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It's certainly been an eye-opener

Posted Monday, March 15, 2010, at 1:52 PM

As I just recently passed the half-century mark of my life, it got me to thinking about all of the things I've seen since that cold and wintry February night that I was brought into this world.

And while there's been a lot of non-sports related things, I'll touch only on the sports things that I've seen and been a part of in all these years.

Let me preface this by saying that my parents, who have both since passed away, were not in any way fans of many sports except for racing.

I remember when we would go shopping for a new television that my father would give a stern, serious look to the unsuspecting sales clerk who asked how he could help, "Yeah I'd like to find one that don't play no ball games."

After a chuckle from the clerk he would be informed that none such existed and that it was likely that would never be the case.

But despite this, I still learned to love sports and thus my many travels both at home and abroad as a part of the U.S. Army, took me to sporting events.

It also eventually led to my becoming the sports writer I am now, but that's another story.

One of my earliest memories is of the Terre Haute Action Track and watching A.J. Foyt win the feature on the same day as a driver was killed in the first turn.

Although I have since been reminded of the man's name by Bruce Walkup -- who was in the race and many, many years later became an acquaintance of mine -- his name still eludes me. And if any of his descendants are reading this, I apologize.

But hey, I was 6 years old at the time.

Moving ahead to my high school years, I had the opportunity to see American Association games played at Bosse Field in Evansville and the Evansville Triplets.

It was there that later on I would have the chance to get an autograph from former Yankee shortstop Tom Tresh, who was coaching Central Michigan at the time.

But during my high school years the Triplets gave me the opportunity to watch Kirk Gibson and Howard Johnson among others, and to talk to Jim Leyland who managed the club at the time.

Now, fast forward to the time I was in the military. And specifically in Nuremberg, Germany.

It was there that I got a firsthand view of what are now referred to as "soccer hooligans".

Back then we just called them a bunch of kids getting into a fight.

I had just finished watching a game between the local Fussball Club of Nuremberg (FCN) and FC Colon.

The game itself was a 3-2 win for FCN and an overly excited and pumped up crowd was basking in the victory afterwards.

What made the game all the more special was the amount of warmth and acceptance the fans gave me when they found out I was an American G.I. who had attended the match.

After the game, as I was walking back to the barracks where I was stationed, there was a group of young men, I'd say about five or six ranging in age from 15 to about 19 years old.

They all appeared to be having a boisterous discussion that eventually led to a fist fight, which in turn resulted in the Polizei (German Police) taking control of the situation.

After two or three of the youths broke into a fight, the Polizei quickly subdued them and calmed the situation.

Fast forward to after my time in Germany and back to the States.

While stationed at Ft. Hood, Texas, I found it nice to attend Major League Baseball games in both Dallas and Houston.

Dallas to the north offered the Texas Rangers and Houston to the South offered the Astros and the Astrodome.

It was in Arlington Stadium that I first saw Rod Carew, George Brett, Fergie Jenkins, Bill Madlock and a whole slew of baseball greats that are now among members of the Hall of Fame in Cooperstown.

I witnessed Reggie Jackson and Dave Winfield hit homers, saw Ron Guidry and Goose Gossage pitch and saw Don Zimmer argue a call.

The first Major League game I ever saw was in St. Louis while I was on leave before heading to Texas. My parents had finally loosened to the idea of attending a ball game and went with me.

The first night I was by myself, as they hadn't fully drank the MLB Kool-Aid and were still skeptical.

It was a special night, I saw Phil Niekro pitch for the Braves and got to see the knuckleball dance in the night air.

The following night was Willie McGee's Major League debut following a hamstring injury to David Green the night before.

Span ahead a little further to 1982 when the White Sox and Athletics were playing in old Commiskey Park. That's where I saw Rickey Henderson get picked off base, saw Greg Luzinski hit a homer and saw Carlton Fisk catch.

Later memories of my beloved White Sox would come with my family in tow.

We took our daughter Rikki to her first Sox game when she was just a baby and managed to sit behind home plate as the White Sox beat the Royals.

We also exposed my brother and sister-in-law to their first MLB game at new Commiskey in a doubleheader with the Rangers that saw the Sox cut the magic number to one in 1993.

I've seen Helio Castroneves win his second Indy 500 in a row, witnessed Robby Gordon run out of fuel with laps left as Kenny Brack took the crown a couple of years earlier.

I saw first-hand Dale Earnhardt's .006 second win over Bobby LaBonte at Atlanta in 2000, the next-to-last race won and then got to talk to him, I've witnessed hydroplane's blowing over at Thunder on The Ohio in Evansville and I've seen first hand the excitement of Peyton Manning, as well as his first regular season game.

With all of that in mind, I've also seen many more things that are just as important in sports.

I've seen the local high school athletes play their guts out and never give up until the very end, I've seen coaches and fans stand and cheer as their teams celebrated on the field.

But most of all I've had the pleasure of bringing some of those same moments to you -- the fans.

I thank each and everyone of you for the chances you give me each day to come into your homes or businesses and tell you stories of what's happening here at home -- and maybe, just maybe that's my greatest sports memory of all.

Rick Curl is a sports writer for the Greene County Daily World. He can be reached by telephone at (812) 847-4487 or by E-mail at rcurl@gcdailyworld.com.


Comments
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Billy Foster was killed at the Track in the 60's.

-- Posted by simmons on Tue, Mar 16, 2010, at 11:04 AM


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