American Top 40 PastBlast, 8/28/82: Asia, “Only Time Will Tell”

When I was much younger, I made a few attempts at maintaining a diary, none of which ultimately took hold for all that long. The first began in the summer of 1975, at the tender age of 11–quite a bit of that focused on the status of my baseball card collection, with only a little devoted to what was going on inside me at the time. Two later efforts had a better mix of reporting on current events and looking inward (or at least I think so). One of those occurred at the midpoint of my junior year in college; I wrote about that a couple of years ago. The other had taken place (mostly) in August and September of 1982, just before and immediately after I’d flown the nest to begin life at Transy on 9/4. Those weeks are almost certainly the most closely chronicled of my life, though that hardly means they make for compelling reading. Nonetheless, you get a brief synopsis of some of what I elected to record for posterity at the end of that August.

–We had returned from a family vacation to Myrtle Beach on Sunday, the 22nd, and my sister started her senior year of high school just two days later. I visited my school (at least) twice between 8/24 and 8/31;

–I mentioned going shopping for stuff to take with me to college on four occasions, including the desk pad/calendar I wrote about last fall;

–“Making the rounds” to see high school friends one last time was a common refrain, and several close ones receive specific mention (and visits);

–I went golfing with Dad a couple of times–he was still scoring better than I was. A couple of bowling outings with my good friend Tony happened, too;

–What about my AT40 habit? Well, that got a shout-out, on 8/24. I wasn’t taking as much time to listen to the show at this point, relying on Recordland’s posting of the Hot 100 instead:

Funny thing is, I didn’t record those predictions on the 8/21 chart.

–A recurring theme is dithering over what to do about the girl I was kinda sorta dating at the time. We’d met at FBLA Leadership Camp the previous summer, and after a few weeks of calling her after school started back, I’d let things drop (she lived just a couple of counties over from me, which fortunately meant the calls were local). We’d reconnected at the Regional and State FBLA Conferences in the spring, and at the latter, I’d been there to offer some comfort after she lost the election for State Treasurer–she was a year behind me in school. The phone calls resumed, and we’d gone on a date or two over the summer.

But I was about to embark on a new adventure, and she would still be in high school sixty-plus miles away… At first I considered driving to see her over the last weekend of August to “talk it over,” then it got pushed back to the middle of the week, and finally…nothing happened. At one point I did consider how she might be feeling about things, how my apparent lack of interest in seeing her before I left might be playing.

The first encounter with the term “supergroup” I can recall came in the spring of 1982, when Asia blasted on the scene. Even if I wasn’t that into prog rock growing up, I certainly knew about King Crimson, Yes, and ELP (yeah, the Buggles, too). I’m virtually certain my sister had purchased Asia while “Heat of the Moment” was riding high on the charts, though I don’t remember it getting played much while I was around. By this final weekend before the start of my next phase, second single “Only Time Will Tell” had advanced to #24. It would be at its peak of #17 on my final chart in early October.

She and I exchanged a couple of letters after I got to college. In the last one I sent, probably in mid-to-late October, I made not-so-casual mention of my new female friend. The whole thing was clearly far from my finest moment. She was never anything but nice to me, and even if that hadn’t been the case, she was undeserving of shabby treatment. I guess I can only hope that she wasn’t as bitter as John Wetton.

Life Has A Funny Way Of Helping You Out

Saturday, July 13, 1996, was not overly hot in north-central Kentucky—the high temp was in the lower 80s—but it was somewhat cloudy and plenty humid. My recollection is that the morning sped by and before I knew it, it was time to tux up and drive the two miles south on U.S. 25 to First Christian Church here in Georgetown. I was to be one of two centers of attention, beginning at 2:30.

Eighteen months earlier there was no indication whatsoever I could be in such a position. But then Martha Kay Lutz entered my life, and nothing would ever be the same. We went ice skating on our second date, and I think it might have been then, holding hands in the midst of the chaos around us as we made our way carefully but not tentatively around the rink, that I thought this could really be right.

We didn’t have a huge wedding party—three attendants each, plus two ushers. The best man, groomsmen, and I whiled away the end of my bachelorhood in the church library playing a few hands of bridge. Right before we walked into the sanctuary, Greg offered me some advice: just look at her and smile.

The ceremony was pretty straightforward and not all that long. Each of us had a cousin sing (Martha’s sang “The Lord’s Prayer,” mine Stölzel’s/Bach’s “Bist du bei mir”). Maybe the most memorable thing for attendees was how long it took most of them to leave—we hadn’t planned it this way, but we wound up greeting and talking with guests in the vestibule as they exited. I don’t regret that at all—it was one way to make sure we saw everyone—but it did put us well behind schedule. There were still pictures to take, so we were rather late to the reception.

Our honeymoon started in the Poconos—part of our wedding gift from Martha’s parents was a week’s worth at any place in their timeshare network. From there, it was on to Niagara Falls (my folks had gone there as well for their honeymoon) and Toronto. Upon our return we got Martha and her things moved in to my—now our—house. And we’ve lived happily ever after.

Yesterday Martha and I spent some time looking through photos of the various events related to the event, from showers to reception. We were fortunate to have so many family and friends celebrate with us. It was sad, though, noting who isn’t here anymore. As folks my age or thereabouts know, twenty-five years goes so fast, yet with so many changes. I’m very lucky to have had Martha by my side for all the ups and downs, the joys and sorrows of the last twenty-five years, and for all those yet to come.

I guess it wouldn’t be a post here if I didn’t do something with music. For the occasion, I’m taking a look at the Hot 100 from our wedding day; that’s an okay idea, dontcha think?

Billboard had implemented a huge change in methodology for compiling its pop chart in late 1991, incorporating Nielsen’s SoundScan and Broadcast Data Systems technology for tracking cassingle sales and airplay, respectively. For chart geeks of the 70s and 80s such as I, it was a shock to the system. Among other major changes, many fewer songs made it to #1, and long-standing records of endurance at the top were shattered.

By 7/13/96, I suppose folks had adjusted to the new chart reality, though. Here’s a decent sampling of what was happening then.

#99. Brooks and Dunn, “My Maria”
#98. Weird Al Yankovic, “Amish Paradise”

One’s a remake of a 70s Top 10 hit, the other’s a parody of a #1 smash from the previous fall. Neither made the Top 40 (peaking at #79 and #53, respectively), and both are in their final week on the chart.

#95. Los Del Mar, “Macarena”
#67. Los Del Rio, “Macarena”
#5. Los Del Rio, “Macarena (Bayside Boys Mix)”

The song you could not escape over the last half of the year. In three weeks, the Bayside Boys Mix would climb to the top and stay there for 14 weeks. Yes, at one point I could do some semblance of the Macarena; no, no one did it at our reception—we had a string quartet, not a DJ.

