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Monday, January 24, 2011

Small-Town Heroes: I Was There

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

So, I discussed finding this cool book about the minor leagues, Small-Town Heroes: Images of Minor League Baseball, by Hank Davis. This post covers one of two very cool things I discovered in the chapter about the Cedar Rapids Kernels. The other very cool thing comes next.

When I jumped ahead to the chapter about Cedar Rapids, my mind was going quickly. My dad and I frequently made the trip to Cedar Rapids in 1994 and 1995, but we weren't there every game, maybe a third of them, if that much.

On these trips to the ballpark, the teenage me got baseballs, pennants and sometimes cards signed. To help in identifying the autographs later, I kept pretty good records, namely the roster to each game's program. I also checked off the players as I got them.

In the back of my teenage mind was the idea that these autographs might be worth something someday. I've grown to appreciate them now as a cool part of my youth, and time spent with my dad.

I also kept a bunch of the ticket stubs, not all, but many survive in our attic with the autographed balls and the like. I brought them out here to live in our place from my parents' home a few summers ago.

So, if I could figure out which game Hank Davis attended, there was a pretty good chance, with the records I kept, that I could determine if my dad and I were there with him.

Reading through the chapter, there were a few important clues. First, the Kernels' 1994 Midwest League championship was mentioned, meaning he wasn't there in 1994.

Reading further, I recognized all the players. There was Nick Skuse and Jason Dickson. There was also John Donati and Aaron Iatarola, all players I remembered. (Of those four, only Dickson made the majors.)

With the players, that locked in the year: 1995. Cool stuff. Now, what game did he go to? And, was I there?

Davis only attended one game. It was a game against the visiting Quad City River Bandits. When I saw the team, my optimism waned. Quad City, in the Kernels' back yard, came more often than other teams. My focus was to attend games with different teams. Because Quad City came more often, the chances of my dad and I being at one particular game diminished.

Another important clue: the game Davis attended, he wrote, was a sweltering one. He even snapped a picture of a visiting River Bandit holding a large thermometer on the mound. The field temperature, according to that, at least, was 120 degrees.

In Iowa, triple-digit temperatures mean July or August. I pulled out my 1995 pocket schedule, something I also kept. Quad City, I saw, was in town July 31 to Aug. 2. But what day? With a temperature reading, maybe I could find daily temperatures for Cedar Rapids that summer.

I couldn't find those. But, with temperatures that hot, it had to be a record, or close to it. has record temperatures. I looked there, glancing down July, starting at the first, I looked for 1995. Soon, I found it, a record daily temperature of 100 degrees in 1995. July 13. There were no records set July 31 to Aug. 2, 1995.

So, where were the Kernels playing July 13? According to my pocket schedule, they were playing at home, in a one-game series that I'd overlooked. They were playing the Quad City River Bandits.

That had to be it. Hank Davis was there July 13, 1995.

Was I there July 13, 1995?


Looking through my ticket stubs, I found it. A ticket stub for July 13, 1995. Hank Davis, my dad and I were there the same night. I obviously have no recollection of that particular game, but that ticket stub proves I was there. And Davis' book proves he was there.

How cool is that?

By the way, know who else was there?

Not mentioned in the book was that the manager of the visiting River Bandits that year was former major leaguer Jim Pankovits. That's the same Jim Pankovits who was in the CMC set and whom I interviewed for this blog last July, 15 years later.

Tomorrow afternoon, I'll bring this back to the baseball card world with the other cool connection, a Hank Davis passage about the 1995 Kernels team set.

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

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