Monday, February 16, 2015

Holy Cow! My Uncles Liked Baseball Too!

Uncle Ernie Dolan
      Spring training is just around the corner. That's always a good thing. As someone once said, "In springtime a young man's fancy turns to ... baseball" or something like that. I got to thinking about baseball today, and thought a jotting was in order.
    Another story that family pictures tell is that some of my uncles liked baseball too. That is especially true of my Uncle Ernie Dolan, my Dad's brother. He always talked to me about baseball. It was Uncle Ernie who first took me to the friendly confines of Wrigley Field in Chicago. 
    As long as I live I will never forget that moment on that day. It was very late 1950s or maybe very early 1960s. It was kind of rainy and gloomy that day. I remember walking up the runway from the main concourse. Then there it was. It was so green! The grass and the famous ivy-covered walls - it was so green that day, standing out in contrast to the grayness of the weather. And I remember the colors ofthe Cub uniforms - the bright blue caps and blue trimming. Then there was the reds - the Cincinnati Reds, that is, with their colorful uniforms. The Reds had some big sluggers, like Gus Bell and Ted "Big Klu" Kluszewski, who played sleeveless even though their jerseys then were cut up to the shoulder. It was a religious experience and that day my Uncle Ernie was a god. By the way, the Redlegs killed the Cubs that day.
      The problem was that I became a Milwaukee Brave fan, and Uncle Ernie liked to yank my chain by calling my heroes, "dem bums from Milwaukee" and then he'd spit tobacco from the chaw the size of a golf ball that he had packed in his cheek.
      But he loved the Cubs. One of his favorite moments was taking the "Cubs Cruise" with Hall of Fame broadcaster Harry "Holy Cow" Carey as host. It didn't surprise me at all that he had a drink and got a picture. It's one of my faves!

Hall of Famer Harry Carey and My Uncle Ernie Dolan
Uncle George Donlon
      It might surprise some to know that my Uncle George liked baseball too. I knew he was a fan, but apparently he played too. The pictures don't lie. Friedens had a team, and you will see a young George in the back row, third from the left, in the picture that was taken outside the church or school in Kenosha. Nice "uni", huh!
      After he moved to California in 1960 and the California Angels became an expansion team in Anaheim, George became a big Angel fan. I can still hear his distinctive voice on the phone, "How 'bout my Angels, John!"  (He never called me Johnny.)
      Here's a bit of family trivia: When George got a job as a mailman in Anaheim, what baseball great was on his mail route? Answer: The Hall of Fame pitcher, Nolan Ryan. Yup, my Uncle George delivered the great Nolan Ryan's mail! Bet you didn't know that.
Uncle Kelly Greening and Uncle George Donlon

     Here's a snapshot bonus. Also in the same picture is another of my uncles, Uncle Kelly Greening. He is right next to George in the back row, second from the left. Uncle Kelly did a lot of things and was known especially for his green thumb (evidenced by his awesome garden and golf course quality lawn at 4711 20th, Kenosha.) But he played ball too. I didn't know that.

     Here's one more and another one of my faves. It's an old Zion ball team - looks like an all-star team. Uncle Ernie is kneeling in the front center. He was a pretty good pitcher and I know he had at least one tryout. He told me that he met and worked out with another Hall of Fame pitcher, Dizzy Dean, and his brother Paul "Daffy" Dean of the old St. Louis "Gashouse Gang." You can look it up.
     Usually it's not a good thing to write on the front of pictures, but in this case, I'm glad my Dad did. He identified everyone in the picture. Along with Ernie is a Dolan cousin, Axel Dolan, and Ernie's brother-in-law, Paul Erickson (Paul did play for Cubs and was on the mound when the Cubs clinched the 1945 pennant - another story for another day.) Also, you see the Guy brothers, good friends of the Dolan family, and one of them, Alfie Guy is the Dad of my Facebook friend, Marty Guy.
     I just love this stuff! No wonder I grew up loving America's Pasttime. Play Ball!


  1. That picture of Uncle Ernie and Harry Carey is so familiar to me. :) I love it.

  2. I also love how our family is so baseball oriented.

  3. I love seeing Uncle Ernie smile.. Don't remember that very much. Picked out Uncle Kelly & Uncle George immediately. Never knew the ballgame story or maybe I forgot.

    1. He had a sneaky sense of humor, and he didn't mind giving me the business once in a while,but you are right. He was so unlike Daddy in that way!

  4. Good stuff!!! So you're saying The Cubbies were the family team? Got it.

  5. Let's see, Paul, out of all of that, you got that the Cubbies are the family team!? Well, I guess you're right . Uncle Ernie certainly was. Grampa liked the Cubs too, but he was not really a big baseball fan. I am sure most of the Zion family, if they were baseball fans at all, it would be the Cubs. I grew up watching them on WGN - a lot - HOFer Jack "Hey Hey" Brickhouse and Vince Lloyd were the announcers. (I secretly called him Jack Brick#@&#house). I would make my own scorebook and score the games, also using my baseball cards, laid out on the floor. I pulled for the Cubs until they played the Braves. The Braves small-market did not allow a TV package in those says, so the only time I got to see them play was when they played the Cubs on WGN. I would listen to them on my transistor radio. I would hunker down underneath the dining room table and listen to Earl Gillespie and Blaine Walsh. Look 'em up. I think I became a Braves fan through one of my grade school buddies at Friedens in Kenosha. I loved Eddie Matthews, Henry Aaron, Warren Spahn - I knew them all. And I still cherish my Milwaukee Braves baseball cards from the late 50's and early 60's. I literally cried when they moved to Atlanta! But Wrigley Field is still a baeball holy place.

  6. Good baseball stories!! I did not know that Uncle George was Nolan Ryan's mailman! That's a random & awesome connection. :)

  7. George was a pretty good name dropper too. I remember how he enjoyed telling me about this. He knew I loved baseball and that I would be excited about this.

  8. The "uniforms" in the church ball team from Friedens really amaze me. I can't believe they played in those. I sure wish I had one of those sweaters though!