For those of us in San Antonio, Steve Gehrlein needed no introduction. He owned Cambridge Auto Center and had a car talk show on AM 550 KTSA on Saturday mornings. When not talking cars on the air, he was testifying in court about them. That man knew everything about engines.
And if you think I’m exaggerating, you would be badly mistaken.
Before moving to Michigan in 2004 for what would be a nine-year sojourn, I spent a few months screening calls for Steve at KTSA. Being the son of a mechanic, I loved being around him.
Steve was indeed a unique person. Born in Brooklyn, New York, he moved to Texas as a youth and had a strong Texas twang. He was colorful when not on the air, but he could take it as easily as he dished it out. When I counter-teased him about finding his toupee on Eharmony, he didn’t get upset in the slightest.
I remember once needing caffeine one morning and seeing him in the breakroom. I asked him if I could borrow 50 cents from him. He pulled a dollar out of his thick wallet and gave it to me and then shook off my promise to pay it back. “I have plenty of money, Richard,” he said. “Don’t worry about it.”
On the air, Steve would also make jokes about his intelligence in all issues unrelated to cars. He was actually very sharp. Politics, social issues, common sense, he mastered them all. I often thought that if Ricci or Trey Ware ever needed the day off from their talk show, Steve could’ve filled in and easily held his own on any topic.
Steve also talked about his faith also, and I thought that in Michigan in 2013 when I was making plans to return home. I googled him to see how he and his show were doing. As it turned, out, he’d passed away in 2011 of a heart attack.
Until perfection is restored to the world, there will be tears and heartache in heaven. For Steve Gehrlein, there will also be boredom, as there are no more cars to repair.
R.I.P., Steve. See you someday on the other side.
Post comments here or email them to email@example.com.
A big left-hander who pitched in the Major Leagues from 1897, 1898-1910, he was 193-143 lifetime. One has to wonder what his lifetime wins-against-losses record would’ve been if he’d been a more dependable player, not given to alcoholism or to what would be considered Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder today.
Rube Waddell during his playing days.
His career earned run average of 2.16 and his 2,316 career strikeouts (six times, he led the league in strikeouts as a pitcher) are both astonishing, considering he pitched in the Deadball Era, when batters focused more on making contact with the ball and getting on base rather than trying to hit tape-measure home runs.
The true irony of George Edward “Rube” Waddell was that he had little control over his personal behavior or his spending habits, but had excellent control of his fastballs and curveballs. Baseball managers, such as Connie Mack of the Philadelphia Athletics, tolerated Rube because, when he was on, he was close to unhittable. Unfortunately, he was also high maintenance: he’d often show up late or not at all for scheduled starts, would leave a game abruptly to follow fire engines and was easily distracted by opponents.
And, on March 16, I got to meet him.
That day my sons and I went to Mission Burial Park South to visit the final resting place of Rube Waddell. He died in a sanitarium on April 1, 1914 at 37 of complications from pneumonia. Having no money, it’s been said Waddell would’ve been buried in a pauper’s grave if not for the generosity of Mack.
A few weeks from now on April 1, 2014, it will mark the 100th anniversary of Waddell’s passing. His tombstone is an impressive large, vertical slab, about six feet tall. There is what appears to be a stone ball protruding out of the top. As I looked at the slab, weathered by time, I wondered how many people know this is the final resting place for a man who, for the first decade of the 20th century, was considered one of the top draws in Major League Baseball.
“Nice to meet you, Mr. Waddell,” I said. “I’m sorry your life ended so soon. I read about your life and it sounds like you were very fun to watch play. I don’t know what your spiritual beliefs were, but I’d love to see you in heaven someday.”
Next time I visit, I think I’ll print out a picture of Waddell, laminate it and leave it there along with a baseball.
Richard Zowie’s favorite baseball team is the Houston Astros, Like Waddell, he is also left-handed. Post comments here or e-mail them to firstname.lastname@example.org.
From A to Zowie
Two pebbles, a handful of sand, and a piece of limestone
By Richard Zowie
My two youngest sons and I visited Texas in July 2011, our first visit home in over seven, very long years. It was an extremely emotional experience, to put it lightly. Never in my life was I so happy to experience 90-degree weather. While home, we stayed in Beeville with my parents but also spent time in Corpus Christi, Victoria and in Austin. In Austin, we spent the day with Chelsea Taylor, my high school classmate whom I’ve known since fifth grade. I also got to see my nephews, nieces and my sisters Sabrina and Misti, all whom I missed very much.