#93. Lionel Richie, “Don’t Wanna Lose You”
#63. Sting, You Still Touch Me
#49. Whitney Houston and Cece Winans, “Count on Me”
#44. Michael Jackson, “They Don’t Care About Us”
#19. George Michael, “Fastlove”

Several big names of the 80s weren’t finding the going as great by 1996. These are the last Hot 100 appearances for both Richie and Michael (while George was alive, anyway). Sting still had “Desert Rose” to come, and while Houston and Jackson also had some gas in the tank, their #1-making days were at this point behind them.

#91. Garbage, “Only Happy When It Rains”
#79. Spacehog, “In the Meantime”
#65. Beck, “Where It’s At”
#31. Dishwalla, “Counting Blue Cars”

By now, I was mostly listening to the alternative radio station in Lexington, hearing these songs lots that spring and/or summer and liking all of them pretty well, particularly those first two.

As the 90s progressed, many big radio hits weren’t getting released as a single, which could lead to great puzzlement when scanning the Hot 100 (Billboard relented and began including radio-only songs toward the end of 1998). This week, notable non-singles from the top half of the Airplay Chart include “Killing Me Softly” by the Fugees, “Standing Outside a Broken Phone Booth with Money in My Hands” from the Primitive Radio Gods, “Champagne Supernova” by Oasis, and No Doubt’s “Spiderwebs.”

#69. Bush, “Machinehead”
There was a thing on Twitter several weeks ago that went something like, “You’re on a first date. You ask what the person’s favorite (fill in the blank) is. You get up and leave upon hearing the answer. What was it?” Someone I follow filled the blank with “90s alternative band.” My immediate reaction was Bush; based on the reactions to that tweet, I wasn’t alone in feeling that way.

#55. The BoDeans, “Closer to Free”
I’d been hearing about these guys from Wisconsin since shortly after I moved to Champaign for grad school. Their career was pretty much on the wane until the makers of Party of Five used this song as the show’s theme. After the series won a Golden Globe, “Closer to Free” got released as a single and became the BoDeans’ only hit record. It had gotten to #16.

#43. Natalie Merchant, “Wonder”
#32. Natalie Merchant, “Jealousy”

Merchant scored three Top 40 hits off her debut solo LP Tigerlily, two more than she had with 10K Maniacs. “Wonder,” my favorite of the three, is slowly falling from a #20 peak, in its 32nd week on the chart.

#42. Donna Lewis, “I Love You Always Forever”
#16. Jann Arden, “Insensitive”

I wasn’t ignoring Top 40/CHR radio completely during this period. Both of these big hits were perfectly fine. Lewis, from Wales, would reach #2, while Arden, a Canadian, had already peaked at #12. Neither would hit the U.S. Top 40 again.

#40. Smashing Pumpkins, “Tonight, Tonight”
I think this is the best song on the chart and is one of my favorites for the whole year. The video, an homage to Georges Méliès’ Le Voyage dans la Lune, is breathtaking.

#38. Everything But the Girl, “Missing”
#36. Hootie and the Blowfish, “Old Man and Me (When I Get to Heaven)”

Everything But the Girl had been around for the better part of a decade when they broke through with the #2 smash “Missing.” They could have asked Darius Rucker and his bandmates at that moment about how fleeting fame could be.

(More 90s chart fun: “Missing” spent 55 weeks on the Hot 100, astounding those of us who remember when Paul Davis first broke the 40-week barrier in the spring of 1978 with “I Go Crazy.” There are 10 songs on this chart that spent at least 40 consecutive weeks on it.)

#27. The Gin Blossoms, “Follow You Down/’Til I Hear It from You”
I’d really enjoyed New Miserable Experience, so I was glad these guys from Arizona scored a big hit. But I’m probably happier for Marshall Crenshaw and the royalties I hope he’s still getting for co-writing “’Til I Hear It from You.”

#15. Adam Clayton/Larry Mullen Jr., “Theme from ‘Mission Impossible’”
U2’s rhythm section breaks away from the Pop recording sessions to update Lalo Schifrin’s iconic piece.

#13. Jewel, “Who Will Save Your Soul”
The internet is telling me that Portugal. The Man. is the biggest rock act evah from Alaska, but I’m a little surprised it isn’t Jewel Kilcher. It was impossible to avoid the big hits from Pieces of You for quite a while. This is a good one.

#11. Alanis Morrisette, “Ironic”
What’s a word I could use to describe the fact that one of the most memorable phrases from a 90s song did not occur to me on the day of my own nuptials?

Nope, no irony here.

#7. Mariah Carey, “Always Be My Baby”
#6. Celine Dion, “Because You Loved Me”
#2. Toni Braxton, “You’re Makin’ Me High”

Braxton’s peak didn’t last as long as that of Carey or Dion, but all three were riding very high 25 years ago. I don’t mind “Always Be My Baby” at all, and I definitely remember seeing the video for “You’re Makin’ Me High” at the time, with Toni and three other women sitting outside an elevator, using oversized playing cards to rate the men who appeared when its doors opened.

#4. Tracy Chapman, “Give Me One Reason”
There were only ten songs that topped the Hot 100 during 1996, and six of them, whose runs at the top spanned 3/23 through 11/2, are in this week’s top seven. Chapman’s song is the only one among this week’s stratosphere that wouldn’t reach #1. It was her second and final Top 10 hit, coming a bit out of nowhere eight years after “Fast Car.”

#3. Bone-Thugs-n-Harmony, “Tha Crossroads”
#1. 2Pac featuring KC and JoJo, “How Do U Want It”

Two West Coast hip-hop icons here at the top. “Tha Crossroads” memorializes Easy-E, who’d died of complications from AIDS the previous year. Tupac ascended to #1 this week, two months to the day before he passed on after being shot in Vegas.

When Martha and I got married, we were pretty close to the same age that my parents were when they tied the knot. They made it to their 50th; I look forward to getting there myself with Martha.

Taken two days ago.

Happy 25th anniversary, my dear.

IRH: 1949-1961

For the past six years, I’ve been renting a storage unit. It’s about two miles from my house, and it mostly contains artifacts I brought back from my parents’ place after I cleared it out. Some of it, like antique furniture and glassware, can go (and should have already done so). The bins of pictures, letters, and other memorabilia from them and their forebears, however, are priceless. A couple of days ago, I drove over there to bring home some things that came from Dad’s side of the family.

Today is the 90th anniversary of my father’s birth, and I’ve been thinking lately about how I wanted to mark the occasion. It took longer than I wanted, but late this morning it finally came together–an examination that stretches from the very end of his high school days to the moment where he finally settled on a career path.

