Bud Beasley

casey

The outlook wasn’t brilliant for the Mudville Nine that day; The score stood 4-to-2 with but one inning more to play…

A cub sportswriter penned a ballad during his lunch hour one spring day, dropped it on his editor’s desk – “Use it if you want it” – and forgot about it. Two weeks later, on June 3rd, 1888, the saga ran full-page in the San Francisco Examiner and twenty-four-year-old Ernest L. Thayer’s Casey at the Bat entered the great pantheon of our national pastime, winning him an inclusion in the Baseball Hall of Fame.

But it would be a half-century later that a true ballplayer would bring Thayer’s work to life, from memory and at the drop of a hat, in ballparks, team buses, Little League award barbecues, school classrooms and wherever else the Boys of Summer gathered (that not politically incorrect, but a collective for the girls and boys gathering for T-ball at Swope School through to AT&T Park because they love the game) – when Bud Beasley paused at Thayer’s words, But Casey still ignored it, and the umpire said:, a delighted crowd of kids of all age and gender boomed out, Strike two!, for fifty years.

There was ease in Casey’s manner as he stepped into his place; there was pride in Casey’s bearing and a smile on Casey’s face.

RG-J columnist Guy Clifton penned a superb bio of Bud and I won’t even attempt to embellish it, but Bud was our kind of guy – our teacher, mentor and coach for 38 years of us strong at Reno High School, and in later life deeply involved in many youth organizations, a stalwart of the RHS Alumni Association, a bastion of influence for the Good Old Days club, and a fireball to the very end.

We’ve got to include at least one Beas anecdote: On the ropes while pitching at Sacramento’s Solons Park in a Pacific Coast League game in the 1930s, Bud returned a dinged-up ball to the catcher for another. He got it, but a couple batters later the new ball left the park on a pop foul. The catcher sent out the ball Bud had previously squawked about, so he returned it yet again to the catcher for a better one.

That ball eventually left the field of play, and the catcher threw out a replacement, guess what, the same bum ball Bud had refused twice before. Bud pointed to a fan high in the bleachers above first base and threw the offending ball to the lucky guy for a souvenir. The ump sternly summoned Bud to home plate to render an admonishment, and Bud recalled that he, the umpire, the catcher, and the batter all struggled to keep a straight face for the benefit of the crowd and the dignity of baseball. Such became our sport whenever he was in the vicinity.

Ten thousand eyes were on him as he rubbed his hands with dirt; Five thousand tongues applauded when he wiped them on his shirt.

On Bud’s ninetieth birthday he visited Bud Beasley Elementary School – a gathering crammed with tykes agog over seeing the real Bud Beasley, right here in their multipurpose room. I think he spoke to every one of them individually. Inevitably a teacher toward the back said, “Mr. Beasley, how ‘bout Casey?” and Bud, sensing that it was coming, as it had been in a thousand gatherings before, grinned and answered the call: The outlook wasn’t brilliant…

If not ten thousand eyes, then at least four hundred, grew wide as the smallish man, already in his later innings, wove the tale of Casey in the animated, vibrant way that Thayer could have only dreamt that anyone would deliver it 112 years after he so casually wrote it. And I noted not just a few adult eyes growing a little misty and that wasn’t from the chill December air.

And somewhere men are laughing, and somewhere children shout; But there is no joy in Mudville – Mighty Casey has struck out.

There should be great joy in all the Mudvilles of baseball this World Series week, for we had the pleasure of Bud’s knowledge, wisdom and humor, on and off the diamond, for 93 years. We all know that Mighty Casey fanned in the ninth stranding Flynn and Blake in 1888, but last Saturday morning Bud Beasley was ruled Safe, at Home.

Have a good week; tag up on the infield flies and God bless America.

