Son, what kind of pitch would you like to miss? – Jay Dean
|Dizzy Dean Days, Spaulding, OK|
On a beautiful October day a few years back we arrived at our new home in rural Oklahoma and while we waited for the moving van to appear, we noticed that our secluded road seemed awfully busy. That weekend we kept seeing shiny vintage cars and restored tractors heading towards what seemed to us as the middle of nowhere. A few days later we saw the same line of cars and tractors heading back in the other direction. The middle of nowhere turned out to be Spaulding and Spaulding, we found out, was once home to Jay Hanna “Dizzy” Dean.
|Photo courtesy of DizzyDean.com|
Dizzy Dean? No internet connection set up and the word “smartphone” wasn’t yet part of my vocabulary, so I did what I usually do when I need the answer to an urgent question - I called my dad. As usual, he had an answer: major league pitcher for the Cardinals and the Cubs. Became a sportscaster. As a kid, dad plied* the stands at the old Cleveland Stadium and despite looking as if he’s napping during televised sporting events, he’s got a near encyclopedic grasp of football, basketball and baseball. He could probably tell me a thing or two about old cars and tractors as well, if only I were interested.
Born in Arkansas in 1910, Jay and his family moved to Spaulding in 1925 and even though Jay wasn’t enrolled in the local school, he and his brother Paul, played for the junior high team. He further honed his pitching by hurling hickory nuts at squirrels. Anyway, every year the good folks of Spaulding have a 2-day event that celebrates Dean – and maybe long ago, it really was about honoring him. As the son of a sharecropper who picked cotton alongside his father and siblings, Dean would’ve fit in comfortably with the residents of Spaulding. But as Dean retreats further into the sepia past, the days reserved in his honor now celebrate rural life: farming and ranching and independence and catching up with one’s neighbors – and the accoutrements of such: John Deere tractors, bailers, mules, steers and fried pickles. Throw in a few lovingly restored, scrubbed and buffed Chevys and Fords – fins and pointy taillights preferable – and there you have Dizzy Dean Days.
I worked as an usher, but didn’t seat people. In those days, there was a rope dividing general admission seats from reserved seats. I for the first four innings watched to see that no one climbed over the generals to the reserved. If they did, I called a nearby cop (except for my buddies). It was a great job! I worked from 1947 through 1949. The Indians were in the American League, Dean was in the National League. I did see him, but not as a player. I did see many of the great ones.