I’ve found some things I wish I knew more about. For instance, I had no idea he landed the lead male role in his high school senior play, Peekaboo Penny, a ‘comedy in three acts,’ by the now forgotten Frank Spohn. It ran for two performances, both on a Friday a couple of weeks before his graduation. (His soon-to-be-famous classmate Mary Frances Penick served as an usherette, according to the program.)

I also found his valedictory address. He starts with a reference to the California Gold Rush (Dad was also a ’49er, yes?), but then he gets pretty heavy, acknowledging the possibility of another war and fears of a nuclear holocaust. And there’s this nugget: “Before we can ever attain lasting world peace, we must first learn that lesson of brotherly love…In order that other nations might trust us, we must first set a righteous example. We must not quarrel amongst ourselves, harbor minority discriminations, and set religious creeds against each other.” Go, Dad!

In the fall, he started at Transylvania. There, he was active in his fraternity (Pi Kappa Alpha), sang bass in the college chorale, and got to spend the first half of his junior year at American University in Washington, D.C, as part of an exchange program.

Guessing this is from a fraternity formal. Alas, I have no clue about the identity of his date.

He double-majored in history and political science, and in 1953 was recognized as the top graduate in both programs.

Glynn Burke, the awardee in philosophy and religion, was the senior minister at the downtown Lexington church I attended while I was at Transy.

By this point, Dad seemed to be pretty set on a career in ministry, so in the fall he moved to the other side of downtown Lexington to attend the College of the Bible (which was renamed Lexington Theological Seminary in the mid-1960s). Over the next three years, he took classes, interned with a local congregation, and preached occasionally at small churches around the region as needed. To fulfill the requirements for the Bachelor of Divinity degree, he wrote a thesis.

I’ve spent some time today reading through this (it’s only fair–Dad labored through my doctoral dissertation soon after I completed it). His previous studies in history and political science serve him well here, as he first sets the scene by identifying important elements of the political, social, economic, intellectual, and religious climates into which Jesus was born. I’ve still to read what he says about the way Jesus reacted to that environment, but already I have learned a decent amount, both historical and about my father’s theological perspective.

I believe the picture at the top was taken at the time of his graduation from the College of the Bible. I came across the hood this afternoon in one of the bins I’d retrieved.

Late that summer, he was ordained in the church he attended as a young boy.

Dr. Troxel was his thesis advisor.

But Dad didn’t look immediately for a pulpit; he’d decided he wasn’t quite done with that schooling thing. Over the next two years, he completed a Masters in Ancient Languages from the University of Kentucky. (I received occasional lessons on Greek and Latin etymology over the years.) He liked it, and did well, too. I think the great “What if?” of his life centered around wondering if he shouldn’t have gone on for a Ph.D.

I don’t know why, but his life took an odd turn after getting his Masters: he spent a year teaching math (of all things) at Dixie Heights, his old high school. His father was doing the same thing at that moment; I can only speculate that Dad wasn’t sure right then about his next step, and my grandfather knew of an opening at Dixie.

After that came the moment of decision. In 1959, my grandfather returned to his home county school system, to re-assume the role of superintendent he’d involuntarily left more than twenty years before. I found a letter from the head of the Department of Ancient Languages at UK dated July 1959, offering Dad a job as an instructor in Latin for the 1959-60 school year.

The paper trail becomes a bit cold, but I’m virtually certain it was at this point Dad chose the ministry. Bromley Christian Church, a small congregation almost on the Ohio River, came calling, and he accepted. The die over the direction of his life had been cast.

Two summers later, Dad’s physician Wilbur Houston drove his wife and middle daughter to visit Bromley Christian one Sunday, and they took Dad out to lunch afterward. There was enough interest between Dad and the young woman, who was home for the summer from her third-grade teaching position in Dayton, OH, that a date soon ensued. And the rest, as they say, is history.

Yesterday I drove up to Warsaw to place a bouquet on Dad’s grave–I may have talked to him a bit while I was there.

Afterward, I went walking around town a bit as I waited for my take-out order at a restaurant. As it happens, I wandered by the church where Dad was ordained.

I Hardly Know What To Say

Buddy, just a couple of months after we took him in.

There have been a few times these last few months when I’ve wanted to write but just haven’t found the necessary motivation. Now that the school year is over, I’m hopeful that my muse will return, at least partially. In an attempt to clear the decks, here are abbreviated versions of three posts that have been tossing around my head for a while. The month and title I intended for each are included; only on the third one had I made some meaningful progress earlier. You might detect a recurring theme.

February: I’ll Be Your Sister If You’ll Be My Brother

For my 27th birthday in 1991, Greg and Katie gave me a guinea pig. I’d been hanging out in their apartment regularly for about a year by this point (unrelated but almost interesting fact: their landlord was Alison Krauss’s father), and Pig—their guinea pig—had caught my attention from the get-go. This was the year I had an apartment to myself, so I guess they figured I could stand the company.

She was adorable, with a cute crest of white fur on the top of her head spraying out in all directions. As I hustled her and her carrier into the back seat of my car, I looked down and told her, “It’s just you and me now.” That was approximately the title of a song from Kirsty MacColl’s Kite, and so my new, nervous companion was immediately christened Kirsty.

Taken in my apartment in Lexington, so most likely 1993.

Guinea pigs frequently don’t live all that long; I had Kirsty for just over four years, a little more than half of which was after I’d moved back to KY. On a Friday in March of 1995, I came home from work to find her lying awkwardly toward the front of her cage. She was still alive, but something catastrophic—likely a stroke—had clearly happened. Alarmed, I opened the door, she (as was typical) tried to scramble away from me, I picked her up, and then held her as she died. (Guinea pigs aren’t loving pets, but I’ve always wondered if she’d somehow purposely held on until I returned.) I’d been dating Martha for only a few weeks at this point; I don’t think we’d made plans to get together that night, but I soon called her, and she offered what comfort she could over the phone. I wrapped Kirsty up, placed her in a shoebox, and buried her at the end of my driveway (there was no garage at that house). I wasn’t without a pet for long, though, as a stray cat and her kittens entered my life that summer.

March: There’ll Be (More Than) One Child Born

Chris Leverenz, a retired colleague, passed away at the end of February. While we didn’t socialize together outside of work, over the years we became good friends and confidants. She was my department chair from 1999-2010; many was the time I’d wander down to her office toward the end of the day to seek advice on how to handle some issue that’d arisen in one of my classes. We traveled together to several national conferences, usually when our department was hiring—driving to New Orleans in 2006 and DC in 2009, flying to San Francisco in 2010 and Boston in 2012. Some of our best conversations occurred on those trips. I miss her terribly.

