The last word

Commentary on Tulsa life: The boys of summer.



Jeff Van Hanken’s son, Miller, stands in front of the Stan Musial statue outside the gate at Busch Stadium.

I was a kid: family in Illinois. Living modestly. Going to Chicago — a big deal. Going weekend skiing — in Galena, Ill.! — an even bigger deal. Best of all? First major league baseball game. In St. Louis, doubleheader: Cardinals versus the Phillies. Don’t remember who won. Remember the size of the stadium, Busch II; the huge numbers of people; the Phillies’ sky-blue uniforms (still not a good look); and Lou Brock.

I wish I had the ticket stub, but this is the age of the Internet, and it doesn’t take long to dig up a workable date: Aug. 4, 1974. Philadelphia at St. Louis. Let’s play two. A Sunday. Phillies win first game, 6-1, but Brock gets two hits and steals a base, his 69th. In the second game, the Cards explode for 11, blanking the Phils as Brock steals an unthinkable three bases. Brock finishes the year with a new record for stolen bases in a season: 118.

A couple of years later, family in Tulsa. Not sure whether we were visiting or had already relocated. The local club, the Oilers, is the AAA farm team for the big club, the Cards, who pay a visit. Grandparents take us, let us chase autographs after the game. I stand out by the bus, snag signatures from Gary Templeton and Reggie Smith. For several years thereafter, I work hard to perfect Smith’s awkward and unorthodox batting stance, bat held straight up and above the head as if trying to knock an apple out of a tree.

Then I go away: from Tulsa, yes, but also from baseball. I continue to play. I watch games, attend games. Later, as an adult, I take in games in Los Angeles, in San Diego, even make it to a World Series — 1998, Yankees blank Padres. But I go as an interested fan, not a devoted follower. That part of me seems to have left: part of the wonder/nonsense of childhood, I conclude. Even when the Cardinals win again — world champions, 2006 — I follow, but … something’s different.

This summer, at breakfast one morning, I decide to take a shot and push the box scores across the breakfast table to our 7-year-old son. My hope: that he’d take an interest in the stats. That the stats were centered on baseball? An afterthought.

We have fun. What’s an “RBI”? What’s an “SB”? What does “GB” mean? “GB” stands for “games back” — as in, how many games back are the Cardinals today? We got used to asking and answering that question because the Cardinals had a tough, bordering on miserable, summer. They lost their ace before the season started; most of their big hitters suffered through injuries or slumps, usually both. At the end of August, my son had no choice but to develop a new sardonic part of his personality: the ability to laugh at failure. How could he not?

The Cardinals were 10 1/2 games back in the wild card race; who even remembers how far back in the division? But then — as will be well recounted by now — the Cardinals didn’t catch fire exactly; they slow-burned their way into the playoffs. The final game of the regular season? Almost immediately called one of the greatest nights of baseball ever as the Cardinals and the Tampa Bay Devil Rays broke the hearts of Atlanta and Boston fans by sneaking into the postseason on what would be, for some, the final at bat of the season: Do or die. The Cards did. And lived.

What a ride … that continued. In Texas, visiting family, we watched every out of Chris Carpenter’s herculean shutout that closed out the Philadelphia Phillies: they with their staff hanging with Hall-of-Fame arms. In the airport to and from Texas, my son wears his Pujols jersey: high fives from passing strangers. “Go, Cards!”

And then, my wife does something completely unexpected.

“You should go,” she says. “To the game. For his birthday.”

We make it: game 5, St. Louis, Birds battle the Brewers. He gets it. I tell wife he just keeps repeating, “This is awesome; this is so awesome.” Cards win, 7-1.

It gets better. Afterward, in the hotel, two giant men in suits step on our elevator. I say to my son, “You’re standing next to two very famous pitchers. And this one,” I point to my right, “is famous because he used to play for Tulsa.”

Ron Darling, play-by-play announcer for TBS, winner of a World Series game for the 1986 champion New York Mets, laughs and sticks out his hand. My son shakes it. John Smoltz also offers his hand. Darling then says, “Tulsa? They used to be the AAA club (for the Cardinals), right?” Yep, they did. “I thought so. Keith Hernandez told me that.”

Full circle. Was Hernandez in the parking lot the night Templeton and Smith signed my scorecard? I honestly don’t remember, but if you check the records, he certainly could have been: playing for Tulsa or St. Louis. Smoltz steps off, says goodnight, but on the next floor, after Darling has already stepped off but before he’s rounded the corner, my son yanks his ball glove and pen out, runs him down. Snags an autograph.

