In his latest “Dear Grandson,” Stan Gerding talks about baseball in Waukegan, Illinois, and being faced with another move, and a choice between two different duty stations.
Bud’s last year in the Pony League, his team came in first place in the District and he was selected as an All-Star for the Waukegan team and eligible to play in the All-Star Tournament that was played in Lafayette, Indiana. More traveling! They came in third place out of ten teams, which was pretty good considering the other teams that were in this tournament. They were the best of the best in the country.
My job at the base was a good job, but with the addition of HM1 Jeff Curtis to my staff it became a great job. We were a special team and worked exceptionally well together. Jeff was also on the same teaching team as me and we were also on the Corps School softball team, so we knew each other very well. I continued to work at the lab at Lake Forest Hospital and got to know a lot of people there. I continued singing the National Anthem at a few of the graduation exercises and we had a big celebration and major inspection of all the troops for the Hospital Corps birthday and was honored to sing the anthem for that.
Bud moved on to the Colt Baseball League. We had so many ballplayers we had to have three separate teams; this is where it became somewhat of a nightmare for me. I met this man, who I will call John Doe, who seemed to be the “Godfather” of youth baseball in Waukegan and I thought he was an oddball, especially since he made it seem like he knew everything there was to know about baseball.
This is a long story, but it needs to be told. I told you in an earlier letter that this area of the country took their baseball very seriously and these kids were handpicked by John Doe to be on a certain team. There was the number “one” elite team sponsored by Waukegan Grand Bowl and then there was the number two team sponsored by Lake County Contractors and these kids were very good and took baseball very serious, but if you weren’t part of the John Doe elitist and on the number one team you fell to number two. Now, there was a third team sponsored by McDonald’s that had kids that wanted to play baseball for the fun of it.
I never ever agreed to this type of selecting, I revert to the Little League days where “ALL” the kids tried out, no exceptions. Not in Waukegan, if you had money and backed this John Doe, more than likely your kid was on the elite team.
Now, I had voiced some concern about this process and was told to run for the Colt League Presidency and make changes. I did, there was no opposition, and I quickly became the President of the Colt Baseball League. I found out why no one else wanted to run for president, because no matter what you tried to change there were roadblocks along the way. We were able to bring the 1986 Colt Baseball World Series to Waukegan, which was a lot of work and I did have a lot of volunteers to help me.
When we were selected to be the city to host the 1986 Continental Amateur Baseball Association World Series, five of the competing teams wrote me a letter requesting (like the year before) berthing at the Naval Training base barracks. I, in turn, submitted a letter to the Commanding Officer of the base requesting berthing spaces for five of the teams that would be in town for the world series. I received a letter from the CO of the base granting the five teams berthing spaces in the barracks with the stipulation that they would be cleaned up upon completion of the tournament and left in the same condition as when they arrived. The teams that were requesting the barracks were from Maryland, Michigan, Seattle, Buffalo, and Montreal.
To state that “the barracks were left in a shambles” is an understatement to say the least. Four mattresses were destroyed, commodes were stopped up, sinks needed repair, 200 safety lamps were destroyed, blankets, pillows, sheets needed cleaning, seven intercom speakers needed repair. Items that were confiscated? Pellet guns and various bottles of liquor. In the local newspaper, there was an article about chaos at the Naval Training Center and the headline read, “Navy barracks get turned into a ‘mess’ hall.”
My being the President of Colt Baseball in Waukegan and the Host of the CABA World Series, I received a letter from the Commanding Officer and an itemized bill for the cost of the damages, which totaled $1,525.50.
I had to write each individual team representative and ask for their share of the damages, totaling $305.10. What an embarrassment for Waukegan, the kids, and me “Chief Gerding,” OMG!!!
The World Series was a big success, which hosted the Midwest team from Cincinnati and Pete Rose Jr (12 hits in 25 at bats) played in the finals against a very good team from California and their star player was a Steve Magnusson whose team not only won the whole thing but he had a .654 batting average and was named the Most Valuable Player.
The world series ended, and things needed to be changed in the Waukegan Colt Baseball program, so I submitted this letter:
Things did change some. John Doe didn’t get his elite team. As a matter of fact, he was not even considered coach of any one particular team. He was considered an adviser.
Waukegan Grand Bowl team and Lake County Contractors both entered the 1987 North Suburban Colt League, which also had teams from Palatine (champs the year before), Arlington, Deerfield, Stevenson, Glenview, Barrington, Lake Forest, and New Trier. When it was all done, Lake County Contractors won the whole thing and the Waukegan Grand Bowl, who was picked to win the whole thing, came in second. By the way, Bud was on Lake County Contractors.
After the tournament, both Waukegan coaches met and selected a blend of kids from the two teams and traveled to the World Series that was played in Laredo, Texas. The Waukegan team did very well in the series coming in third place.
In the meantime, I was due for new orders and again I put in for a ship and got orders to the Preventive Medicine Unit in Pearl Harbor, Hawaii. I flew over there to look into housing and schools for Bud, and I stopped into the PMU and was told that my first six months there would be in the mountains of Indonesia studying mosquito larvae. Oh boy! That sounds like fun. NOT.
After my trip there, I wasn’t real excited about being stationed in paradise and winding up in Indonesia. Then, something unbelievable happened, I got a call from the special detailer wanting me to go to the Office of the Attending Physician to Congress in the Capitol in Washington, D.C. He told me it would be a good move for me and would easily get me promoted, so, I took those orders. But, I sure did hesitate because I was thinking about mosquito larvae … again, NOT.
There was so much going on with the youth baseball program that I forgot to mention several things about Greg. His International Studies Progam was going very well and his grades were superb. He did a one-year stint playing football for his high school and was also on the swimming team. He did pretty good in those two sports, but baseball was his forte.
Time to move again, this time to the nation’s capital, Washington, D.C.
More later, Grandson.
Stan Gerding is the author of the book The Nam “Doc” A Navy Corpsman’s Story.