Chris retired in 2017, not long after she discovered that the breast cancer she’d suffered more than a decade earlier (and thought she’d beaten) had returned and gone metastatic. We held a reception for her one Friday afternoon that April; I coordinated with the Alumni Office to get invitations out to alums, particularly those who’d majored in math, computer science, or elementary education, the main points of contact with students over her 35 years of service. It was a glorious event, one of the very best, most memorable occasions in my time at Georgetown.

The day Chris died, I learned that a good friend from church had become a grandmother again just the day before. Not long after, that line from Laura Nyro’s “And When I Die” popped into my head. The theology in the song didn’t match Chris’s remotely, but the thought of others carrying on one’s work has long been a powerful one for me. Touching, heartfelt tributes were many on Georgetown’s Alumni Facebook page after the news broke. It was abundantly clear from them (as it was in the appreciative notes I’d gotten via email four years earlier from alums who weren’t able to attend the retirement reception) that Chris had left a rich legacy, especially in elementary, middle, and high school classrooms scattered across Kentucky.

But there’s one other thing. Earlier in the day of her passing (a Thursday), a tenure-track offer went out to the first-choice candidate for a math position in our department—Chris’s position, one that we’d largely bridged in the intervening four years with a visitor. That offer was accepted on Friday afternoon.

April: American Top 40 PastBlast, 4/24/76: Henry Gross, “Shannon”

Our dog Buddy has really slowed down over the last year. His hind legs have gotten steadily weaker, so much so that negotiating stairs has become almost impossible. Falls are increasingly frequent, and he can’t always get himself up after he’s been lying down for a while. In recent months, walks around our neighborhood have gotten shorter and shorter; he’s now pretty much limited to our yard. There are signs of doggie dementia or some neurological disorder—he’ll sometimes wander around in a restless, almost manic state, unable to settle, and when he’s not sacked out from exhaustion, he doesn’t seem to know what to do with himself. His appetite is still strong, though he occasionally changes his mind abruptly about what he’s willing to eat.

When I was 8 or 9, my sister and I begged for a dog. Frisky came into our lives one summer (Amy thinks it was 1973, but I still wonder if it was ’74).

The date on the back says June 1978.
No date, but I’d guess 1974 or 1975; note the milk box on the porch.

She was a beagle mix, about a year old. At first, we kept her outside, chained overnight to a tree with a doghouse to shelter her as needed. (She was often loose during the day, which occasionally led to trouble, including once digging up a portion of our next-door neighbor’s garden.) Eventually, she moved indoors, but Dad wasn’t about to let her have the run of the house. So, she lived in our basement, confined to the larger, unfinished half. Without the opportunity to run up and down the street as in her younger days, Frisky gained a lot of weight. I’m saddened and rather ashamed looking back now at how little attention I gave her through my high school years—she plays virtually no role in my memories from that time. My mother wound up being the one who mostly took care of her.

When my parents moved to Florence in September of 1983, Frisky was relegated to the garage. I was living my best life as a sophomore in college then, and my sister had just left the nest herself. It may be a mercy that Frisky soon developed kidney issues serious enough to warrant putting her down. I was certainly sad when Mom and Dad told me about her demise, but it took time to realize how much I’d ignored her, how miserable I suspect she was.

The #18 song on 4/24/76 was “Shannon,” a song Henry Gross wrote about Carl Wilson’s then-recently deceased Irish Setter; it’d been killed after being hit by a car (that story had been relayed by Casey on the previous week’s show—by coincidence, Gross also had an Irish Setter named Shannon). The song climbed as high as #6, which is where it was the week I began my charting odyssey. It’s one of many tunes that transports me back to the spring I fell in love with AT40.

On the 9/14/85 show, Walt in Cincinnati wrote in with a Long Distance Dedication request for his two daughters, who were struggling over the recent loss of their dog Snuggles. Of course, Walt asked Casey to play “Shannon.” It would be a couple of years before news (as well as audio evidence) leaked about the profanity-laced tirade Kasem went on the first time he tried to read Walt’s letter—he was most unhappy having to transition to it from the bouncy Pointer Sisters’ song “Dare Me.” Casey makes it sound like this wasn’t the first time his staff had scripted the show in such a fashion. It’s out there on YouTube for the curious.

We don’t know how old Buddy is. Come August, we’ll have had him for eight years, and he was at least five or six when he arrived on our scene. There are lots of things he used to do that I miss: rolling over on his back for tummy rubs, playing ‘sock’ in the basement or backyard (he’d chase and semi-retrieve it for a treat), howling when sirens rang out while he was laying on the deck (his hearing is fairly shot now). He’s never been one to cuddle, but after a few years with us, we gained enough trust from him that he would climb the stairs in the middle of the night to lay on the floor in our bedroom—that happens no more, either.

We know the day is coming when he won’t be able to support himself well enough to get up, even with help, or walk around on his own. Until then, he’s getting special add-ins with his meals, extra treats on occasion, and lots of patience and love.

American Top 40 PastBlast, 10/23/82: Sylvia, “Nobody”

I’ve never been much of one for organizers and planners. When I was younger, I managed to do pretty well just storing things in my head. Now that I’ve reached the second half of my 50s, the old brain cells don’t quite function like they used to, and I’m starting to see the wisdom of entering appointments etc. on my phone.

When Mom and I went shopping for college supplies in the summer of 1982, one of the items we wound up with was a large pad for my dorm room desk, essentially a combination blotter/daily planner. I actually used it for the latter purpose most of my freshman year–for years after, alas, it served only in the former capacity. Yes, I still have the sheets for September 82-February 83–why do you ask, and why are you surprised? Here’s October:

This is one of the more fully filled-out months, even if it’s mostly due dates for assignments and birthdays. Somehow, I still have artifacts that verify a number of these notes, too. Let’s take a quick tour of a few:

October 6:

“S. O. L.” stands for Student Orientation Leader–maybe this was one final meeting with the group I’d gone through orientation with?

The interview was for my first newspaper article assignment; I posted a picture of that article this time last year, but I still have my notes from that interview, along with a second, with a faculty member, the following morning!

October 11:

We’d been reading parts of Plato’s Republic in Images of Man (our frosh comp-equivalent), and this was the day my three-pager on it was due. The comments from the professor mostly focus on how the paper would have been strengthened with some well-chosen quotes and support from Socrates, but I was given an A- in spite of that.

I typed that paper on my high school graduation gift:

The typewriter used cartridges for both film and correcting tape. When I popped the film cartridge out last night, I could identify the final characters I ever typed on it: Farmville, VA 23901. If I had to guess, I’d venture that was related to a job application to Longwood College (now University) in the spring of 1992.

October 15:

Two exams in one day. We had one in chemistry every other Friday (eight in all); this was the third. All were scored out of 90 points.

