Strawberries & Cream, Fire & Ice

SU field oversight
SU field oversight
Winchester Printers

Greetings from The (air-conditioned) Booth!

As the area is bogged down in a mid-90’s heat wave this week, equally as hot is one Kyle Schwarber of the Washington Nationals, who now has hit 12 home runs in his last 10 games, and has been a major reason why the Nats have now gone over the .500 mark and are closing fast on the first-place Mets.

Also happening this week is the “fortnight” known as Wimbledon, one of tennis’ major tournaments, held across the pond at the famed All-England Club. I don’t follow tennis much anymore, but this time of year always takes me back to the mid-70’s through the early 80’s, when Summer nights would find me at Martinsburg’s Oatsdale park with my Wilson T-2000 in the back of my Chevy Vega playing tennis well into the night. I bought all the tennis mags, and made sure I was wearing the Stan Smith Converse shoes, Adidas tennis wear, and accesorizing with head and wrist bands. If you can’t play well, you might as well look the part…

This era way a heyday for tennis, with names like Borg, McEnroe,Connors, Evert, Navratilova in their primes. I always made sure I was up early for “Breakfast at Wimbledon” on NBC, with the great Bud Collins providing the commentary. And let’s not forget the great rivalries, including John McEnroe versus Bjorn Borg. It was a rivalry that was called “Fire and Ice” because of McEnroe’s fiery temperament on the court, as opposed to the almost unemotional style of the Swede.

On July 4, 1981, the two met on the grass of Centre Court for the second year in a row. The year before, Borg and McEnroe played arguably the best tennis match in history, with Borg outlasting the New Yorker in a match that included an 18-16 tiebreaker, and an 8-6 final set.

A year later, McEnroe would end Borg’s five consecutive Wimbledon titles in a 4-set victory that lacked the drama of the 1980 Final. The two would meet later that year in the US Open, as McEnroe again defeated Borg. McEnroe and Borg met 14 times in all, with each winning 7 times. The sign of a truly great rivalry.

It was a great time to be a tennis fan, and a great American win in the UK on July 4, 1981…

Until our next visit in The Booth, stay cool, Happy Birthday USA, and GO HORNETS!

My Time In The Sun

SU field oversight
SU field oversight
Winchester Printers

Greetings from The Booth!

With all quiet on the Shenandoah University sports scene and a bit of a down time for me in sports, I thought I’d take you down memory lane for one of the really great times in my life, my time with the Hagerstown (Md.) Suns, a Class-A minor league baseball team that came to the “Hub City” in the Spring/Summer of 1981. That year, the Suns would win the Carolina League championship, despite having no affiliation with one major league team.

At the time, I was working as the midday DJ and music director at WYII, a now-defunct country radio station in Williamsport, Md., a small town along the Potomac River in the shadow of Hagerstown. At age 22, and basically unencumbered by responsibility, save for a car payment, Summers were great. I did my radio show and performed a few other duties at the station during the day, and spent late afternoons hanging out by various hotel pools, and finding the watering holes that offered promotions like free taco bars. Life was good.

Life got even better when I was asked to “cover” the newly-arrived Suns. “Covering” the team consisted of hanging out in the press box of dilapidated Municipal Stadium every night during homestands, watching the games, calling in occasional updates back to the station, and eating ballpark food, courtesy of the Suns. As a lover of baseball, there was really no downside to that gig.

Occasionally I got to travel with the team to locations all over the Carolina League, where I got to hang around Suns’ manager Grady Little. Grady, who would go on to fame and fortune as a major league manager (.552 winning percentage), embellished us with story after story about life in the minor leagues. I was a sponge, soaking up as much baseball vibe as I could.

I also got to see players who would eventually make “the show.” One that stands out was Darryl Strawberry of the Lynchburg Mets. All you had to do was apply the “eye test” to see that Strawberry would go on to bigger and better things beyond the minors. He was a man among boys at the Class-A level, and a pleasure to watch.

The Suns would go through many transformations and affiliations through the years, even becoming a Nationals’ affiliate (Bryce Harper was a Sun). With the cancelation of the 2020 season due to COVID and the announcement that the Nats would not renew their affiliation with the Suns, the team ceased to exist.

I would leave Hagerstown in 1983 to start a new radio life in Winchester, but I will never forget those few Summers that I got to live the dream and hang around a professional baseball team. It was truly “my time in the Sun.”

Until the next visit from The Booth, stay cool…and GO HORNETS!