Stunningly, I’m writing this column the morning after the historic game 6 of the 2011 World Series — a contest that ended on St. Louis native David Freese’s heart-stopping home run in the bottom of the 11th. Tonight is Game 7: Whatever happens will be unforgettable, but for me, whatever happens is already encased in amber. For my son: box scores, handshakes, signatures? What do they all add up to? Maybe someday — maybe 10,000 days from today — he’ll begin to figure that out. And tell me.

Edit ModuleShow Tags

Archive »You Might Like

Universal appeal

The Ridge Grill

Ultimate gifts

From Champagne to Scotch whisky, use these recommendations for holiday gift giving.

Table Talk: December 2011

The buzz on Tulsa’s tastiest products, restaurants and events.
Edit Module

Add your comment:

 

Get the best in arts, entertainment and more straight to your inbox.

Join our email list

Edit ModuleShow Tags

August 2019

Featuring more than seventy works by French and European masters such as Degas, Manet, Monet, Rousseau and Van Gogh, this exhibition celebrates Mr. and Mrs. Paul Mellon’s extraordinary gift...

Cost: $15

Where:
Oklahoma City Museum of Art
415 Couch Drive
Oklahoma City, OK  73102
View map »


Telephone: (405) 236-3100
Website »

More information

Oh, Tulsa is a Living Arts biennial that celebrates visual, performance, literary, sound, video, and installation art for the Tulsa community. Eligible work includes: Tulsa residents, artists who...

Cost: Free

Where:
Living Arts of Tulsa
307 East M. B. Brady St.
Tulsa, OK  74120
View map »


Telephone: 918-585-1234
Website »

More information

Senior Star Round-Up - August 18 - Cain's Ballroom - 2 to 5 p.m. The annual Senior Star Round-Up is Sunday, August 18, at the Cain's Ballroom, 423 N. Main Street in Tulsa. This popular...

Cost: $10

Where:
Cain's Ballroom
423 N. Main St.
Tulsa, OK
View map »


Sponsor: Senior Star Living
Telephone: (918) 664-9000
Contact Name: Emily Fox

More information

BROKEN ARROW COMMUNITY PLAYHOUSE Presents “The Wizard of Oz” (R.S.C.1987) By L. Frank Baum With Music and Lyrics by Harold Arlen and E. Y. Harburg Background Music by...

Cost: $22-$25

Where:
Broken Arrow Community Playhouse
1800 S Main St
Broken Arrow, OK  Broken Arrow
View map »


Sponsor: Broken Arrow Community Playhouse
Telephone: 918-258-0077
Contact Name: 74012
Website »

More information

Help DVIS and the Tulsa Drillers knock out violence! We are in our 16th year of raising funds for survivors of domestic violence and sexual assault. Join us by pledging per home run or making a...

Cost: $1+

Where:
Tulsa, OK


Sponsor: DVIS
Telephone: 918-508-2709
Contact Name: Jenée Day
Website »

More information

Show More...
Show Less...

Featuring more than seventy works by French and European masters such as Degas, Manet, Monet, Rousseau and Van Gogh, this exhibition celebrates Mr. and Mrs. Paul Mellon’s extraordinary gift...

Cost: $15

Where:
Oklahoma City Museum of Art
415 Couch Drive
Oklahoma City, OK  73102
View map »


Telephone: (405) 236-3100
Website »

More information

Oh, Tulsa is a Living Arts biennial that celebrates visual, performance, literary, sound, video, and installation art for the Tulsa community. Eligible work includes: Tulsa residents, artists who...

Cost: Free

Where:
Living Arts of Tulsa
307 East M. B. Brady St.
Tulsa, OK  74120
View map »


Telephone: 918-585-1234
Website »

More information

Help DVIS and the Tulsa Drillers knock out violence! We are in our 16th year of raising funds for survivors of domestic violence and sexual assault. Join us by pledging per home run or making a...

Cost: $1+

Where:
Tulsa, OK


Sponsor: DVIS
Telephone: 918-508-2709
Contact Name: Jenée Day
Website »

More information

Show More...
Show Less...

Featuring more than seventy works by French and European masters such as Degas, Manet, Monet, Rousseau and Van Gogh, this exhibition celebrates Mr. and Mrs. Paul Mellon’s extraordinary gift...

Cost: $15

Where:
Oklahoma City Museum of Art
415 Couch Drive
Oklahoma City, OK  73102
View map »


Telephone: (405) 236-3100
Website »

More information

Oh, Tulsa is a Living Arts biennial that celebrates visual, performance, literary, sound, video, and installation art for the Tulsa community. Eligible work includes: Tulsa residents, artists who...

Cost: Free

Where:
Living Arts of Tulsa
307 East M. B. Brady St.
Tulsa, OK  74120
View map »


Telephone: 918-585-1234
Website »

More information

Help DVIS and the Tulsa Drillers knock out violence! We are in our 16th year of raising funds for survivors of domestic violence and sexual assault. Join us by pledging per home run or making a...