I’d be willing to bet the calculus test is in a drawer in my office, but I’ll just leave it there for now.

October 17:

Three years ago, I came across the first letter I sent home, dated 10/9. It referenced this upcoming event, in which I treated my new college friends to sights that formed a key part of my church youth group experience. (I wrote up my most recent trip to the Pinnacles here.)

Birthdays toward the end of the month included those of my maternal grandmother and my Great-Aunt Birdie (the latter’s birth occurred 119 years ago today–look for a write-up about her next year). The young woman I’d started dating earlier in the month shared her day with Aunt Birdie.

That fall, the local Top 40 station’s playlist included “Nobody,” country singer Sylvia’s one pop hit, stopping off at #25 on this show and heading toward a #15 peak. Not sure I ever hear the chorus without thinking just maybe I’m catching her singing along, perhaps like what might have happened while we were doing chemistry homework.

Modern Rock Tracks, 8/4/90

I’d spent much of the 1989-90 academic year reading papers co-authored by my advisor Bruce Reznick. It wasn’t until the summer of 1990 that I began work on what would become my dissertation. I’ve seemingly kept a copy of every draft I passed onto Bruce for review–they’re stored in the bottom drawer of a file cabinet in my office. The earliest one I can find is dated July 3; the next seems to be from the 27th (written up after I’d returned from my mini-vacation/bridge trip to Boston, but right before my roommate’s wedding). Here’s where I was in the first week of August (it’s four pages long):

Those are Bruce’s comments in red. I know that it’s not remotely meaningful to virtually everyone reading this, but there’s already a germ or two of some results that made it into the final product.

By the end of August, I had worked up eleven pages’ worth. Come October, I’d be learning in earnest about the mathematical typesetting program LaTeX; the handwritten drafts would quickly disappear.

But there was music playing all around me then, too. The Modern Rock Tracks chart dated 8/4/90 includes several songs I was digging on heavily at the time, though a number of those listed below weren’t known to me then.

28. Michael Penn, “Brave New World”
This was a big favorite from March, and my choice for a third single, too. Didn’t make any chart noise, but that can’t stop me from giving it a spin and cranking it today.

26. The Candy Flip, “Strawberry Fields Forever”
When you’re from the UK and your band’s name is a reference to a drug cocktail, your next move might well be to make a dreamy cover of one of the Fab Four’s psychedelic classics.

25. John Hiatt, “Child of the Wild Blue Yonder”
Hiatt was coming off two critically-acclaimed (and completely excellent) albums, so it’s not terribly surprising that Stolen Moments isn’t quite as good. Still, JH performing at 80% peak capacity outdistances many others.

19. Something Happens, “Hello, Hello, Hello, Hello, Hello (Petrol)”
Maybe I’m wrong, but it seems like there was a big spike in music coming over from Ireland following the mega-success of The Joshua Tree. Can’t say this band out of Dublin has a great name, but “Hello…” is a pretty sweet track. Caught the tail end of it a couple of weeks ago on U2’s SiriusXM channel.

17. The Katydids, “Heavy Weather Traffic”
Back at the beginning of the year another song from this British band’s debut album was featured in one of my mixtape posts. Part folky/jangly, part tasteful pop–they’re one of many bands out of the UK that just didn’t get their due. If you’re still into buying CDs, it appears you can get a used copy of this disk for a very reasonable price.

15. Happy Mondays, “Step On”
Madchester’s surge in the U.S. started several months earlier with the Stone Roses. At this point it was beginning to pick up steam; just wait until we get to October. Pills ‘n’ Thrills and Bellyaches was the Mondays’ chance to shine, and they didn’t miss, particularly with “Step On.”

14. World Party, “Put the Message in the Box
My favorite this go-round (in spite of it utilizing the trite arms/charms rhyme), a simply brilliant synthesis of all things late 60s. Play it until you get heard.

12. Hothouse Flowers, “Give It Up”
One of 1988’s “It” bands (legitimately so) came out with their second album Home earlier in the summer. This is a good, energetic piece, though it bears at least a passing resemblance to their earlier hit “Don’t Go.”

10. Boom Crash Opera, “Onion Skin”
So much good stuff at this time was coming from across various ponds, mostly UK/Ireland, but you can’t ignore Australia. Midnight Oil is up at #4 with “King of the Mountain,” and here’s a band with perhaps more of an INXS big sound. If I heard this much, I don’t remember it, but I’m listening to it now.

7. Sonic Youth, “Kool Thing”
Goo was the first of their albums to chart. The Youth aren’t exactly my style, but I can see how they would appeal.

6. The Railway Children, “Every Beat of the Heart”
I really liked this song from the first time I heard it, even eventually snagged the CD Native Place from a cutout bin. Not quite sure why that feeling faded so quickly; maybe I should dig it back out.

5. Aztec Camera, “The Crying Scene
One of the big downsides about not having a full-blown college/alternative radio station in Champaign-Urbana was that, as my tastes kept turning in that direction, I wound up missing out on some very interesting tunes. 120 Minutes could only go so far, and I wasn’t quite yet at the point of regular listening to WOXY out of Oxford, OH, on my trips back home. So, I’ve been using these posts as one means of learning about what I missed.

This is the best song to date I’ve found from those explorations. Strong melody, worthwhile lyrics (“We were two in a million,” “Life’s a one-take movie”), catchy chorus, sweet guitar solo. Video’s got a number of images that stick, too, including a battle of sorts between protesters and police in the rain, complete with reporter on the sideline. I discovered this clip a couple of months ago, just as the protests following the killing of George Floyd began; I haven’t stopped watching it, or thinking about it, yet. I knew “Oblivious” from watching MTV in college, but Scotsman Roddy Frame has something entirely else going on here. It’s time for a deeper dive into his music.

3. David J, “I’ll Be Your Chauffeur”
Another one that slipped by me at the time. I was aware of fellow Love and Rockets member Daniel Ash’s solo work from seeing it at Record Service, but I guess this one was less obviously placed? Nice tune, even it’s no “No New Tale To Tell.”

1. Concrete Blonde, “Joey”
Not my favorite song of theirs, but I’m glad Johnette and company got to enjoy some commercial success. I’ve found that, once I stopped looking at the Hot 100 religiously in the late 80s, I regularly overestimate how well any number of songs I really like did in terms of peak position. Stuff I figured should easily have gone Top 5, or even #1, fall fairly short. “Joey” is a case in point: later in the fall, it would peak at #19. Not bad, but as much as I heard it, as good as it sounds, that seems…a little disappointing. But we can celebrate it topping MRT thirty years ago today.

Just Exactly Where We’re Going I Cannot Say

Today is my blog’s third birthday. The last couple of years, I’ve listed the most-viewed posts from the previous twelve months, along with a few other favorites. I’m not going to really do that this go-round, mostly for two reasons.

