In the vortex of history

July 29th, 2012 by John Morris

Being a professional athlete has a real pitfall: holding on to a job after you’ve earned it. At the start of every season, returning athletes must establish their spots against all others including the newest crop of hard charging youngsters.

An article in the NYTimes told the story of the Brooklyn Dodgers displaced by baseball’s  most influential player: Jackie Robinson. When Branch Rickey decided black athletes should no longer be denied playing in the major leagues, he selected Robinson to take the challenge. Rickey groomed Robinson and  allowed him to prepare for “the show” with the Montreal affiliate.

During the 1946 season, the battle to be the Dodger’s first baseman was being waged by two men. Both men were capable of starting for a major league team and had fought the stifling odds to become one.

With the start of the 1947 season, Ed Stevens figured he had edged out Howie Schultz for the position. At the same time, Branch Rickey was determined to call Jackie Robinson up from Montreal. One  stumbling block remained: Robinson was a second baseman and their existing starter at this position was stalwart player, Eddie Stanky.

The boom was lowered. It was decided Robinson would start at first. Stevens was shipped to Montreal with a half hearted promise of being rewarded if he did well. Schultz was sold to the Phillies. Their chances to play first as a Dodger disappeared when the team started one of those hard charging youngsters, Gil Hodges. What happened to Eddie Stanky? He was traded, and Jackie Robinson moved over to second base.

Both Stevens and Schutlz played out their separate strings and history was changed around them while ignoring them. The recent passing of Ed Stevens brought his story to my attention. It reminded me of the times in my life when forces collided to right a wrong.

Being at the vortex of history, when you are not included in the change, can affect your life in the way you hoped it wouldn’t.

To sum up: there are people who make things happen; people who watch what happens and those who ask, “Why is this happening to me?” Baseball in 1947 had all of these players and Ed Stevens and Howie Schutz were cast in role of the third choice.

After thoughts:

It is certain, in the 1940s, baseball had white players who couldn’t make a roster if the Black players were included. It is better today where a level playing field exists for athletes. Only a player’s skill and talents are measured and rewarded.

Two old hardware guys hook up in Brooklyn

July 8th, 2012 by John Morris

When I rented a Brooklyn apartment, I expected some fix-it projects. It didn’t take long. The TP holder fell off the wall with just a harsh look. I examined the parts and noticed a poor choice of anchoring hardware. My mind whirled until I decided small toggle bolts were needed to make the repair.

A google search for nearby hardware presented one on the block near the breakfast stop Lyn & I planned to visit. After breakfast, we went to Mayday Hardware on Washington Avenue. Their hatches were battened tight from the previous night. I looked everywhere for a sign listing their hours with no luck. It was 10:00 a.m., and I feared this glorious, old gal has been shut down for a final time.

An hour later, I cycled back to the hardware store and found it open and bustling. I was greeted right away – like Maxwell’s Hardware – and asked if I needed help. I walked to area where my bolts would be and pulled a package from the spinning kiosk. I was good to go.

At the checkout counter, I found a clerk who was passing along some good, solid advice about installing a faucet stem. He was clear of thought and speech. His younger customer seemed prepared to go forward and quite grateful.

As a matter of course, I said I worked at a similar store in my home town. He asked, “How did we measured up?” I said, “You did good. You were knowledgeable and friendly. Just like us.”

His name is Jerry Walsh, and he told me his story.

He was being chased home by bullies from his elementary school and ran into the hardware store to seek asylum. The aged owner said he could only stay if he was a customer or worked there. Since he had no money, he asked for a job. The old man told him to grab a broom and sweep the store. Young Jerry asked what he’d get for it. He was told he could stay and avoid a butt kicking by the toughs outside. Walsh said “How about a soda and chips?” The owner shook his head and said, “We’ll see.”

At the day’s end, Jerry put aside his broom, and the owner closed down his store. The young boy waited as the old man went to the grocery store. He returned with only a soda. Jerry asked where his bag of chips was and was immediately smacked on the side of his head. Shaking back his shock, he heard the man say, “If you had moved stuff aside and swept the store properly, you’d have your chips.”

The next day, Jerry Walsh returned to the hardware store. The owner sized him up again and asked “What do you want today?” He answered, “I came back to get my chips.” The man handed him the broom and set him to the task. At the end of this day, Walsh got his soda and chips. He made sweeping floors at the hardware store part of his regular day.

