Friday, July 13, 2012

C'mon, Jer-ree!

     We call each other Jerry; we have for more than 30 years. There is a "Jerry" group, and there's a reason for it, and I'm not going to explain it because ... well, it's an inside joke. A joke.
      His name is not Jerry; it's John W. Marshall III, and he's been one of my best friends for almost 40 years.
      Most weeks we trade a dozen e-mails and a couple of phone calls. If there are mistakes in this blog, or in any of my blogs, rest assured that John W. will correct them.
      So I better not drop any words, and I need to get my facts straight, plus my grammar and my spelling. Because John W. will find the errors. And I appreciate it.
      He works for an oil and gas company in Houston -- that is, when he's not looking up all sorts of information on baseball or on Shreveport or on history -- but he could be an editor.
      He is one of the most fastidious, conscientious, neatest people I know.
      We trade "scoops," trying to find a piece of information the other won't know, or be the first to report significant breaking news (such as prominent deaths). We "blast" each other when the information is too simple or too repetitive. "It's obvious you have nothing to do" is often the admonishment.
       There are a lot of inside terms, such as "light," or "huh" or "hooking someone." Some of our friends will understand; most people won't. A real blast is "C'mon, Jer-ree."
John W., with young Julian
 (from Maureen Marshall's Facebook page)
       He turns 65 today, which explains the timing of this. He is -- as his Twitter profile says --  a father of four, grandfather of two, Catholic, accountant, choir member, baseball fan, wine enthusiast.
       Add Jesuit (Shreveport) High School and LSU-Shreveport graduate, Loyola (New Orleans) dropout, U.S. Navy veteran, minor-league umpire, Shreveport Captains general manager, and longtime high school basketball and high school/college baseball ump (and a darned good one, in my opinion). He loves cemeteries and bands, and pomp. That should about cover it, right, Jerry?
        It is the baseball fan part that mostly drew us together.
        We both love the game itself, the tradition, the heroes, the quirks of the rules and umpiring and scorekeeping, the facts and figures, the minute details, the many stars from Shreveport and Louisiana. We love stadiums, old and new, love to study what makes them unique and what is lacking.
        Baseball is the topic of 90 percent of our e-mail conversations.
        We actually were opposing scorekeepers in high school -- John W. for a state championship team at Jesuit in 1964 -- but the real friendship began one night at a Shreveport Captains' game at SPAR Stadium in 1973. We began talking about the newspaper -- it was near the beginning of my career at The Times -- and John W. had a lot of questions.
        Why did we not have box scores on the West Coast games? Why were the standings not up to date? Why were some box scores messed up? How come we no longer used box scores on high school games? Why this? Why that?
         All good questions, better questions than I got from a lot of readers. I tried to give good answers, without excuses. And as we talked in the next few weeks and months, the friendship grew.
         Soon I was visiting the Marshall house. His dad, John W. Marshall Jr., was a man who was interested in many things, an expert photographer, a sports fan, and an avid reader, too. Younger brother Tommy would become an outstanding writer and editor, but was then a hard-trying Jesuit High basketball player. The mother -- everyone called her Giffy -- was one of those friendly, upbeat people who moody guys like John W. and I envied.
        We shared the baseball books we liked, such as the great writer Charles Einstein's A Flag for San Francisco -- about the Giants' 1962 pennant team. Plus, the Marshalls got me hooked on hopscotch ice cream (mixed squares of vanilla and chocolate).
        Soon, too, John W. was keeping stats for me at high school football games, allowing me more time to actually watch the game so I could write about it. It was a big help.
        In 1975, John W. and I went on a baseball adventure -- a flying trip on Allegheny Airlines, which offered a special fare and conditions (fly before 9 a.m. every day; make a connection in Pittsburgh almost every day). Starting with a drive to Memphis, we went to eight towns (and ballparks) in 12 days ... Chicago, New York, St. Louis, Detroit, Cleveland, Philadelphia, Boston and Baltimore. Did some sightseeing, but mostly it was baseball, baseball and more baseball.
Two old friends lurking at
 Colonial Country Club in Fort Worth
         I'm sure John W. still has his notes from the trip. I do remember one good argument about a scoring play on an August night when we sat in the upper deck at mammoth Cleveland Municipal Stadium -- it was so cold because of the wind blowing off adjoining Lake Erie -- and Yankees third baseman Graig Nettles dove to his left for a fabulous stop, then got up and threw the ball away. Hit or error? Can't remember how it went, but we disagreed. We're still disagreeing.
         A year later, John W. lost his dad. It was so quick. Jack was only 55, and it was when I learned the meaning of the word virulent -- highly infective, malignant or deadly. A virulent cancer. I've hated that word ever since.
        We barely got through a couple of years together working with the Captains; that tested the friendship. I had to move to Hawaii to get away (just kidding, Jerry).
         We have endured, followed each other's families, rejoiced at the births and grieved at the deaths (Giffy passed away earlier this year). We have tried to figure out life, alternately encouraging and gently ribbing each other.
         I will give you this "scoop": Having John W. Marshall III -- Jerry -- for a close friend all these years has been a real blast, and not at all in a negative sense. And I ain't kidding.
         Have a bowl of hopscotch today, Jerry. It's the light thing to do.



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