1) The average number of views any single post gets has gone down overall—I’m guessing that, like I do with other blogs, plenty of folks have the home page bookmarked;

2) There are a few posts from the past that draw an oddly large amount of attention. Right now, there are about four that get 2 or 4 page views every few days (and it’s always an even number of views). This happened last fall, as well; it eventually quit, but started up again a few weeks ago. Theories as to why this happens are welcome—I’m assuming it’s some sort of bot behavior. (The post that’s gotten picked on the most, by far, is a brief feature I wrote up in the spring of 2019 on World Party’s “Ship of Fools.”)

Anyhoo, excluding all these oddities, the three most-viewed posts of the past year included the two most personal pieces I’ve put up here: about the man who helped me meet my wife, and the events surrounding my mother’s final months. I’m most appreciative of the kind words and thoughts I received in response. I’ve said before that being an author was the first thing I can remember wanting to do when I grew up; that won’t really ever become a reality, but I don’t deny deriving satisfaction from having folks dropping by to read what I write. Thanks to all of you who do that.

(The other is one people find by accident, about a former church choir director written right after he passed away more than two years ago. I’ve discovered this year there’s a YouTube personality/music critic also named John Heaton, who I believe lives in the UK. Many of his fans stumble across my tribute in search engine results and click through, which only raises its profile…)

Both shows that Premiere featured this past weekend were dated 7/20, the only two Casey AT40s possessing that chart date. I have just a few scattered thoughts about those years.

1974: When I was young, we frequently took summer vacations to state parks in Kentucky. In 1974, we went to Pennyrile Forest State Park, out in the western end of the state; I’m sure Amy and I played a slew of miniature golf and shuffleboard that week.

On site at Pennyrile. It’s next to a man-made lake; that’s maybe a dam behind us in the right picture?

While hardly luxurious, the appointments at these parks bring back fond memories: the wood paneling everywhere, the dining rooms that often have a wall of windows affording some gorgeous view, the gift shops containing all things Kentucky that are arty-and-crafty. The quality was uniformly good across the system, too (at least based on my experiences, which have continued occasionally over the years). It feels like I could use a few days at one of them right about now.

Here’s that week’s #37 song, a future #9. This one hangs on me much more heavily than it used to. One of my mother’s central tenets was, “You can’t rely on anyone except yourself.”

1985: My summer at IBM. This may have been the weekend that Mark H and I drove down to Chattanooga to visit my friend Kristine. She was already on her own in an apartment, only one year through college. She had a summer job at the local zoo (she was pre-vet); Mark and I spent a decent part of that Sunday morning getting a behind-the-scenes view, chatting with Kristine while she worked in her lab/office space and around the grounds. (The radio in the non-air-conditioned office was playing late 60s rock—whenever I hear “Going Up the Country” now, I’m always taken back there.)

Speaking of the late 60s, here’s what was at #15—its peak—this week 35 years ago.

My parents died fifteen months apart. After my mother’s funeral in March 2015 and some of the initial aftermath, Martha asked where I wanted to go on vacation.  I immediately knew: “The mountains.” That July, we rented a small house for a week just outside of Estes Park, Colorado, near Rocky Mountain National Park. I was hoping to find some peace there, to just be for a few days. That didn’t exactly happen—it was too easy to get caught up in the moment planning out the days or losing my patience at little things gone awry. The highlight of the trip was a great hike in the park, on a trail that hits three small, charming lakes. The second one we encountered was Dream Lake; we stopped there for lunch. After eating, I wandered off to be alone and wound up sitting on a boulder abutting the lake. I was in search of a few minutes to reflect on loss, to mourn, to meditate, to commemorate the lives of my parents. I think it turned out to be a somewhat successful endeavor. When I’d done as much as I was going to do, I took out my phone and snapped a picture, in perhaps a vain attempt to retain the moment.

I see that photo, taken a little more than five years ago, just about every day, and my Twitter peeps might recognize it, too.

The third lake—and terminal point—of the hike is called Emerald Lake and lies about a mile straight ahead, tucked neatly in front of that peak.

I expect posting to be lighter for a while—I’m behind where I should be in planning for the upcoming fall semester, one which promises to be a challenge.

Oh, here again is the song I apparently must embed every July 20.

American Top 40 PastBlast, 6/24/72: Godspell, “Day By Day”

This week marked twenty-three years since Martha and I moved into our current home. Even if you count only the time following my 2004-05 sabbatical year in upstate New York, this is the longest I’ve ever spent in one location. My first move came at the age of six months, when Mom, Dad, and I relocated from Ludlow (a small KY river town near Cincinnati) to La Grange (about twenty miles NE of Louisville). A little over four years later, around Labor Day of 1968, our now family-of-four headed south and east to Stanford, about forty miles south of Lexington. My education began there, up through second grade. But being a church minister often means being rather peripatetic, and at some point in early 1972, my father put out feelers for a new pastorate. Mom was wanting to get back closer to the Northern Kentucky/Cincinnati area–her parents would soon be moving back there after my grandfather retired from being Director of Medical Services at Eastern Kentucky University, in nearby Richmond–and at some point that spring, Amy and I were informed that we were leaving Stanford for Walton, a town of about 2000 about twenty miles south of Cincinnati.

While I have held on to tiny slivers from my time in La Grange, the bulk of my earliest memories occurred in that house in Stanford, in a subdivision called Oakwood Estates. I think it was a parsonage.

This is the best picture of it I can easily lay my hands on–there are plenty of shots much closer in, generally of Amy and me standing in front of those columns on Easter morning. What we can’t see here is the driveway running down the left side of the house, around to a two-car garage in the basement. Dining/living area to the left of the front door, bedrooms to the right, kitchen/family room/stairs/bathroom/bedroom from left to right on the back of the house. You’d think I’d remember which bedroom was mine.

The moving van arrived on Saturday morning, June 24, 1972. It was unseasonably cool and cloudy; my father would turn forty-one the next day. I don’t recall now any of the preparations, but Mom and Dad must have had things well in hand for the movers. Several families around us had children close to our age, so there were at least a few goodbyes to be shared. My strongest memory of the day, though, is of pulling my father around the side of the house while the van was being loaded, asking him to comfort his sad son by singing a couple of verses of a hymn. I believe it was my choice, semi-appropriate for the occasion only by coincidence: “Have Thine Own Way, Lord.” My father showed me countless kindnesses over the years, but this is one of the more treasured.

The end of one chapter means a new one begins, however. Mom and Dad had picked a brick house toward the end of Bedinger Avenue, just beyond a left turn onto Plum Street.