Cost: $1+

Where:
Tulsa, OK


Sponsor: DVIS
Telephone: 918-508-2709
Contact Name: Jenée Day
Website »

More information

Show More...
Show Less...

You're invited to our new store Grand Opening Celebration in Broken Arrow, August 21st for an all day event! As you know, this year marks our 30 year anniversary of serving business minded...

Cost: Free

Where:
Stow's Office Furniture
3604 S Elm Place
Broken Arrow, OK  74011
View map »

More information

Featuring more than seventy works by French and European masters such as Degas, Manet, Monet, Rousseau and Van Gogh, this exhibition celebrates Mr. and Mrs. Paul Mellon’s extraordinary gift...

Cost: $15

Where:
Oklahoma City Museum of Art
415 Couch Drive
Oklahoma City, OK  73102
View map »


Telephone: (405) 236-3100
Website »

More information

Oh, Tulsa is a Living Arts biennial that celebrates visual, performance, literary, sound, video, and installation art for the Tulsa community. Eligible work includes: Tulsa residents, artists who...

Cost: Free

Where:
Living Arts of Tulsa
307 East M. B. Brady St.
Tulsa, OK  74120
View map »


Telephone: 918-585-1234
Website »

More information

Help DVIS and the Tulsa Drillers knock out violence! We are in our 16th year of raising funds for survivors of domestic violence and sexual assault. Join us by pledging per home run or making a...

Cost: $1+

Where:
Tulsa, OK


Sponsor: DVIS
Telephone: 918-508-2709
Contact Name: Jenée Day
Website »

More information

Show More...
Show Less...

Featuring more than seventy works by French and European masters such as Degas, Manet, Monet, Rousseau and Van Gogh, this exhibition celebrates Mr. and Mrs. Paul Mellon’s extraordinary gift...

Cost: $15

Where:
Oklahoma City Museum of Art
415 Couch Drive
Oklahoma City, OK  73102
View map »


Telephone: (405) 236-3100
Website »

More information

Oh, Tulsa is a Living Arts biennial that celebrates visual, performance, literary, sound, video, and installation art for the Tulsa community. Eligible work includes: Tulsa residents, artists who...

Cost: Free

Where:
Living Arts of Tulsa
307 East M. B. Brady St.
Tulsa, OK  74120
View map »


Telephone: 918-585-1234
Website »

More information

Help DVIS and the Tulsa Drillers knock out violence! We are in our 16th year of raising funds for survivors of domestic violence and sexual assault. Join us by pledging per home run or making a...

Cost: $1+

Where:
Tulsa, OK


Sponsor: DVIS
Telephone: 918-508-2709
Contact Name: Jenée Day
Website »

More information

Show More...
Show Less...

Sign up now for the Tulsa Area United Way's 9th Annual Golf Scramble – a local tradition that pairs an enjoyable morning of golf with helping your community.

Cost: $400 per team

Where:
LaFortune Park Golf Course
5501 S Yale Avenue
Tulsa, OK  74135
View map »

More information

Featuring more than seventy works by French and European masters such as Degas, Manet, Monet, Rousseau and Van Gogh, this exhibition celebrates Mr. and Mrs. Paul Mellon’s extraordinary gift...

Cost: $15

Where:
Oklahoma City Museum of Art
415 Couch Drive
Oklahoma City, OK  73102
View map »


Telephone: (405) 236-3100
Website »

More information

Oh, Tulsa is a Living Arts biennial that celebrates visual, performance, literary, sound, video, and installation art for the Tulsa community. Eligible work includes: Tulsa residents, artists who...

Cost: Free

Where:
Living Arts of Tulsa
307 East M. B. Brady St.
Tulsa, OK  74120
View map »


Telephone: 918-585-1234
Website »

More information

  The biggest sporting event in history for Broken Arrow is set to happen on Friday, August 23rd. The event will take place outside in Downtown Broken Arrow near the intersection of...

Cost: $52.00

Where:
Downtown Broken Arrow
The intersection of Commercial and Main streets
Broken Arrow, OK
View map »


Website »

More information

Help DVIS and the Tulsa Drillers knock out violence! We are in our 16th year of raising funds for survivors of domestic violence and sexual assault. Join us by pledging per home run or making a...

Cost: $1+

Where:
Tulsa, OK


Sponsor: DVIS
Telephone: 918-508-2709
Contact Name: Jenée Day
Website »

More information

Show More...
Show Less...

Wings, Wheels & Wishes is a fly-in, car and bike show benefitting the Make-A-Wish Foundation of Oklahoma in loving memory of Collinsville Wish Kid, Bill Campbell. Our event features vintage...

