Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Spring Training Oddities #2: You've Got A Great John Houseman Name

The Spokesman-Review, Spokane, Washington, 4/17/1940

This isn't so much of an oddity--but I found it while looking for oddities. In 1940, these kids were playing ball at a Spokane playground, when a photographer snapped a shot of them. They were probably thrilled to see themselves in the paper the next day, labeled as "future baseball stars."

I thought it would be fun to see if either of the two children named went on to actually become baseball stars, even if it meant minor leaguers. Wilmer Lee seemed like a name you'd see on an old baseball card, so I looked him up first. Nothing. Then I tried the catcher, Jack Berg. This page came up. I read all about Berg's Junior Shoe Store in Spokane--now more than 80 years in business--and how the place was passed on to Jack from his mother in 1950. Forty years later, Jack passed it on to his son Chris, who ended up selling the company to a friend in 2009. There's even a picture of Jack on the page. I wrote to the e-mail address the site listed and asked about Jack.

A few days later, I got a reply from Jack Berg himself. He says he's been retired for 18 years and will turn 83 in April. So Jack didn't become a baseball star, but it seems he became something more important, a community star.

On Sunday, while driving to the supermarket, 2,200 miles from Spokane, Kim and I saw some kids playing baseball on the local Little League field. Between that and the fact that Jack Berg and his buddies are back in the paper (meaning the current version of "the paper," the Internet--my blog in this case), It's Really Spring in Sports World Now.


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Location: Rhode Island, United States