I don’t have much in the way of full photos for this house, either. This was taken in the spring of 1973. Amy’s bedroom is on the far left, with my room (the smaller of the two, but I’m not bitter) immediately to the left of the front door. There’s no garage, just a slab driveway on the right, but there was a walkout basement. There were several acres of largely open fields to the left, with just a single house owned by one of the town’s attorneys and his family a couple hundred yards down that gravel road you see.

Here’s another view, this time featuring your humble blogger and his sis.

The back of the picture informs me it’s now the summer of 1975. Looks like by this time we’d replaced the flowering tree between my and Amy’s windows with something hardier. That cigar box came from my grandfather; wish I still had some of those (boxes, not cigars). We stayed in that house until a few months after my sister graduated from HS in 1983 (Dad was no longer in the ministry by the mid-70s)–not too surprisingly, that’s the second-longest stint I’ve had in a single spot.

Living close to Cincinnati afforded us some cultural opportunities we didn’t have in Stanford. One–perhaps canonical for PKs in those years–was getting to see a production of the recent Off-Broadway musical Godspell. Felt certain I still have a program from it among my bins of goodies from my youth, but it didn’t turn up in a search this morning (a scrapbook given to Amy and me by the folks at Stanford Christian Church right before we moved did, though). “Day By Day,” the song from Godspell you’re most likely to know, debuted at #37 on our moving day, very close to the end of the God Rock era. Five weeks later, it reached its peak of #13. The vocalist is Robin Lamont.

My final excursion in the Before Times was on March 9. The first positive test for COVID-19 in Kentucky had been announced two days earlier, in a town about fifteen miles away from Georgetown. It was the Monday of my spring break, and I drove north to take care of various pieces of business: dealing with our taxes, taking flowers to my mother’s gravesite (it was the fifth anniversary of her burial), doing some research at a public library and county courthouse. I had lunch at a barbecue place not far from my parents’ final home–I wonder now when the next time I eat a meal inside a restaurant will be. I’d brought a large bottle of hand sanitizer with me and used it liberally throughout the day. A couple of days later I’d learn that instruction was moving online for at least the next few weeks. Martha and I had planned a quick trip to the Carolinas later in the week but in the end thought better of it.

There’d been a bad accident on southbound I-75 that morning near Florence, and it was still bottling up traffic for miles when I was ready to head home mid-afternoon. It was very slow going trying to make my way from Burlington, a few miles west of the interstate, over to US 25, the obvious alternate route south. Traffic on 25 eased only after we reached access to I-75 south of the tie-up, but I didn’t jump back on quite yet–I wanted to go through Walton, another five miles south on 25. Our old house on Bedinger was on my mind.

Years ago, that attorney had sold the property adjacent to our plot, and dozens of houses had been built as Bedinger had been extended and new streets added. I parked my car on the corner of one of those streets, not far away from the place I’d left thirty-six-and-a-half years before, at the beginning of my sophomore year of college. I wandered around the neighborhood for a good bit, exploring some of the ‘newer’ parts but also the places from the old days, ticking off the families who’d lived in each of the houses (and seeing a few of those names still on the mailboxes). That section of street from US 25 to 33 Bedinger is much shorter than it seemed when I was nine, twelve, even eighteen years old. I took a few pictures, of course. My #LastNormalPhoto happens to be of that house we moved into on 6/24/72.

The driveway’s width got expanded by about 50% somewhere along the way, and there’s no window AC unit in the kitchen, next to the side entrance–it wouldn’t shock me if central air has been installed. The basketball goal we put up at the end of the driveway, the television antenna, the shrubbery, the weeping cherry tree in the front right corner of the yard–all are looooong gone. The iron railings on the porches, however, appear to be unchanged. It’s entirely recognizable.

There was a vehicle in the driveway that I’ve cropped from this picture. As much as I’d have enjoyed taking a look inside, I know it wouldn’t have been appropriate in the least to knock on the front door. Instead, I walked back to the car, drove south through downtown Walton, and worked my way over to the interstate so that I could scurry back home.

The Cincinnati AM Rock Radio Blues

After we moved close to Cincinnati in the summer of 1972, our cars’ AM radios, when they weren’t tuned to WLW (700) for Reds’ games, were set to WSAI (1360), through and through a Top 40 station. I was around ten when the music I was hearing began making a stronger impression. I discovered AT40 in the late winter of 1976; by then a transistor radio was an almost constant companion, and WSAI was almost always in my ear. I still recall several of the jocks’ names: most notably Jim Scott, but also John R. W. Whalen, Casey Piotrowski (who put out an album locally in 1975 that captured some of the humor on his shows), Ted McAllister (here’s a 1971 air check of McAllister’s). By early 1978, I had discovered FM radio and Top 40 powerhouse WKRQ. I wasn’t alone in transitioning away from the AM dial. That summer, WSAI began teasing a format change, to begin at 6:00 am on a Monday morning in August. I woke up early to tune in and discover: they were going country. Right or wrong, that was that for me. Top 40 radio on the AM side in Cincy went extinct, at least for the time being, that morning. Except for the Reds and listening to AT40 on WLAP out of Lexington, I pretty much became an FM-only listener.

But I guess I never quite stopped fidgeting with the dial on my portable radio. In the summer of 1982, weeks before I left for college, I found WCLU at 1320, which had at some point become a rock station with maybe a tilt toward breaking hits, especially if they had a New Wave flavor. It’s probably from them that I acquired my love for “Kids in America,” “Words,” and maybe even “Someday, Someway.” They were in on “Who Can It Be Now?” early, and were weeks ahead of the pack on “Rock This Town.” I have to believe WCLU would have been a regular listen for me going forward (even if they were daytime only) had I not moved away in September.

I don’t remember now if I tuned into them much the following summer, but they were still at it–I picked up three of their Top 60 playlists from record stores, one each in May, July, and August 1983. The first is dated thirty-seven years ago today.

There’s a much greater infusion of R&B music here than what I recall from listening in 1982, but I’d listen to this station now in a heartbeat. I imagine I’ll share the other two someday.

How long this format lasted for WCLU, I can’t tell you. The station changed its call letters to WCVG a few years later and made waves in 1988 by becoming the first station in the nation to adopt an all-Elvis format (which lasted a little more than a year). They are now known as The Voice and play a gospel format.

Both WCVG and WSAI have Wikipedia pages that attempt to capture some of their histories, if you’re interested. The station at 1360 once again has call letters WSAI (there’s a long, complicated story there that the Wiki article summarizes decently), but these days they go simply by Fox Sports 1360.

