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

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We’re forgetting a few guys…

OldYMCA

Work progresses in site work on Foster Drive across from Reno High School on what was once the home of the Reno YMCA. The new building will be the William N. Pennington facility for the Boys & Girls Club of Truckee Meadows.  This is a wonderful thing and has been appropriately ballyhooed wherever applicable, as it should be. Pennington did a fine thing endowing this building, and was generally a good guy (we were neighbors in the 1960s before our lives took separate courses.)

But it’s mildly annoying to some, in this case, to me, that with all the fol-de-rol over the new facility, little, as in zilch, has been said about how that little piece of dirt was transformed from a dairy farm adjoining Westfield Village, to a grand new building. A few steps have been left out of that site’s journey.

The journey started back in 1952 when the original Reno YMCA, pictured, blew up, actually a boiler in the basement blew up and took the building down to ground level in one quick hurry. I watched it. That YMCA, by the by, was the next building east of the Mapes Hotel and if you don’t know where that was you probably want to leave this site and go read the Mommy Files or the Sudoku page. Reno was without its Y.

So, a group of businessmen got together once, becoming weekly, if memory serves (I was 10 years old and don’t accurately recall; I have a faint recollection of them meeting at the Trocadero Room of the El Cortez but wouldn’t swear to it.) Some names I remember were Al Solari, Del Machabee, Buddy Traynor, Conrad Preiss, Jim Morrison, Gene Gastanaga, Ed Pine, Sr., and hell of a lot of others. Oh, and a young Realtor named Karl Breckenridge. (My dad, not me.) If anybody can think of some more, lemme know; there’s a plaque around somewhere with some names but I can’t find the plaque.

Those local men got on the bandwagon to beg, borrow, and steal, well almost, the funding to acquire a piece of property for a brand-new Y building. And my dad, being a real estate man, found the property, as I recall, with Del Machabee. And they all had fundraisers, barbecues at the California Building, virtual house-to-house solicitations, tail-twisting of the school districts (there were eight in Washoe County back then.) The city government, Stead Air Force Base, the power company, Nevada Bell employees, just an incredible, damn aggressive but all-in-fun fundraiser.

And they raised the funds, and bought the land, I think from the Vhay Ranch but don’t know at this writing. I traveled with my dad for 10 days in his 1952 Buick to a dozen YMCA buildings in northern and southern California, spent nights in them, swam in their pools, while he gathered ideas for the Reno building. And, the building was indeed built, Orville Wahrenbrock was hired to run it with Dick Taylor second in command, and Tom Hardester and Steve Rucker in the P.E. department. Reno had a Y.

What the hell happened to it I can’t say; some of the Ys in California that we toured preparatory to building it still stand (it was a well-built building.) My personal opinion, which I’ve learned is shared by many guys in Reno, is that something or somebody screwed up. It doesn’t matter – it’s been torn down. And we have no Y. And a new building is going up on its former site, a new building with a flagship name.

But, ya know what? There’s a long list of once-prominent people who did a great deal of work, and personal commitment, and personal expense, to get that site. But I don’t look to see their names being bandied about when the new youth club opens a year from now.

If they are, they’ll probably be right alongside Anna Frandsen Loomis’ name on the Lear Theater – my friend Anna who endowed the Christian Science Church in 1938, later the Lear, getting the same credit that Machabee, Solari, Pine, Breckenridge the Elder, and all the others will be getting on Foster Drive – none.

(Photo credit to “CardCow.com” on the web, it’s an old postcard that half of Reno has in their collections but I couldn’t find mine.)

An American coin for Casey

Casey copy

I have for many a moon prided myself in sharing Ernest L. Thayer’s Casey at the Bat with whoever would listen, or wouldn’t listen, or who’d prefer not to, or who’d heard it before – I didn’t give a damn, I’d recite Casey at the slightest provocation.

I held out Ernest L. Thayer, who wrote the poem for the San Francisco Examiner in 1888, as my hero. A guy who loved baseball, who could write. I noted in a column 15 years ago that his poem, written when he was a teen-aged flack in the Examiner’s sports department and casually offered to his editor – “Use it if you want to” – put him into the Baseball Hall of Fame. I was contacted by the Baseball Hall of Fame three days after my column was published, and told that only players, managers and owners are “enshrined” in the HOF. As a matter of fact, Thayer is better than “enshrined” – a statue of his Mighty Casey graces the entrance to the Hall.

Now, the U.S. Mint is vetting baseball players worthy of having their visages struck onto US coins. I have nominated, through Scott Ostler of the San Francisco Chronicle’s sports department, Mighty Casey, with Ernest L. Thayer’s likeness in a half-tone in the background.

And in closing, I note many readers’ opinions that Scott Ostler himself be included in the Hall, as a Ford Frick Award recipient – where baseball’s writers and announcers are included (can’t use the word “enshrined,” I’ll get jumped on again!)