It was a week that went by far too quickly.
The last night before we flew back to Flint, Michigan, Chelsea asked me, “How has your vacation been, Richard?”
“Let me put it this way,” I said. “If I could, I’d tear up the return-flight tickets.”
Being back in Texas made me realize something I’ve known deep down for years: I’m a Texan. Michigan is a beautiful state, but it’s not home and never will be home. Someday soon, when the time is right, I want to return back to Texas and spend the rest of my life in the Lone Star State.
I wasn’t born in Texas, but I moved to Texas when I was eight, grew up in Texas and think of myself as an adopted Texan.
Why my fondness for Texas? It’s not just because it’s home, but…Texas is a state of mind that I’ve never experienced any other place I’ve been. I love the white-on-black farm to market road signs, I love the scenery, which ranges from the Gulf Coast to the Valley to the Hill Country and to the endless oil derricks you see out in West Texas. I also love the culture, how the independent spirit blends with the Hispanic culture. I’m not Catholic, but I smile when I see old Catholic churches; they make me think of early Texas settlements centuries ago. I love the smell of Tex-Mex food and the accordion-fueled guitar beat of Tejano music.
And, of course, I love the songs of the cicadas.
I know I’m home when I enter a store and for sale on the news stands are the San Antonio Express-News and Houston Chronicle, and in the magazine rack is Texas Monthly and Dave Campbell’s Texas Football. And when you enter that store, half the conversations are in Spanish, spoken by family and friends who have spent generations in that town.
All this means I’m especially partial to South Texas.
I am a very sentimental person by nature, and during that visit I decided to collect a few items.
From the back of my parents’ property northeast of Beeville, I found a smooth black pebble.
During our trip to Corpus, we visited the U.S.S. Lexington. While there, I scooped up a handful of sand from the beach of Corpus Christi Bay.
While with my sisters, nephews and nieces for a trip to Victoria to a duck pond, I found another smooth black pebble.
Then, outside Chelsea’s home in Lakeway, I found a piece of limestone.
Someday, perhaps as soon as this summer, I plan to move back to Texas. For now, I live in Vassar, Michigan, a small community about 25 miles southeast of Saginaw. On my nightstand are two plastic containers; one contains the pebbles and limestone and the other contains the sand.
When I return, the sand will be returned to the beach at Corpus Christi Bay.
The small black pebble will be returned back to the duck pond in Victoria.
The larger black pebble will be returned to my parents’ property.
And the limestone will be returned to its home in Lakeway.
When I do those things, I will know one thing.
I am back home for good. And forever.
Richard Zowie grew up in Beeville and is a 1991 graduate of A.C. Jones High School. He currently lives with his sons in Vassar, Michigan. Post your comments here or e-mail Richard at email@example.com. His blog is at www.fromatozowie.wordpress.com.
From A to Zowie
Ten years as a writer
By Richard Zowie
Ten years ago, as I drove down to Prime Time Military Newspapers near Lackland Air Force Base on San Antonio’s southwest side, I was nervous. For months, as I prepared to leave the Army, I’d occasionally e-mail the publisher ask if any journalism positions were open. Each time she’d tell me they didn’t have any but that my writing samples looked very good. As my discharge drew closer without a job lined up, I worried what the future held.
A few days before the publisher had called, and I interviewed with her. Now it was time for the second interview with her and the publisher and editor of the Kelly Observer.
That interview went very well, and just a few days after my Army enlistment officially ended on February 21, 2000, I began my writing career as a staff writer for the Observer. And then, a year later, as a columnist for the Bee-Picayune.
That was then: today I work at the Genesee County Herald in Clio, Michigan (a small town about 20 miles north of Flint). It’s actually two newspapers: one edition covers the northern Genesee County areas of Mt. Morris and Clio and the other edition covers the southern Saginaw County areas of Birch Run and Bridgeport. When not doing that, I also work on freelance assignments and try to refine my fiction. Over the years, I’ve had the privilege of being published in a few places: Air Force News, the San Antonio Express-News, and Recreation Management magazine.
Over the years as a writer, I’ve had a chance to work with many wonderful people, along with some who have taught me a lot by teaching me how not to do something. Along the way I’ve stepped on my share of land mines.
Over these 10 years, here are what I consider the Three P’s of Journalism:
Be Professional. When talking to someone, stay with the topic at hand unless perhaps a side comment can somehow lead to the person revealing great information for your article or information that could lead to a future article.
