(This column first ran in The Times and The News-Star Oct. 20, 2011. We run it again now in honor of one Atlanta righthander — the pictured pitcher Phil Niekro (because we love him) — and two Atlanta lefties: Sean Newcomb, who lost a no-hitter with two outs in the 9th Sunday in the Braves’ 4-1 victory over the Dodgers, and Ruston’s George Stone, a big leaguer from 1967-75 who is one of five inductees into the Ark-La-Tex Sports Museum of Champions Saturday, Aug. 4, at 6:30 p.m. at the Shreveport Convention Center. THAT’S THIS WEEKEND! Call 868-6118 for your $45 ticket. See you there!)
Some Octobers stick around, for good
So be of good cheer and take your cuts, even when you don’t feel like it. You never know when a tiny something you do today might make a big difference for somebody tomorrow – or nearly 30 years from now, and on many days in between.
Got an email this week from a dear friend I’ve never met. He’d been sent a link that connected him to a story I’d written years ago about “It’s A Long Way To October,” a three-hour “documentary” about the 1982 Atlanta Braves that aired in ’83, then disappeared.
It didn’t disappear to me. I’d recorded it on a VHS machine the size of a deep freeze and still play it often while I work. No sound: I just look over at the TV set and am reminded…
The Braves’ entire season was covered since Atlanta’s TBS SuperStation, with cameras and mics and whatnot, had the technology. This was unheard of in ’82, hearing players and umpires talking in the dugout, at spring training, on road trips at restaurants. Watching it was like spending time with friends since back then, the Braves and Chicago’s Cubs, thanks to cable, were the only games in town.
So it’s neat that I should get this mail now, during World Series week.
“I was the executive producer of that special a long time ago and have a sports Emmy and a cable Ace thanks to the talented people who made this happen,” wrote Terry Hanson. “It was supposed to be the quintessential ‘any season in baseball,’ but the club’s success had Ted Turner opt for memorializing that season. So, it had only a one-year shelf life when my initial intention was to have it live for a lifetime. Happy to see you remember.”
Are you kidding me? The original “It’s A Long Way…” guy found something I’d written and wrote me back? Joy! Rapture! I wrote HIM back to say I’d made copies for other loyalists, guys I’ve never met who saw the same link and wanted a copy. They just wanted to remember Torre and Red Barber, Ernie and Pete and Skip, Horner and Dale Murphy and Niekro, even the Red Man and Miller Lite and “Buy a Kenny Rogers album” commercials of yesteryear. Is that Roger Staubach pushing life insurance?
“It is a joy to want to thank somebody for years and finally get the opportunity to do it,” I wrote to Mr. Hanson. “…Whenever things aren’t going your way – you’re having a bad day or whatever — I want you to know something: You made a difference for me. And for a lot of guys in college back then, even in high school in the late ’70s. We had the one game a week and then suddenly – THE BRAVES! The horrible, terrible, wonderful Braves…Then this piece of work in ’82. Before there WAS this kind of stuff. Not a single week goes by that I don’t quote something from the show or have it quoted to me by one of The Guys from back then…
“Finally, you might think you didn’t , but you DID make something that lives for a lifetime. You did. At least for a few guys like me.”
If you need to thank someone, do it. We all need encouragement. And if you feel underappreciated or feel your work has a short shelf life, hang on anyway. Keep dishing out the good stuff. Somebody out there’s your biggest fan.