[Bud died July 17th, 2004]

© RGJ 2004

Sundance Books & Music, once the Levy Mansion

Sundance

William Levy emigrated from Germany and opened a dry goods store in Virginia City, later journeying to Reno in 1887 to open the Palace Dry Goods store at 211 North Virginia Street (later the site of the Palace Club.) He had a partner, Herman Morris.
               Abraham Goldsmith and his wife had a daughter, Tillie, who would marry William Levy. The year of their wedding is unclear; her name was just-plain Tillie, not Matilda as I speculated, and our newlyweds built a fine house at 471 Granite Street (that street now known as Sierra Street.) It would cost $14,000 to build; the year of completion is listed variously as 1906 or 1907; I’ll go with 1906, a year which enables me to drone on mercilessly about an earthquake taking place to the west in San Francisco, while the architect of the University of Nevada’s Mackay School of Mines, Stanford White, was being murdered in flagrante dilecto on the roof of Madison Square Garden, which he also designed, only blocks from Tillie’s birthplace in Brooklyn.
               Contrast all that excitement to not a damn thing happening in 1907…
                                                                                             • • •
William Levy passed away in 1920. The Palace Dry Goods store would remain in business for 12 more years.
William and Tillie had two daughters, Mildred, and here it gets a little vague: I have found references to a Fritzi, the other daughter; annoyingly one source shows Fritzi as a nickname for Tillie. I’m staying with Fritzi as the second daughter as I believe the source of that information, a family member who lives in Marin whom I spoke with, is superior. Fritzi married William Coblentz, a San Francisco attorney; Mildred never married.

              Tillie died in 1938. The two daughters had disparate interests; Mildred chose to live in the family home on Granite Street, while Fritzi, a resident of San Francisco, had no interest in the family home. They elected to sever the property into the east and west half of the lot, each daughter keeping one half. The grand home was moved from the easterly half of the lot, to the site of a once-expansive garden to the west. Most sources show this project being completed in 1940 – allowing for lags in telephone books, City Directories and Sanborn maps.

             The home was not simply turned ninety degrees, according to Romolo Bevilacqua, who has moved half the houses in Reno for the last half century, is an invaluable source for me, and has forgotten more about Reno than I’ll ever learn. [Rom passed away a year after this column was written.] A new poured concrete foundation was laid, and the house moved the short distance west onto that new foundation. Several exterior features of the home could not be replaced, accounting for a large set of French doors opening out onto a post-move, now non-existent balcony when attorneys Ron Bath and Larry McNabney bought the mansion in 1976. One bathroom was never replaced, but the chain-pull tank high on the wall of the bathroom over a non-existent commode remains. The icebox, huge but not quite a walk-in, was loaded with ice from the exterior of the home in the early days and remained as a storage area after the move. Mildred Levy lived in the home until her death in 1976.

             The vacant lot created by the move to the east of the home’s new location was leased to Lyons & Maffi as a Signal station in 1940, later as a Chevron station operated by Obie Dunn and ending its career when the City of Reno widened and realigned Sierra Street to connect to Plumas south of California Avenue in the late 1970s. The small parking lot east of the building was left over from that realignment.

The Downtown Elks Lodge

ElksFlood copya>A couple of readers inquired following this week’s Sierra Street column, about the downtown Elks Lodge, which was destroyed in the February 1957 downtown gas explosion and ensuing fire. The best photo of that structure that I can find ain’t much; it came from the “Reno Flood 1950” booklet, attribution to Modern Photo please, taken from the Riverside Hotel, © Reno Junior Chamber of Commerce 1951. The Elks Lodge is prominent in the view below the V arrow; across Sierra Street are several office buildings. The closest to the Truckee is the “Bennett building”, owned by real estate magnate Norman Biltz (later Holiday Hotel owner). To the north is a medical building with doctors such as Drs. Reno, Valenta, Gerow, Stahr and Lombardi (as I recall). That building had been razed prior to the 1957 fire and was rebuilt as a smaller building by the law firm of William Sanford, Sr. In the foreground of the photo, on the south shore of the swollen Truckee River, is Island Avenue, under water. To the left – west – is Hermann & Wilson, Chrysler-Plymouth dealer. To the extreme right the Granada Theater is visible.