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Sunday, January 23, 2011

Small-Town Heroes: Cool Connections

Small-Town Heroes:
Part 1: Cool Connections | Part 2: I Was There
Part 3: Cards and Autographs
A couple weeks ago, I was researching former Indianapolis Indian Chris Marchok and came across a book written by author Hank Davis, called Small-Town Heroes. Portions of the book were on Google Books and came up in a Marchok search.

Well, the sections were interesting enough that I went ahead and bought the book, thinking it might come in handy down the line in researching other players. I'd done the same before, when I came across Steve Fireovid's book The 26th Man. That's come in handy a few times, with interesting passages to cite.

In Davis' book, Davis travels to various minor league ballparks, interviews players and generally tries to capture the minor league experience, or, as the back reads, "the atmosphere and culture of both minor league baseball and the small towns that embrace it."

It took a couple weeks, but the book finally arrived and I started reading it. It's really fascinating, especially for a minor league blogger like myself. Davis' trips began in the early 1990s and continued for several years. Based in Ontario, Davis' first several trips were to now-defunct Canadian teams, including a team represented in the CMC set, the London Tigers.

I didn't get too far into it when I started staring at the table of contents. Each chapter is simply named for the city visited. The first four are the defunct Canadian teams. Then there's Buffalo and Batavia, NY, parks my wife and I visited this past year.

Going down the list, I began wondering, did he make it to Iowa, especially, did he make it to Cedar Rapids? I grew up in Iowa and my dad and I regularly made the trip to Cedar Rapids to see the Kernels in 1994 and 1995.

During these trips, before the games I stood guard behind the visitors dugout, getting balls and pennants filled with autographs. I was a teenager by that time and I think my dad enjoyed that I still wanted to do stuff with him.

As the book's table of contents wound through Ohio, West Virginia and North Carolina - states nowhere near Iowa - my hopes dropped. Then, at the end, there it was. He went to Cedar Rapids, along with Burlington and Clinton.

My dad and I went to all three cities. We went to a couple games in Burlington over the two years. One trip was to see the young Alex Rodriguez play for Appleton. I knew he wasn't going to make it to Appleton's trip to Cedar Rapids later in the year. He didn't. In Burlington, we saw him hit two home runs. Then we went to Clinton just because we hadn't been there.

My wife and I have since expanded on these minor league trips. After nearly exhausting all the major league parks between New York and Iowa, these past few years, we've begun going to minor league parks. We've been to 16 major league parks and 19 minor league parks.

We've been to Cedar Rapids and Burlington. We've also gotten to Buffalo and Batavia. We went to Buffalo, Batavia and Burlington this past summer. Clinton is on our list for our next trip home.

But, back in the day, Cedar Rapids was dad and I's regular destination. And this writer must have came through about that time. That was pretty cool, I thought.

It soon got much cooler, after I jumped ahead to page 300, the Cedar Rapids chapter. But, I'll get to how cool tomorrow. I'll just say, once I jumped ahead, the names, I recognized them. Hank Davis, 1997, Small-Town Heroes: Images of Minor League Baseball

Small-Town Heroes:
Part 1: Cool Connections | Part 2: I Was There
Part 3: Cards and Autographs

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