Just wanted to let you know how much I enjoyed your book. I jotted down a few things that resonated for me.
My dad was a Beta at University of Cincinnati.
Reef Points! How can we ever forget them!
Rifle range. Who can forget those Marines!
Heinz Lenz was still there for me, too. (I think he died only in the last couple of years?)
Joe Duff. He still coached baseball, but he and I never crossed paths. I made the plebe and varsity sailing teams while I was there (1967-1971), but was not the athlete you were. But those T-tables plebe year were a Godsend! And for the sailing team, it was for BOTH fall and spring sets.
Joe Bellino. I loved watching those games. And Roger Staubach, how lucky you were to be there during his era, too. Roger came and talked at our pep rally in 1967 before the Army/Navy game. (He was trying to make it with the Cowboys at that time.) We won that year and received "carry on" like you did.
Like you, I thoroughly enjoyed being on the "plebe detail" second class year. As luck would have it, the very next summer the Academy decided to put first class in charge of the detail, so I got to do it again!
Pensacola. Great times! I certainly wasn't the "ace of the base," but finished high enough (4 of 30 that week) to choose any pipeline I wanted (helos, jets, or props)---and they were all open that week.
My A-7 primary instructor in T-34's nearly shot me for picking helos, but guys from '68 and '69 were telling us how much fun they were having flying them (while we were still back at the Academy). Plus, I found that whenever I climbed above 5000 feet, I lost the real sensation of flying. I also found that to be true as a second class midshipman flying in the back of an F-4 at Oceana (the "Diamondbacks"). In helos I knew I would spend most of my flying career at 500 feet and below. (In Desert Storm we frequently flew at 10 feet and as fast as that Blackhawk would go!) I never regretted my decision.
Army helo pilot Hugh Thompson. What courage! (I used his example in my first book, Inspiring Leadership: Character and Ethics Matter, now used in the Leadership/Ethics curricula at Villanova and Regent Universities.)
Olongapo! Amazing place. If you closed your eyes, you actually thought the Rolling Stones were playing---or any other big name group for that matter. And those kids diving for pesos! The helo hangout was the Roofadora Club, as I recall.
Our helo squadron aboard the USS Constellation in 1974 made three daily trips ("liberty runs") to Bagio, Manila, and Clark AFB while we were in port at Cubi Point/Subic. We charged a dollar per person (which went to the rec fund). Needless to say, we were the most popular squadron on the ship, especially among the Filipino stewards! LOL.
And last but certainly far from least, your amazing work as a lawyer for the UFW. What a legacy for you! You can be justifiably proud of those years!
Anyway, Dan, thought you should know how much I enjoyed your book. One of these days we'll have to meet for lunch.
Soon the weather changed and snow covered the Duke University Campus. Snowball fights at Duke could turn dangerous. The snow fell on the campus in January leaving an opportunity to engage in snowball fights. Some fraternity brothers from KA were harassing freshmen and assaulting them with snow balls.
A huge football player, and future All-American, caught my attention as I had thrown passes to him as a freshman QB practicing with the varsity. 6' 9" tall and two hundred and forty pounds, he was also a vicious defensive end.
At the fourth floor freshman dorm bathroom with a good view of the quad beneath, I decided to alter the unfair bully-confrontation. From snow that had collected on window sills, I scooped enough to fill half a trashcan and made a pile of baseball-sized snowballs. As the beast attacked a small freshman, and tossed snow down his back, the boy’s books fell in wet mud and snow. My first throw hit the side of the monster’s face and had to sting.
“I’m coming to get you, you son-of-a-bitch,” he screamed enraged at my assault. He terrified me. Immediately, with just one throw, I had become the target of a dangerous muscular giant. But, he had to run up four floors to find me. He raced to the second floor raging like a wild bull. In seconds, he would appear on my floor. Streaking to my room, farthest from the stairway, luckily on the left, I hid under my bed listening to the damage he did room by room. He threatened mayhem and falsely accused many. I felt pity for those innocent ones caught in his tirade. He swung open my door, but did not notice me huddled under my bed with a blanket over me.
He slammed the door on his rampage. Every dorm freshmen feared his retaliation. While exposing my classmates to a fierce attack, I had made another narrow escape by using my intelligence, natural athletic ability, courage, and sense of justice that diverted a bully from further harming a helpless freshman.
(This is the Story Salon in Valley Village where I presented this true story last night, September 16 along with seven other story tellers to a lively crowd)
I am 16 and the quarterback on a high school football team in Japan
After football practice a week before our family was scheduled to return to America in October 1956, our eight-person carryall broke down a few miles from Yokohama. The engine flooded and the smell of gasoline nauseated me. I had to get outside. Our Japanese driver called the Navy base for a replacement and said, “New van arrive forty-five minute.”
