I admit, almost abashedly, that I am a lifelong Cleveland Indians fan.
Somewhere in the deep recesses of my memory is the sound of Jack Graney's voice as he announced the 1948 World Series, which the Indians won -- and the image of my father and grandfather hunched over the radio as the action played out.
I also remember laying in the back seat of the family’s 1950 Mercury with the smell of mohair in my nostrils while I prayed in desperation that Jim Hegan would get a hit in the bottom of the ninth inning to win the game. He struck out.
Someone in our neighborhood bought a TV, and I can remember sitting in a wooden chair watching the black-and-white 9-inch screen, which projected much bigger behind a large magnifying screen, but the edges were blurry.
I went to my first game at the old Cleveland Stadium in 1954 as the Indians seemed to be a lead-pipe cinch to win their second World Series title in six years. They, of course, were swept in four by the New York Giants.
Over the years I've listened to Indians games while I’ve worked on my cars, while I’ve planted and tended my garden, while I’ve painted the kitchen.
Jimmy Dudley was my favorite play-by-play announcer; that lilting soft Southern drawl and the imagery he was able to convey as the baseball game progressed were mesmerizing. Herb Score and Tom Hamilton have accompanied me in many an engine build or chassis setup.
Baseball has been the one constant in my life. My grandfather, Chauncey Garfield House, was himself a pitcher for the hometown Batesville team and taught me to throw a knuckle ball by the time I entered first grade. He filled me with stories about baseball in the early days at the turn of the last century. He was a pitcher and his brother, Homer House, was the catcher. According to my grandfather, they were a formidable battery.
I've played a lot of organized softball over the years, even pitching for the winning church league team in 1997. We would've gladly defended our title, but the man who ran our league and many others refused to continue because he had never “worked with such aggressive, dirty and difficult players before.” Go figure, a church league.
So when I had the chance to go with our crew to shoot the cover photo of this month’s Akron Life, I didn’t hesitate. Hanging around an empty ballpark on a sunny afternoon seemed like a perfect way to get my baseball juices flowing.
Meeting Ken Babby, the new owner of the Akron Aeros, the Double A affiliate of the Cleveland Indians, was a plus. Ken, as you will read in this issue, is very young and has a sports background, in that his father has been involved in the running of professional sports teams. He's from the Washington, D.C. area but has now made his home here in Akron, unlike the former owner.
He told me that owning a baseball team has been his dream and now it's come true. He appears really into his new job as he greets everyone in the organization -- from the man painting the bathroom walls to the executives down the hall -- as if he really cares about them.
From the huge new digital scoreboard in center field to the fresh paint at Canal Park, the new owner is trying to bring what he calls a "fan experience" -- and a fun experience -- to the Akron Aeros. All I know is, I want to be Ken Babby when I grow up.
Don Baker, Jr., Editor-in-Chief