This is my January ‘Lotta Sports column published in Hill Country Happenings
This month, Rick and I will be married twenty-nine years. Rick found out from the get-go just what a sports enthusiast I was. How many guys can say that on their honeymoon in Honolulu, their new wife forfeited hours on the warm sands of Waikiki to watch Super Bowl XX? Yes, I was camped out in our hotel room watching a rather lopsided slaughter of my Patriots by the Chicago Bears. In between cursing at the likes of “Refrigerator” Perry, Walton Payton and Coach Mike Ditka on TV, I was also bantering with some Bears fans in the room above us via our balconies.
The first years of our marriage found me working baseball charters. I continued to amaze Rick with my knowledge not only of the players’ uniform numbers but their wives and kids’ names as well. It was fun getting to know Texas Rangers rookies like Bobby Witt, Kevin Brown, Ruben Sierra and Pudge Rodriguez as they started their professional careers. One night, Rick picked me up at the airport from working a charter. As we started to pull away from the curb, I shouted out to two of the players waiting for a cab. “Need a ride home?” To Rick’s surprise, Bobby Witt and Jeff Huson jumped in the back of the Jeep and within ten minutes, we were letting them off at their homes. Soon our ski vacations were substituted for trips to Rangers spring training in Port Charlotte and in the fall, trips to New England scheduled where we could watch the Major League Baseball playoffs although minus the struggling Rangers.
With our marriage also came a merging of favorite college and professional teams. Our Christmas trees were adorned with ornaments of many teams. It was common to find us watching the games on different TVs when our teams played each other and verbal attacks got too personal. However, if either one of our teams made the playoffs, the other was politically correct in supporting the spouse’s team. In 2009, we visited friends in Pittsburgh to watch the Steelers-Cardinals in the Super Bowl. Rick, a Browns fan, shocked us when he donned a Steelers shirt and actually rooted for them!
Throughout the years, Rick has learned that he’s married to a “social butterfly” who talks to strangers and it’s usually about sports or being a flight attendant. Last month while we were in Ohio visiting Rick’s dad for an early Christmas, we had breakfast at Panera Bread every morning. The first morning, Bob’s table was already occupied so we sat facing another table in front of the fireplace. At the other table sat an attractive older woman in a sable brown outfit. As she interacted with the people at her table, she looked happy with life. I thought to myself, “I hope I’m like that in twenty years.” She and I caught each other’s eyes and exchanged smiles. Once in the car, I remarked about the woman. My father-in-law shared that she had been married to a professional baseball pitcher. I knew it!! I am always a magnet to sports. I call it “The Connection.” The following day, we returned to the restaurant. This time she was at a different table but with the same group. Bob’s usual table was available and her back was to me. As luck would have it, someone in her group stopped me enroute to the restroom to compliment me on my Santa sweater. Here was my chance to strike up a conversation about her husband. Instead I told her how I had admired her outfit the day before when they were seated in front of the fire. It was then the whole group chimed in that the table the previous day was their “usual” table and someone else had beaten them to it this day. We all laughed when I explained the same thing had happened to my father-in-law the previous day. Once in the restroom, I reprimanded myself for not asking about her husband. When I came out, she was at the coffee stand. “It’s now or never,” I told myself. After I stumbled through my explanation of knowing about her husband, we chatted several minutes just like old friends. Her name was Polly and her husband Dell Bethel, had pitched for the New York Giants in the early 50s. When I told her how I had worked several MLB team charters when at Delta, she smiled and said, “You have had an exciting life!” I shook my head and said that hers was probably a lot more exciting. She shared that they rode trains instead of planes back when Dell played. I yearned to talk to her more. As I reached for my purse to grab one of my cards, I discovered I didn’t have it. After a few seconds of internal panic, I spotted Rick in the entry way swinging the bag back and forth, and then shaking his head. Just another day of keeping up with his wife and her “connection” with people….Happy Anniversary Rick!