Be Polite. Treat those you deal with in a respectful, friendly manner. It goes a long way, especially if the person has had bad experiences with the media in the past.
Be to the Point. Assume the people you deal with are very busy. Once you introduce yourself, get down to business. When done talking to them, thank them for your time and leave it up to them to leave the door open for further comments.
Over the years, I’ve had the privilege of writing some memorable stories. Among them…
…During Air Force Day at Dallas Cowboys training camp in San Antonio’s Alamodome in 2002, I got to briefly interview Cowboys owner Jerry Jones. Was I nervous? Does it get hot in Texas summers?
…Earlier in 2000, I wrote an Express-News Memorial Day feature article of an Army buddy whose father posthumously received the Medal of Honor in Vietnam by throwing himself onto a grenade.
I’ve also in my ventures met a kidney transplant recipient who, after 15 years, needed another kidney and learned his medical insurance wouldn’t cover the cost. Then there was the 102-year-old lady, whose secret to longevity was dipping snuff (I kid you not).
Sometimes I’ve even met a few famous people. For one unpublished feature article about his minister-at-large position at San Antonio’s Oakwood Church, I interviewed San Antonio Spurs star and NBA Hall of Famer David Robinson. (Being 5’8”, I barely came up to his waist). About a year ago, I interviewed and took pictures of Marlon Young, the lead guitarist for Kid Rock’s Twisted Brown Trucker band. Young was very friendly.
Years ago in the Bee-Picayune, I wrote about writing and said this: writing is an art, not a science. As I’ve continued to grow as a writer, I feel that’s a comment that must be modified. Writing is a science in that you must learn the fundamentals, grammar rules and spelling. But it’s also an art in that you must develop your own individual style. It’s difficult to practice your art if you don’t have a grasp of grammar or if you can’t spell words.
Where would I like to see my writing career go in the future? In a few directions: journalism, blogging (which I suspect is where journalism’s slowly going) and fiction writing. Perhaps I’ll have those things to report on in 2020 when I write about 20 years.
In closing, here’s my favorite story in the past 10 years: While working at a newspaper in Comal County, we had a weekly question we’d ask of local residents for our Word on the Street segment. One week it was asking if people voted, the other week whether they planned to buy former President Bill Clinton’s then-recently-published autobiography, and so on. Some residents would decline to pose for a head shot while others would give their first name only.
One lady gave a great answer to one of the questions but then declined a photo or to even give her first name.
“Are you just shy?” I asked her.
She laughed. “Not really, but I do have a few outstanding warrants for my arrest, and the authorities don’t know I’m here in Canyon Lake.”
Richard Zowie blogs at WordPress and other sites. Post comments here or e-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
This has been one of my favorite columns, partly because while it was eventually published in my hometown newspaper the Beeville Bee-Picayune, it was originally rejected for publication by one liberal editor. He felt it was too politically-incorrect and tried to write a counter-column to show me his viewpoint.
The column was about how absurd it can get to change sports names every time someone complains of being offended. The school in question was the San Antonio high school Sam Houston Cherokees, who changed their name to the Hurricanes due to complaints their name was offensive towards Native Americans. Never mind that Sam Houston lived among Cherokees and later became an advocate of Native American rights, and never mind the name was intended to honor rather insult.
So, this editor’s counter-column argued that naming a team the Cherokees was tantamount to naming teams after racially divisive terms for Asians, African-Americans and so forth.
So, here’s the column:
Native American mascots: toss the tasteless, keep the dignified
By Richard Zowie
For the past decade or so, one of the most controversial topics in sports—besides performance-enhancing drugs, gambling and sloppy officiating—has been whether or not teams should be allowed to use Native American nicknames.
This summer, the NCAA plans to hold various meetings to determine whether those of its colleges with Native American mascots can still continue to do so. They’ll make a final decision when the NCAA’s 17-member Executive Committee meets in August.
Some of the nicknames in the spotlight include the Florida State Seminoles and the Utah Utes. In other sports and at the professional level, other hot-button names include the Washington Redskins, Kansas City Chiefs, Atlanta Braves and Chicago Blackhawks. In San Antonio high school football, there’s the Antonian Apaches. Across Texas, many high schools have mascots with Native American themes, such as Warriors and Chiefs.
