Friday, June 22, 2012

Settle Down, Young Man: Bob Oldis Takes Down My Father-in-Law

Posting about ttm successes is cool, but I also just enjoy hanging out over beers and telling people stories that ballplayers share. Awhile back I was with my father-in-law and told him about my plans to write IA sports legend Bob Oldis. For context, Iowans tend to be sports nuts and when I'm out-and-about with family up there the people around me frequently do things like watch grainy footage of high school football games from the 1950s, attend jv girls basketball games at 4 PM on a Thursday, pay 5 figures for the local bar to bring in an Australian ringer for its men's fast-pitch softball team, and stay up until 3 AM following the LA Dodgers. In a sports-mad society like Iowa, it's no exaggeration to state that former major leaguer and baseball lifer like Bob Oldis really is a legend.

Despite this status or perhaps because of it, Oldis apparently did a lot of refereeing for high school sports in and around Iowa City. Coincidentally, the father-in-law was a coach in Iowa City during the 70s and 80s. The story goes that one year the father-in-law coached the freshman team to a victory over the sophomore team during the high school's annual intra-squad game. A big Saturday morning event, parents show up, the cheerleaders are there, and the school even hired refs. Like you can imagine, the freshmen upsetting the sophs was a big deal, and it helped that the father-in-law's 9th graders were led by Mark Gannon, one of the top 20 all-time basketball players from the state and future 8th Round pick of the now LA Clippers in 1983. With Gannon now a sophomore, the father-in-law had to prove it was his coaching, not Gannon's skills that led the freshmen team to victory the previous year.

So it was on. Screaming, yelling, trash-talking, riding the refs, all for a game played between members of the same team at the same high school on a Saturday morning in the late-1970s. The ref, however, was Bob Oldis, and after my father-in-law began calling for a lane violation after a certain play he blew his whistle, walked over to the bench, and said something like the following: "Now settle down, son. It's early on a Saturday morning and none these people came to see you." He then blew his whistle and play resumed.

You can imagine, of course, I typed all of this up and sent it to Bob Oldis.
For starters, he laid a sweet signature on his 1953 rookie card for me. Does the farmhouse beyond the OF wall say "I'm gonna make this guy look like he's from IA" or what?

I asked him about his one career SB attempt which came with the Phillies in 1962 and resulted in a CS. He responded that the hit-and-run sign was one but didn't name the name of the batter who busted the play (he's a consummate pro!).

He had a seven-year career, posting a career slash of 237/297/275, but one of the more feared defensive catchers of the day. For example, during Maury Wills's record setting 1962 season when he stole 104 bases in 117 attempts, Oldis gunned him down twice. The secret to throwing runners out, Oldis said, is "Being in position to throw the ball and quick feet." 

He also added the following note to the bottom of the page:

"Tell father-in-law, Dean, Hello--Those were great days and Dean was always great. Thanks, Bob Oldis"

Very, vey cool. 

Going fishing for the next few, so I hope everyone has a great weekend. And goodnight Pumpsie Green, wherever you are!