Having been YoHi football team’s quarterback for two years, every teammate formed a habit of following my directions. While standing outside the vehicle and looking around, I leaned in and said, “Come outside now.” They scrambled out. I pointed, “See those tracks running around that hill? If we follow them, they’ll lead to a train station. We can catch one and walk to the Naval Station an hour or sooner than if we wait for a van.”
“Sounds good,” said Tex, a tough first-team tackle.
Everyone nodded in agreement.
“We go to find nearest train, Diajobu des ne?”(OK?) I said to the driver.
“Abunaio!” (Be careful!) “Kiotsketi kudasai.” (Take it easy, please,) the driver said mouth open and wrinkled brow.
Seven athletes aged fifteen to seventeen followed me. We scrambled over rough brush and found a pathway up a slope. In ten minutes we reached two sets of tracks. As we rounded the hill, a narrow tunnel appeared that resembled a black hole.
Night view of railway tunnel
“This looks dangerous,” Tex said. “These trains race through the tunnel with little room for us.”
“Don’t worry. If a train comes on one track we can jump to the other,” I said.
“Yeah that’s right,” our fullback, Ron, said.
Two others nodded in agreement and the rest followed.
Running toward the tunnel, the setting red sun sent a glow behind me. The inside of the tunnel was barely visible. After racing into the tunnel, everyone followed at my heels. We had a foot of clearance on each wall in the dark cavity and two feet between the tracks. Dank darkness quickly enshrouded us. It seemed like we had fallen into a black soup as we slowed to avoid stumbling on the wooden planks now in utter blackness.
When we had advanced a third of the way, I sensed danger. A swift-moving train whizzed around the corner at us. A water droplet fell from the moldy ceiling into my eyes. After brushing it away, the flying mass of steel zoomed toward us. A looming light grew rapidly larger and a roaring rattling rumble followed. “Jump right!” I shouted. The blast of the train drowned out my voice. The train’s light revealed seven moving forms.
The steel thunderbolt’s warning bell changed from a high-pitched sound to a descending tone DING DING DINg DINg DIng Ding ding ding din din as it passed us with a deafening clattering at over ninety miles per hour.
Another booming train streaked at us on the opposing track! A horn howled and screamed as it approached. Its warning bell grew louder. Both trains doubled the blaring racket. My heart pounded; my breath heaved; I almost panicked. The heavy weight of shock choked me. I never should have urged my friends to enter the tunnel. Racing on the right track careful not to trip, we were nearly clobbered by the hurtling train from behind. Finally, the first train passed us with a WHOOSH.
“Jump left!” I screamed.
Could they hear me? The new train’s explosive reverberation was deafening. Its rotating light fluttered over our leaping forms. The unexpected steel blur jolted past at blazing speed and threw a forceful blast of hot muggy air at us. Expecting the worst I gazed back as all jumped in time to avoid disaster. The cars bumped and clattered as the steel wheels clickity–clacked and the wind rushed by our sweating faces.
Breathing an enormous sigh of relief, I was ecstatic from our good fortune. We had cheated death. We raced toward the silver light signaling the other entrance of the tunnel. In a mad dash for the growing sunbeams towards life, panting, sweating, I emerged and faced my friends. Tex and a few others stumbled out after me, exhaustion all over their faces. Sweat ran down their foreheads into their eyes and cheeks. They gasped for breath and stumbled toward me. Tex rushed up with fire in his eyes, “Jesus! What the fuck! Lavery, you almost got us killed!”
“Holy Shit! How did we make it?” Ron said.
“Ah Ah I’m so sorry,” passed emotionally out my mouth with fear written over my face. “I never should have led you guys into that tunnel.” We walked towards the station a few blocks away and huddled. “Hey guys. Please don’t tell anyone about this. Our parents won’t understand,” I said.
Tex and the others gradually agreed. We all shook on it.
On the train back, the tunnel train dodging affected me deeply. It made me appreciate life’s gifts I seemed to have taken for granted. Coming close to death not once, but twice in seconds, made me feel I must live more wisely. My thoughtless actions nearly killed eight young men. The shock of near death awakened a feeling of responsibility. That moment of awareness heightened my senses. I clasped my hands, felt the warmth of each finger intertwined, and breathed deeply. Time seemed to slow to a standstill so glad we were all alive.
The advice of my grandmother Ruthie, came back. Having noticed me rushing around as a teenager full of anxiety, “Slow down, Danny,” she said, “Find the harmony in nature. Life is precious.”
