Thursday, March 4, 2010

When Walt Williams Came to Town

Many of my monumental baseball moments aren't monumental at all. There are lots of potential reasons for that (strict Southern Baptist upbringing, relative isolation from MLB among others), but I'd prefer to think it's because most of what we have lived is a jumble of memories waiting to happen, moments waiting to be recalled. 

Sure, I remember the 1986 WS because 1) the Mets won and 2) I listened to games 1-4 and most of game 5 on the stairs until my father chased my into my bedroom among much shouting and gnashing of teeth. But we ALL have WS memories we carry with us, actively, every day. There's nothing unusual there.

A month or so ago someone posted about a ttm they got back from Walt "No Neck" Williams that brought back a lot of my adolescence in jumbled pieces. Charleston baseball has never been TOO big, at least no back then, and I've already written a lot about the park and what it meant elsewhere. Anyway, when the Rangers tabbed Walt "No Neck" Williams to manage the local nine the Charleston media went nuts. Just like that the Rainbows were a big deal and everybody wanted a piece of them. Williams was a REAL former big leaguer and he was coming to manage OUR team. That's pretty much the guy you see in this card: a 5' 6'' superhero who'd come to teach the guys some BASEBALL. 
Oddly, the Walt Williams years were the last few seasons I followed the Rainbows at all. I was in the process of rebelling against said upbringing, "killing the father" who'd chased me back to me bedroom for listening to the WS all those years ago, so you could blame it on the typical concoction of girls, poetry, and living in a town where, at least back then, being old enough to walk into most bars would get you served. And served it got me.

I picked back up with the Rainbows when they'd become the Riverdogs, property of the Tampa Bay Devil Rays. Walt was gone, and new guys like CC and Josh Hamilton were passing through. They had a new park, the games were HIP to go to, and there were no more nickel beer nights. Gotta pay for the fancy new park, I guess. 

Who knows where the years went, and like Baudelaire says, "a town changes more quickly than a man's heart." The Charleston I go back to when I daydream is one where certain friends are sure to be found stoned playing chess in certain now-defunct coffee shoppes and the streets are overwhelmed by the smell of horse piss in the summer. Walt Williams manages the local nine and the future he's looking toward in that card is wide open for all of us.

Thanks for the autos Mr Williams! 

Have a good one everybody and goodnight Pumpsie Green, wherever you are!

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