Some teams have already changed their names, and often times it is for the better. A few years ago, St. John’s University in New York ditched its Redmen mascot and is now known as the Red Storm. To me, “Red Man” is a derogatory term comparable to calling an Asian person “Yellow Man”. It’s also comparable to Washington’s “Redskin” mascot, which seems to draw attention to the skin color.
For some teams, the name change can be ridiculous. A few years ago in San Antonio, Sam Houston High School caved into political pressure and dumped its Cherokee nickname, never mind the fact that Houston spent considerable time with the Cherokees growing up and as an adult, even becoming a Cherokee citizen and marrying a Cherokee woman. He also reportedly served the Cherokees as an advisor, trader and special envoy. Houston said this about Native Americans: “I am aware that in presenting myself as the advocate of the Indians and their rights, I shall stand very much alone.”
Despite this, Sam Houston’s now the Hurricanes, an oddity given how landlocked San Antonio is. The name would fit better if SHHS were located in Corpus Christi, Galveston or some other town along the Gulf Coast.
While I’ve known two Native Americans (a Chippewa and an Apache) who said they weren’t offended by the nicknames, there are indeed many Native Americans who feel the nicknames are racist or insensitive. That being said, this poses the question: should a school or sports organization be required to change their mascot if the clear intention was to honor instead of caricature? Some sports teams use Native American names to honor the Native Americans who lived in that area. The University of Utah, for example, uses the nickname “Ute” to honor that state’s Native American heritage.
While I’m not for the wholesale dumping of all Native American nicknames, I do feel there are some nicknames and even logos that should be replaced. Names like Redskins and Redmen border on racism and stereotyping. I see them as the equivalent of the n-word for African-Americans or the g-word for Asian-Americans. Calling a Native American a savage, in my estimation, is an offensive stereotype assuming that any Native American you meet is out to scalp you.
As for logos, I dislike the one the Cleveland Indians use. Those who follow baseball are familiar with the red-faced, toothy, wide grin. To me, it’s the same as the images a generation ago of Asians wearing thick, coke-bottle glasses and having buck teeth. Supposedly, the Indians chose their name to honor their Native American player Louis Sockalexis, a Penobscot Indian who excelled as a hitter in his brief Major League career. Historians differ; some argue that the nickname was likely intended to exploit Sockalexis’ success (the Native American was subjected to racist taunts, war whoops and war dances by opposing fans). If the Indians really want to convince me their nickname is intended to honor Sockalexis, then they can start by ditching the offensive logo and going with something dignified.
That being said, if the NCAA decides to prohibit all schools from using any nicknames or logos patterned after Native Americans, will it really stop there? How long will it take for political correctness to seep past normal concerns and cultivate into what’s truly ridiculous?
Who knows, before long…
…the animal rights crowd will petition teams like the Michigan Wolverines, Texas Longhorns, Florida Gators and the California Golden Bears to change their names.
…the anti-Christopher Columbus crowd will lobby teams that use nicknames honoring pillaging explorers, like the Minnesota Vikings and Portland Trail Blazers, to change their names.
…the environmental crowd might even weigh in and demand that teams like the Minnesota Wild, San Francisco 49ers and Denver Nuggets change their names. They might not even like the names symbolizing industry, such as the Purdue Boilermakers or Pittsburgh Steelers.
…the anti-war crowd might even complain about names like the University of Massachusetts Minutemen while those who oppose the Patriot Act might want the New England Patriots to change their name.
…who knows, perhaps even atheists might even sound off about how the New Orleans Saints mascot discriminates against those in The Big Easy who practice voodoo.
…for those who oppose space exploration and feel we should focus on earth issues, maybe they might get upset about the Houston Astros and Houston Rockets.
…for those who feel that all references to the Confederacy need to be erased, the northeastern Louisiana high school football team West Monroe Rebels and the University of Mississippi Rebels would be pressured to change their names. Also, wasn’t the term “Yankee” a derogatory term used to describe northerners? Shouldn’t the New York Yankees change their nickname to their unofficial one, the Bronx Bombers? Wait! Bomber implies war, and it’s not politically correct to glorify war. Never mind.
For now, the best thing the NCAA and other athletic organizations should do is set guidelines to determine what is truly offensive and distinguish that from what’s intended to honor, to represent or what’s intended to be a harmless image. Once that’s done, they can focus on the much more pressing issues in college football. You know:
Athletes who blow off class and treat their college scholarship as little more than prep time to get ready for the pros.
Athletes who have their homework and research papers done by someone else.
Athletes involved in criminal activity.