This is the tale of two uncles. Both avid Giant fans, both loved the game of baseball and my mother’s sister, Aunt Jewell. The two locations where my uncles lived could not have been more different as the two men themselves. Yet, they both followed the game as a religion, and preached sermons to my cousin Sherman and I about the game, the team, and players.
My uncle Maurice (pronouned Morse by us) was a big man, standing over 6’3″, he was a true woodman who lived in the dusty small town of Thorn in Humblodt County. He was a lefthander, who at 18 was given a look by the Stanford Indians because of a blazing fastball. It was said that he struck out many Indian batters in a tryout , but chose the woods over baseball due to money and an overbearing father. His arms were lanky and long and I loved watching him throw catch with Sherm. Mo kind of windmilled his throws, and his 135lb body had a way of crunching up before releasing the ball. Like many men following the depression, most did what they could, and Maurice found work making “split stuff” which included posts and fence boards out of solid redwood. He also was an avid sportsman who loved to hunt and fish and we were never without game. In fact it was out hunting that Maurice blew his leg off below the knee with his doubled-barrelled shotgun. It never slowed him down, nor did he ever stop feeling the pain in his foot that was no longer there. By the early 1960’s Maurice had a built this scavenger lifestyle into a successful business. He bought a new car, boat, and jeep with cash, and invested in new land to continue his success. Success has strange bedfellows.
Maurice was always waiting for the next big deal. He tasted the rewards of his hard work, and only needed more land to catipult him into the next level. The land or the next level never came, and money invested was lost by a lawyer in San Francisco. On a daily basis, Maurice would sit in the rocker and be waiting for a phone call. The radio would be on, and so would the Giants. The calls never came, but Lon Simmons and Russ Hodges did. We knew every player and Maurice would make comparsions to those who came before, like Williams, Joe D, but mostly he talked about the Giants. Due to the pain in his leg and the pain in his heart he drank beer. Living alone with rare visits from Sherm and I, the area around his rocker was covered in Burgimeister, Lucky, and Hamms cans. We would clean up the place and Maurice would take us hunting, with a stop over at Thorn’s only bar, where we listened to the giants and drank Canada Dry Cream Soda, while Maurice drank his beer and talked baseball with the bartender.
Les was Sherman’s stepfather, and was now married to Maurices ex wife, my aunt Jewell.
They lived in nice clean neighborhood in Santa Cruz.. Santa Cruz in the 60’s was a fabulous place to live and especially to visit. The boardwalk, the beach, and surfing offered a lifestlye a kid from Humboldt County could not resist. It was Disneyland every day. Les was a complete opposite of Maurice. He drove a concrete truck, played baseball and softball on local teams, and at 5’6, with a stubby body could flat move when covering the infield. When Les was not working, or playing himself, he was watching Sherman play. It was not suprising that Sherman developed into a very good catcher, and all around player. In our 20’s we had an opportunity to play softball together, it was treat. Les could also play the guitar and sing in this nasal Okie twang, he was good…..and of course when the game was on, we all listened. Even in Santa Cruz, Hodges had a way of keeping your butt glued to the chair waiting for the next pitch. Les and my Aunt would be drinking a highball and playing Pinoche, while Sherm and his sisters and younger brother listened.Les like Maurice had this vast knowledge about the game. We talked baseball on every occassion. like many of his generation, Les would refer to black players as “*******”, but I would not have called him a racist. It was just the times, Les loved Mays, McCovey, and all the giant players…He would often break into a rendition of the star spangled banner, with “Jose can you see”, which was a reference to Jose Pagan, the giant shortstop. Sherm and I still sing those few bars, when we get together.
Both Les and Uncle Maurice are long gone. Their memories will also be gone when those of us who had the pleasure of knowing them pass. The love they gave me for the game of baseball and the San Francisco Giants will never die. I have passed that to my children. I loved watching them play baseball and we collect cards together and occassionaly watch a few games a year.
Thanks Uncle Maurice. Thanks Uncle Les.