter’ for bring­ing base­ball back

Rappahannock News - - EDITORIAL & OPINION -

I thor­oughly en­joyed the “Old Diz” Amer­i­cana mu­si­cal as pre­sented by Ben “Cooter” Jones and com­pany at The The­atre at Lit­tle Washington Nov. 17. When I was grow­ing up in Ten­nessee in the 1950s, I had only one di­ver­sion from play­ing base­ball, fish­ing, and farm work on Satur­day af­ter­noons – namely, watch­ing Dizzy Dean (“Old Diz”) and Pee Wee Reese tele­cast the Fal­staff Beer Base­ball Game of the Week. Ben Jones cap­tured the essence of Dizzy and much more, in an ex­cep­tional stage per­for­mance re­plete with col­or­ful mono­logues, nar­ra­tion and down-to-earth mu­sic.

I com­mend “Cooter” for his ca­sual style of leg­endary base­ball name-drop­ping (e.g. Enos “Coun­try” Slaugh­ter, “Pep­per” Martin, and Pie Traynor), and re­count­ing of the 1930s dust­bowl era – not even Ben Jones or I were around that far back. Ben really made the times come alive! Hopefully, he will be able to re­peat his stel­lar per­for­mance in such base­ball venues as St. Louis, Chicago, Philadel­phia, New York, Detroit, and per­haps Washington, D.C., given the 2012 Nats re­nais­sance.

When I was 13 years old in 1954 I prayed, closed my eyes, swung a base­ball bat and got a clean, line-drive sin­gle off of left­hander Claude “Mud­cat” Ostean, who later pitched for the Reds, Sen­a­tors and Dodgers. This may well have been one of the top 10 ac­com­plish­ments of my life be­cause hit­ting a base­ball solidly is not an easy task! My dad, who was a very good base­ball player, would stand be­hind the screen and fill me that I should be able to hit Mud­cat’s curve ball with­out any prob­lem. Mud­cat’s curve dropped off the ta­ble like a bent fish­hook, sim­i­lar to Dizzy’s curve ball to left­handers of the ’30s. Mud­cat won 196 games in the big leagues, in­clud­ing an All-Star Game and game three of the 1965 World Se­ries. At that time, he was pitch­ing in a ro­ta­tion that in­cluded Sandy Ko­ufax, Don Drys­dale and Don Sut­ton of the Los An­ge­les Dodgers. Pretty good com­pany for a mid­dle Ten­nessee pitcher who struck me out al­most ev­ery time that I faced him. This is my highly per­son­al­ized and only con­nec­tion to big-league base­ball, and I thank “Cooter” for bring­ing back pleas­ant mem­o­ries of my life­long pas­sion for base­ball sto­ries and per­son­al­i­ties.

If “Old Diz” were alive, he would prob­a­bly say: “Couldn't done much bet­ter my­self, part­ner!”

JOEL C. TATE

Flint Hill

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