If They Don’t Win It’s A Shame

A family of four wends their way a couple of hours north to Cincinnati for a treat: the two young children, a boy and a girl, are going to their first Major League Baseball game. The parents—the father, in particular—are longtime Reds fans and are engaging in the time-honored tradition of passing ardor on to the next generation. Their seats are down the right field line; they’ve got a decent view of the towering scoreboard in left-center. Things don’t go well for the home nine that evening, who are facing decent opposition. On the bright side, one of the Reds’ stars goes deep—a moment that just might have turned him into the girl’s (she’s just four years old) favorite player.

I do remember bits and pieces of my sole visit to Crosley Field, the Reds’ home from 1912 to 1970: it was 1) a lopsided loss 2) to the Cubs in which 3) Johnny Bench, Amy’s fave, hit a HR. However, several years ago I realized I didn’t know the date of the game—my father hadn’t kept the ticket stubs (which doesn’t sound entirely like him). I hit up retrosheet.org, a site whose goal is to collect box scores and record play-by-play info for as many MLB games as possible, for some detective work. I was certain the game had to have occurred either in 1969 or 1970. The Reds’ move to Riverfront Stadium on June 30, 1970, restricted options further. Just one home game against the Cubbies fit all the criteria: a 12-5 loss on Monday, 5/18/70, fifty years ago today. I was about to wrap up kindergarten—before the month was over I’d take my star turn as the Tin Woodman in our epic production of The Wizard of Oz. My first cousin Liz, sixteen years older than I, would get married in less than three weeks. 

The timing makes sense to a good degree, as I can imagine Dad wanting to have his children experience a game in the park where he’d had so many enjoyable times across the years before it closed. The Reds were off to a fantastic start, 27-10, after sweeping a double-header against the Braves on Sunday; under the leadership of their new manager, the 36-year-old George “Sparky” Anderson, they were rapidly becoming The Big Red Machine. 

The Cubs were doing okay as well going into this tilt, tied for first with the team that had broken their hearts the previous season, the Mets. Who wouldn’t want to see these teams do battle?

I won’t do a blow-by-blow recap (here’s the boxscore/play-by-play), but I am including pix of some of the key players from my collection of 1971 Topps cards. The Cubs started Bill Hands, while the Reds countered with off-season acquisition Ray Washburn. There’s no 71 Washburn card, but I’ve got a George Culver, whom the Reds traded to St. Louis for Washburn (the Cards dealt Culver to the Astros mid-season).

That Washburn-for-Culver swap was a challenge trade of sorts: two pitchers who’d done pretty well two seasons earlier (they’d both thrown no-hitters in 1968) but had slipped a bit during the following campaign. Washburn turned out to be a disaster for the Reds. They kept him the whole season, but his ERA wound up just a shade under 7. The May 18 game was one of just three starts he received during the season, perhaps necessitated by the previous day’s twinbill. He got yanked in the second inning, after six runs crossed the plate for the Cubbies (just two earned).

These guys knocked in eight of the game’s seventeen runs. (The under-appreciated Ron Santo had four RBI.)

I also have the NL RBI leaders card, featuring the same three players (Perez and Williams switching places). While Amy rooted for Bench, early on I locked onto Perez as my favorite.

Two other stars for the Cubs that evening were 2B Glenn Beckert (4-6, 2R, 1RBI) and CF Jim Hickman (2-3, 2BB, 3R).

For the era, it was a long game, 3:08—I kinda doubt we stayed for the whole thing. Official attendance was a little more than a third of capacity, 10774.

I’ve come to realize that my memory is far from 100% reliable, so it’s possible that I’ve made some sort of error in recall, and this wasn’t the game I attended. But there’s an additional piece of evidence from Retrosheet that makes me believe this really was it. At the bottom of each page that recaps a day’s results and end-of-day standings, Retrosheet includes (if there are any), the names of any players who made either their first or final MLB appearance on that date. Here’s what I saw when I looked at 5/18/70:

I do not have any recollection of witnessing Belinsky enter the game in relief of Washburn with two outs in the bottom of the second inning. It turned out to be a pretty pedestrian performance: ten outs, four hits, two walks, three runs, all earned. He batted once, getting a hit.

But that alliterative name stirs something deep inside. It possesses a familiarity it wouldn’t have unless I’d heard it announced over the PA that night, embedding itself into a six-year-old’s subconscious, to be liberated only upon seeing it again in association with that game.

Even if I had recalled his appearance, I wouldn’t have known anything about the backstory that had led him to that moment. There’s a thorough and interesting article about Belinsky at SABR worth the time for students of the history of the game. The overarching theme is of a man who couldn’t be bothered to cultivate his talent, focusing instead on nightlife and seemingly bedding as many women as possible. A few stretches of brilliance punctuated the exasperation he incurred for GMs in Baltimore (in whose system he developed), Los Angeles (Angels—his celebrity exploded after tossing a no-no in his fourth career MLB start, in early May 1962), and Philadelphia. Very early in the morning of the day my wife was born, there was an incident that led to a lawsuit (eventually dismissed) brought by a woman who claimed Belinsky had assaulted her. He got into a scrum with a reporter. Alcohol and drugs took over his life. A passable late-season stretch of pitching for the Pirates in 1969 somehow convinced the Reds to trade for Belinsky during Spring Training in 1970 (it’s perhaps telling that Dennis Ribant, the journeyman pitcher the Reds gave up, never appeared again in the majors). May 18 was only Belinsky’s third appearance in 38 games; while he hadn’t been bad, I wouldn’t be shocked if off-the-field behavior made it easier to send him back down to AAA. He didn’t last the season in the Reds’ system. A few years later, Belinsky managed a largely successful trip through rehab and became a born-again Christian. All the abuse to which he’d subjected himself, along with some other health issues, took their toll, though—he died of a heart attack in late 2001, a couple of weeks shy of his 65th birthday.

There was no 1971 Belinsky Topps, but I do have cards of a couple of folks with some tie to him. Dean Chance was a good friend during Belinsky’s years with the Angels, both on and off the field. Chance won the 1964 AL Cy Young Award, but was also at the end of his career by the early 70s.

Rudy May was part of the return the Angels got when they traded Belinsky to the Phillies after the 64 season.

Despite the dreary outcome, the four pitchers the Reds used that night all had notable baseball accomplishments. Washburn and Belinsky had their no-hitters, Tony Cloninger had slugged two grand slams in one game, and Clay Carroll later held the NL single-season record for saves. Throw in all the eventual Hall-of-Famers on the field, and I realize now how lucky I was to be there.

Going to see the Reds during the best stretch in their history became a big part of my youth, especially after we moved to Walton, just twenty miles south of Riverfront Stadium. While I wish I had been just a little older so that I could have absorbed the ambience and fully appreciated the opportunity to be at Crosley Field, I’m grateful that I recall anything at all about it.

(Washburn also has a nice profile at SABR; he’s still with us, and will turn 82 on May 31.)