By Tim “Shoe” Sullivan
One of my favorite hobbies is reading books by or about famous sports people. That goes for magazine articles, too. Occasionally, I’ll put together a small quiz about the book and send it to the sports person. Sometimes they even write back. That’s the fun of it. When Phil Jackson was the coach of the Los Angeles Lakers, I found a book in a used book store which was called “Maverick”. It was Jackson’s account of his rookie season playing for the New York Knicks. I mailed the ten-question quiz to Phil, and he sent back a signed letter explaining that he enjoyed the questions and got them all correct. I did the same thing with Jay Berwanger, the player who won the first Heisman Trophy. Mr. Berwanger sent some great signed photos and a letter in response. Then there was former Major League Baseball Commissioner Bud Selig. In an article, Bud noted how he loved the old Milwaukee Braves. I sent Selig a quiz about the Braves and he wrote back saying how he nailed most of the questions.
In September of 1970, Buffalo Bills’ running back O.J.Simpson and writer Pete Axthelm came out with the book “O.J.- The Education of a Rich Rookie”. The book was about Simpson’s first season with the Buffalo Bills of the NFL. Simpson had a lot of good things to say about his Buffalo teammates. This was right up my alley because I had lots of football cards of those Buffalo players. So, I sent him several football cards and a letter telling him that I enjoyed the book and he could keep the cards, no strings attached. I found the book in the Portage County Library in early 1994, and I mailed the letter to NBC Sports in May of 1994. Kinda figured a nice letter might be coming back in return.
Never did get anything back from Simpson. He was pretty busy in June of 1994.
An old newspaper clipping of the Stevens Point Journal showed up in my mailbox. It was from 1974. In a Little Major League baseball game at Mead Park, The Jaycee’s beat Odd Fellows, 6-0. Now get this! Mike Czudec, the crafty righthanded pitcher for Jaycee’s, struck out 18 batters in the six-inning game! That’s the maximum!! Perfection! All 18 outs that the Odd Fellows made came by strikeouts! Czudec recalled: “One of their guys got a hit. Art Bueimier swung late and hit the ball to right field. It landed right on the chalk line.”
Czudec added: “My dad Stanley played for the Northside Bar. Their games were under the lights at St. Pete’s. He taught me how to throw. I remember that I wasn’t allowed to go swimming that day because I had to pitch later. My mom Agnes made me take a nap. After the game, she gave me a dollar and I biked over to the A&W root beer stand for the Hamburger Special”.
By the way, the Jaycee’s record after Czudec’s gem was 10-3 while the Oddballs fell to 7-6. Bill Bigus doubled for the winners. The Odd Fellows’ pitching wasn’t too shabby either as Jerry Przekurat and Tom Kubala combined to strike out 12.
One thing people never forget is when they find money. I found a $10-dollar bill once in the alley by Joe’s Bar on the square. Also found another “ten-spot” in the parking lot during Riverfront Rendezvous. Years ago, the word around Point was that someone lost a big wad of $100 bills near the ShopKo parking lot. It had a big rubber band around it and apparently fell out of a bank bag. Well, I went looking for it. Just my luck. I found the rubber band.
I like to have a seven-course dinner while watching important football games like Wisconsin/Ohio State. A six-pack of Point beer and a hotdog.
That Soo Line railroad engine parked by the Southside underpass is super cool. Kudos to whoever came up with that idea! Speaking of trains, my neighbor Charlie Rossier had a nifty train set when we were kids. Don Dehlinger has a beautiful train set, and the late Don Kottke had several collector trains. Brian Diamond also has an impressive collection. By the way, if you ever need anything fixed around the house, Brian Diamond is the guy to see.
Speaking of collections, I have an official Secret Service flashlight which is next to my signed Bill Clinton For President poster. Got it from a former Dewey Bar bartender.And speaking of bartenders around the Stevens Point area, the best one might’ve been Eddie Meshak. Our family loved to go to the Antler’s back in the day when Eddie was “behind the pines”. He liked to play songs by tapping glasses of water with a spoon. Carol at the Hotel Whiting was one of the best bartenders also.
You rarely ever see pay phones around town anymore. Kim’s Barrel Inn has one that hasn’t been used in 20 years. There might be one outside by the Hotel Whiting building. It used to be fun to slip your finger in the coin return tray to see if anyone left a quarter in there.
I’m afraid it’s true. According to legend, Rufus Konopacki was golfing once and saw part of a garden hose on the ground and took a whack at it thinking it was a snake.
Speaking of snakes, there was a huge rock by the Black Bridge in Point and pine snakes were usually under it. That Black Bridge is supposed to be haunted and it scares the hell out of me.
Sure wish they’d bring back the old 51 Outdoor Drive-In Theater. It was between Stevens Point and Plover. The place opened in 1949 and closed in 1977. The “Outdoor” was a great place to take your date, and sometimes you even actually watched the movie. That outdoor drive-in was straight out of “American Graffiti”. You could pack four or five guys in the Studebaker and put two more guys in the trunk to guard the case of beer. Great fun, and the popcorn was delicious.
One thing I always hated doing as a kid was pruning Christmas trees.
My buddy Mike Bialas surprised me the other day with a beautiful “Bucky Badger” bobblehead with a toothbrush holder.
If you ever get the time, google Tim Dillard’s interview with Robin Yount! Hilarious!
Some time ago, I mentioned John Schmidt of Point. He wrote to inform me about the dairy his family owned back in the day. This prompted an email from Richard Kleifgen who thought John might’ve been his band’s “Outcasts” booking agent almost 50 years ago. Turns out Richard was right. Small world.
Gotta go now. Thinking about putting a basement in my ice fishing shanty. Last time I tried that, I almost drowned. Catch ya on the flip side.