It is Throw-A-Ball Thursday, and time for another game of Quarantine Catch. After buying a dozen double chocolate donuts, I stepped through the wormhole located behind St. George’s Donuts. Chris was waiting for me at World War Memorial Stadium in Greensboro, North Carolina.
“This old gem — my home town minor league field — was built on Armistice Day, on November 11, 1926 to memorialize World War I veterans. It smells old, it feels old, and it is packed with memories. I saw the Greensboro Hornets (NY Yankee affiliate) Matt Luke hit for the cycle, the only time I have witnessed one, as he became the first Greensboro Hornet in the franchise’s 15-year history to bat for the cycle, May 23, 1993. I was there with my mom and we took some great photos. His mom came up to us after the game and asked could we send her copies and of course we said YES! I also had the pleasure of meeting HOF 3rd baseman Brooks Robinson when he was visiting and signing autographs. I got to see the Famous Chicken and his antics.”
To date, I don’t think I’ve been to North Carolina. Heading to a historic stadium for a game of catch is the perfect opportunity. Chris is the genius behind the Twitter account The Skimmers (@TheSkimmers), which he started in 2011 as a way to share his love of vintage baseball.
“I have played music for most of my life and originally The Skimmers was the name of a band I was in with some friends. I thought the name kind of fit because of how you skim though Twitter. I bought a Charles Conlon book that got me hooked on these early baseball players and their history, the rich history of baseball. After a couple of years, I learned there were a bunch of us who loved this old stuff and I have developed some great friendships from Twitter.”
Vintage baseball. Old stadium. And I couldn’t help but laugh when I saw Chris wearing a 1910s sun-collar wool baseball uniform, complete with tall socks. I was glad that I wore the same white wool, tall red socks uniform that I wore when filming The First Boys of Spring, reenacting a 1913 Spring Training game between the World Champion Boston Red Sox and Pittsburgh Pirates.
Game recognizes game.
And then I saw his glove.
“My Glove is a 1940’s Nokona Joff Cross model G-33. This is the glove that got me hooked on vintage baseball equipment. I love the look, the feel, and the quality that a made in the USA glove has. I got this glove from an auction and it came with a service tag. After a year of catch the leather stitching started to dry out and break. I reached out to the person on the tag to see if they could fix and re-lace it. Needless to say, that was Mr. Fred Lowman who emailed me back that he has been out of that business for a while, but he said send it any way. I received the glove back in game ready condition. He also included the tool I would need to re-lace it in the future and some Lanolin to keep it conditioned. I later found out it he was Brett Lowman’s dad who sells all kinds of vintage goodness This was my gateway glove as I now have some from the 1910’s all the way to the 1940’s.”
Brett (@playokantiques on Twitter)! He gave me my glove as part of Catch 365 to use when I went to the Field of Dreams movie site. Crazy small world! Good thing my old Wilson glove is in my baseball backpack.
These are the perfect uniforms and the perfect gloves for this stadium.
Chris ran out toward second base and I stationed myself at first, warming up with grounders. We swapped stories of continuing to play ball as adults, comparing the Grip ‘N’ Rip League of southwest Missouri to North Carolina’s Triad Adult Baseball League.
“As a kid I dreamed of being a 3rd baseman but realized it takes a bit more to make a good throw from that corner, so I moved to 2nd base. I still play baseball in a local all wooden bat adult league at 2nd baseman and right field. 2019 season and playoff champs!”
His knuckleball puts mine to shame — “Two years ago, I jammed my middle finger and that really affected the knuckler, but I have rehabbed it back!” — and I loved his earliest baseball memory.
“Most of my love for baseball comes from my mom and grandmother. Each summer my mom’s work would take a bus trip to Fulton County Stadium in Atlanta to see the Braves. The Braves didn’t have much other than Dale Murphy, so we really went to see the visiting teams. My grandmother was a Chicago Cubs fan, so I heard Harry Carey’s voice in the background of my childhood.”
Chris asked if he could invite a friend to today’s catch, and I was happy to oblige.
But when Rube Waddell walked into the stadium, I was speechless. Waddell is a Hall of Fame southpaw whose career spanned 13 years. His last game was as a member of the St. Louis Browns in 1910. The off-season alligator wrestler entertained us with his stories of the origin of Bark at the Park days (Waddell LOVES puppies!), his days as a vaudeville actor, and the time he picked up a boiling stove and carried it outside a department store, saving dozens of lives.
Waddell spotted something shiny in the stands and quickly ran off the field. He was never seen nor heard from again. Before parting ways — I have to mow before the next round of rain — Chris and I exchanged gifts. I gave him a copy of America at the Seams, hoping he’d be entertained by the stories and art, as well as the remainder of the box of donuts. He presented me with a Catch 365 watercolor.**
I walked back through the wormhole thoroughly satisfied after another game of quarantine catch.
**See more of Chris’ art on Instagram (@danriverrambler)!