During bad weather, or when the Washington Senator's game was broadcast on the radio, I often played an indoor baseball game in our basement. My toy soldiers, cowboys, Indians became baseball players on a baseball field I created with wooden blocks as walls. My soldiers stood in positions around the “field.” Using a small nut and screw for a ball, I took a soldier in my right hand and threw the “ball” up with my left hand while lying on the floor at the home plate. The soldier’s body became a bat I swung with my right hand. A soldier’s head hit the ball the longest. The defensive players made outs when the “ball” touched them.
(Griffith Park Stadium Washington. D.C. 1951)
My games usually featured the Washington Senators against the Red Sox, Yankees, Indians, or Tigers. When a hit “ball” went over the fence it was a home run. Off the fence counted as a double unless it hit center field fence; that was a triple. Balls that went through the infield without touching a player were singles as were those that flew over the infielders and dropped in front of, or went by, the outfielders. If the ball traveled on the ground to the fence, it was a double unless the runner had great speed. It was a triple if I thought he could make it based on their speed on a baseball card.
(Washington Senator Baseball Cards)
Often when playing my “soldier baseball” game I turned on the radio to hear Senators’ announcer in 1950, Arch McDonald describe the action. He had a deep and kind voice that boomed with excitement and knew all the players, their stats, and baseball history. Using a sound like a ball hitting a bat when the player hit a pitch, followed by ringing a bell, he indicated hits. One bell meant a single, two a double, three a triple, and four a home run. I waited in suspense for the bells: “Here comes the pitch to Irv Noren. CRRACK ...ding...ding...ding...ding. There it goes over the right field wall and into the night for a home run, Noren’s 14th of the year, winning the game 4 to 3 in a walk-off finish.” It was fun using my soldiers as the players in the Senator’s game as if I were there watching the action.
(Irv Noren was my favorite player)
I devised a game called “step ball” that taught me how to field any ball and throw it accurately. Variations of the game exist because each house called for different rules. Our house lay ten feet above the street on a raised lawn with concrete stairway from the front door to the street. One day I threw a tennis ball against one of the ten concrete steps. It bounced back to me just like a ground ball. Using chalk lines on the street to designate a single, double, and triple, made the game more realistic. If the ball traveled over my head to the other side of the street, it was a home run. If I threw the ball to strike the corner of a step, it sent the ball the furthest.
Neighborhood friends of all ages challenged me in “step ball.” We often played two against two. Catching a ball in the air made an out, as did fielding a ground ball unless it landed beyond the chalk marks for a hit. We used baseball gloves to increase our chance to make a spectacular catch. Step ball improved my fielding and pitching ability and provided many intense games that were fun and never cost a penny.
Hi Friends: Just finished watching what may have been the best World Series ever. I loved the Kansas City Royals, their manager, Ned Yost, and amazing fans who stood up through the games, cheered their beloved team, and made baseball a much more interesting sport this year. I also happened to love the San Francisco Giants, their amazing players, and especially MVP Madison Bumgarner who set many pitching records for his magnificent performance of pitching the most innings ever in a World Series, and his gutty 5 innings, 67 pitches, in relief on 2 days rest. But both teams have much to celebrate. Hunter Pence smashed the most hits in a series. Sandoval was right behind him and made many spectacular plays at third and was a magnetic leader for his teammates. Rookie Panik made the play of the series in the last game spearing a ball going into centerfield one handed and using his glove to toss it to the shortstop for a double play instead of runners on first and third and no outs. That play could have saved the game for the Giants. Finally, the Royals had a great opportunity to tie the game with two out in the bottom of the ninth when the batter hit a line drive to centerfield that Blanco should have caught but misjudged as it went by him to the wall way out in deep centerfield. The left fielder almost retrieved it for a moment but in the process kicked it away and stumbled while the batter Gordon rounded second and was almost to third.Unbelieveably, the Royals coach played it conservative and held the runner at third. So Bumgarner just went back to work and finished the Royals. That was a time when an aggressive approach would have removed Bumgarner from being the difference, and I felt the runner could have tied the game for the Royals. I doubt if Bumgarner could have kept going for another inning but who will ever know. Glad a controversy ended the game because it was just that close. Both teams were really fantastic. They put on a great World Series. I'm sorry it had to end. It did give a number of relatively unknown ball players an opportunity to show their skill. These teams were both Wild Card teams who had to play more games than any other just to get into the World Series, and made baseball far more interesting because they were not the favored teams at the end of the season.The Angels had the best record, and the Dodgers seemed to me and many others to have the best talent. I for one will miss the excitement of this unforgettable baseball season.
Dan after the series concluded with a cold Bud in his hands and a Giants jersey!