Cost: Free to the public

Where:
Airman Acres Airport
12600 N. 73rd E. Ave.
Collinsville, OK  74021
View map »


Telephone: 918-510-3423
Contact Name: Cindi Conner
Website »

More information

  Our 17th Annual CimTel Classic 5K is August 24, 2019! The registration begins at 6:30am and the race begins at 8am at Cleveland High School 600 N Gilbert Cleveland, OK. The entry fee is $25 for...

Cost: 25.00

Where:
Cleveland High School
600 N Gilbert
Cleveland, OK  74020
View map »


Sponsor: CimTel
Contact Name: Allee Pearson
Website »

More information

Featuring more than seventy works by French and European masters such as Degas, Manet, Monet, Rousseau and Van Gogh, this exhibition celebrates Mr. and Mrs. Paul Mellon’s extraordinary gift...

Cost: $15

Where:
Oklahoma City Museum of Art
415 Couch Drive
Oklahoma City, OK  73102
View map »


Telephone: (405) 236-3100
Website »

More information

Maker Faire Tulsa is an award-winning, family-friendly event celebrating technology, education, science, arts, crafts, engineering, food, sustainability, and making of all kinds. The 7th...

Cost: Free

Where:
Central Park Hall at Expo Square
1701 S Sandusky Ave
Tulsa, OK  74112
View map »


Sponsor: Fab Lab Tulsa
Telephone: 918-779-6025
Contact Name: Nathan Pritchett
Website »

More information

Maker Faire Tulsa is an award-winning, family-friendly event celebrating technology, education, science, arts, crafts, engineering, food, sustainability, and making of all kinds. In 2019, Fab Lab...

Cost: FREE

Where:
Central Park Hall @ Expo Square
4145 East 21st Street
Tulsa, OK  74114
View map »

More information

Bobby O’s Slices + Pies, located in the Meadow Gold District along Route 66, will host a day of meal deals, merchandise giveaways, and kids activities for their Back-to-School Bash. The...

Cost: Free

Where:
Bobby O's
1502 E. 11th St.
Tulsa, OK  74120
View map »


Sponsor: Bobby O's
Telephone: 918-586-2455
Website »

More information

Oh, Tulsa is a Living Arts biennial that celebrates visual, performance, literary, sound, video, and installation art for the Tulsa community. Eligible work includes: Tulsa residents, artists who...

Cost: Free

Where:
Living Arts of Tulsa
307 East M. B. Brady St.
Tulsa, OK  74120
View map »


Telephone: 918-585-1234
Website »

More information

America’s LARGEST interactive comedy murder mystery dinner show is now playing at the Hilton Garden Inn Tulsa Broken Arrow! At The Dinner Detective, you’ll tackle a challenging crime while you...

Cost: 59.95

Where:
Hilton Garden Inn Tulsa- Broken Arrow
420 W Albany St.
Broken Arrow, OK  74012
View map »


Telephone: 866-496-0535
Contact Name: The Dinner Detective
Website »

More information

DIVAS JUMP THE POND - THE BRITISH INVASION!! DIVAS 4 H.O.P.E. features live music from Tulsa’s diverse local artists along with cocktails, dinner, and one-of-a-kind live and silent auction...

Cost: $15,000 - $250

Where:
Assembly Hall - Cox Business Center
100 Civic Center
Tulsa, OK  74103
View map »


Sponsor: Health Outreach Prevention Education, Inc.
Telephone: 918-688-5022
Contact Name: Kathy L Williams
Website »

More information

Help DVIS and the Tulsa Drillers knock out violence! We are in our 16th year of raising funds for survivors of domestic violence and sexual assault. Join us by pledging per home run or making a...

Cost: $1+

Where:
Tulsa, OK


Sponsor: DVIS
Telephone: 918-508-2709
Contact Name: Jenée Day
Website »

More information

Show More...
Show Less...
Edit ModuleEdit ModuleShow Tags
Edit ModuleShow Tags

What's New


3.02: Getting Schooled — Dr. Deborah Gist

A conversation with Dr. Deborah Gist, superintendent of Tulsa Public Schools, about the new school year and managing one of the state's largest public school districts with low funding.

Comments

Oklahoma's Best-Sellers: Aug. 18

Based on total number of book sales at Magic City Books, Best of Books in Edmond, Brace Books and More in Ponca City, and Full Circle Bookstore in Oklahoma City.

Comments

How do you create affordable housing for all Tulsans?

Q&A with Becky Gligo, City of Tulsa's first housing policy director

Comments

Video: Onifade's Cookie Co.

Comments: 1

3:01: Higher Education - Dr. Leigh Goodson

Dr. Leigh Goodson, president and CEO of Tulsa Community College, on TCC's 50th anniversary, the Tulsa Achieves program and the importance of going to college in 2019.

Comments