In time, he was awarded with a real job and later came to realize the old man was the single biggest male influence in his life.

The little boy who swept floors to escape bullies is now the owner of Mayday Hardware.

Jerry’s a fun guy to talk to and has an amazing life story suitable for all audiences.


Note to Jerry Walsh: If you read this blog, please forward me the name of your mentor. I’d like to plug it into the writing. It was a pleasure to meet you.



Great fun in Brooklyn

July 8th, 2012 by John Morris

Many different thoughts danced in my brain when daughter, Beth told me she and her pregnant spouse, Julie were moving to Brooklyn. I thought about the mid-50s stereotype of Brooklynites where their language needed deciphering and their actions appeared rough.

I’ve learned to accept my children’s decisions because they have guided them better than any advice from me. So I sat back and waited out this recent change.

With the birth of our grandson, Jackson John Sterling, Lyn has been burning up the Amtrak line to be with the little lad. This past week, Lyn and I decided to stay in Brooklyn at a location near Beth & Julie’s Park Slope. Near is not exactly right. It was a 35 minute walk or a $15 cab ride. Not to worry; all roads lead to grandson, Jack so it was no problem.

To make our time in Brooklyn more memorable, son, Adam and wife, Yuri came in from China to – what else – see their new nephew.

Wife, Lyn used the internet to rent an apartment in Brooklyn’s Prospect Heights region. During our introductory walk through, we noticed there was just one air conditioner mounted in the kitchen window for the entire place. Ut oh, this is going to a rough week. The forecast was for hot with a chance of way too hot.

However, Lyn had a trump card. We had exclusive use of the back yard: a rustic Asian garden with mini-koi pond and pergola. The hammock stretched in the shadiest section iced the deal for me.

The region was as expected: endless brownstones lining some tough neighborhoods. The business district had alternating bordegos, coffee houses, eateries and trendy boutiques. Oh yeah, there was a baby-centric store with $30 birthday hats. Lyn couldn’t buy this gift fast enough for Jack.

The neighborhood mix of people was multi-ethnic with a sprinkling of upscale youngsters. They also had enough “hipsters” to keep  the native watching interesting.

What I noticed early, and throughout our week there, was how friendly these folks were. I got tracked down twice after leaving stores without my purchases. No one accepted my offer to reward them. People smiled and said hello as we passed each other. When I needed help at the local laundromat, I had several offers. I chatted and laughed with the people wherever I went. These city dwellers made me feel welcomed.

I hope, if you visit Brooklyn, you’ll have the same experience I did. It was life affirming to find good and friendly people everywhere even in locations that work against it.


The old boy writing this blog wears many hats: Vietnam Veteran, husband & father, salesman and techno-dude. After my service with the Army Security Agency, I operated a sign company for nineteen years, The sign industry changed after CAD/CAM machines made the task easy enough for the non-talented. I sold my company and never looked back.

Life has granted me a life partner better than I deserve. My wife, Lyn is a transplanted Kansas gal. Her bliss is teaching kindergarten and first grade.

I am the most proud of my children. My son, Adam lives an international life teaching English and living in Sozhou, China. He is married to one of life's truly lovely women, Yuri Kim. My daughter, Beth grew up in a small town and found her way in life means working and living in major cities like Chicago and New York. She and her life partner, Julie Sterling married in LaJolla, California in 2010.

I like getting the newest gadgets, but also I like to use things until they are useless, i.e., my last personal car was an 88 Honda Prelude Si.

I wrote a Vietnam Veteran newsletter for nine years. During this journey, I learned I like to write. It is a harmless exercise that rewards honest effort while tolerating failure gracefully. I been away from it for too long. My son gave me the blog, and it was a lifeline back to writing.

My best advice is to show the world what you can do but to accept only your opinion of who and what you are.

Update: In August 2008, my job became one of the half-million jobs that went away that month. I took the following year getting the home ready for my official retirement.

In October 2009, I took a part-time job as a saleman at the vaulted Maxwell's Hardware.

On November 29, 2011, I reached my 66th birthday, and I officially started Social Security. I intend to stay with Maxwell's as long as I can contribute.