Cool press box triggers memories

They're air conditioning the press box at Tiger Field. Publisher Bill Cooke and I have spent many a sweat-soaked Friday night in that hallowed sanctuary and we wish the wimps, uh, the cool-underarmed sports writers of the future well.

That got the hallway chat in The Reporter steered toward press box adventures.

Sports editor Bill Martin noted that in many places—not Rockdale or Cameron who have long traditions of doing things right— the concept, if not the words, of having an actual "press box" has gone out of style.

If the press actually asks to sit in the press box and work, some press box guardians act like you've just started a conversation in a foreign language.

Press boxes are increasingly becoming places for everyone except the press. The Texas Press Association notes many are evolving into Administrator Boxes.

That's actually not a new development.

I remember well an incident a couple of decades ago in a town west of here when Reporter stat man Charles Holder and I were stopped at the door of a press box and were informed "we had a district meeting and decided the press couldn't sit in here."

They did condescend to let us share the upstairs booth with the game filmers. For part of the first quarter we tried to balance note pads, stat sheets, programs and paraphernalia on our knees without much success.

Then the trap door popped up as did the head of James "Bimbo" Dreyer, who was broadcasting the game on the now long-defunct KCRM radio station.

"Why don't you come on down and sit? " he asked. " There's nobody down here."

The press box was occupied by exactly two people, Bimbo and the game announcer. We accepted his invitation and nobody said a word. Nobody to say it!

There was another time, also in a good-sized town west of here, when we were greeted by a friendly press box host who was also the school's ag teacher.

"It's a pretty good press box," he grinned. "But they built it too low. When people in the last row of stands get up you can't see the field. We watched them build it from the ag shop and tried to tell 'em that but they wouldn't pay any attention to us."

It was a close game with an exciting fourth quarter. The home side stands stood through most of that quarter.

So did everyone in the press box, on our chairs trying to peek at the game over the tops of people's heads.

Moral: Ag folks are prett y sharp. When they tell you something, listen to them.

But my favorite story involves a trip up the home stands of an East Texas stadium on the way to a press box.

This needs some setting up. In my extended bachelor days, my idea of appropriate attire often consisted entirely of wearing apparel emblazoned with logos of colleges or pro baseball teams.

(Note to my wife if she's reading this: No, honey, you do not get equal time to respond to that last paragraph.)

That night I had on a University of Southern California windbreaker.

I was trudging up toward the press box immediately behind Rockdale's film crew, Joe Wayne Cleveland and Allen Ballew.

We stopped to visit w ith a friendly lady who graciously welcomed us to her town, which was a long way from Rockdale.

She mentioned their team, which was warming up, had some blue chip athletes. Allen, for a joke, jerked his thumb in my direction and said, "well this is O. J. Simpson and he's here scouting for USC."

We waited for the laugh. Which never came.

The lady, dead serious, grabbed my hand and gushed, "Oh Mr. Simpson, would you look at my son? He's No. 44, right out there!"

Allen called me "O.J." for 20 years, right up until a certain murder trial.

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2009-09-10 digital edition

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