Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Gonna be a quiet baseball season

You just never know when those close to you are going to leave.

Monday, our PA Announcer, Joe Frank Wheeler, was working on the sound system at the ballpark. Upon reaching the roof, where the broadcast booth and press box is, he collapsed. He apparently had a heart attack. He was 53.

Joe Frank made it fun to work at the ballpark. He had a gift for really bad puns, and also for out and out humor. Sorry, but right now I just can't think of the examples that I am sure will flood my memory as this soaks in. Except, maybe, his comment whenever our opponent managed to load the bases - he optimistically called it 'force at any base.'

Tonight was our opening night. This is my fourth year working for the team, and I think this was the third game I worked where Joe Frank wasn't there.

The trip up to the roof isn't for the faint of heart. I often worry about the older guys who come up to the press box, but I didn't worry about Joe. He had had a heart attack a few years back, I found out tonight. But he didn't ever show it. He had more energy than some of the players.

Joe worked every game like it was a career maker - no matter how tired he was, how small the crowd, or how bad we were getting beat. He absolutely loved his job. He also did PA for the hockey team, but he told me baseball was a lot more fun.

He had a gift for sports trivia. Every home stand, and sometimes more often, he would hit us with some obscure question about college football or the NBA or high school football, and he'd let everyone twist for a few innings until they came up with a guess. Then he'd give them the answer, complete with dates and everything, and I'd wonder, how the hell does he know all this, and why isn't he doing color broadcasting somewhere. This man knew sports, backward and forward.

We won the game tonight, but we lost so much more.

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