Shoe Column: Stevens Point Musings and a Chance Meeting with Vince Gill
By Tim “Shoe” Sullivan
Please join us now as we take a look at Stevens Point past and present.
In an earlier quiz, it was mentioned that nobody from Point ever actually played for the Milwaukee Brewers. That’s true, but reader Peggy Orlikowski emailed to say that her hubby Ray Orlikowski almost played for the Milwaukee Braves during their glory years.
Ray was a left-handed pitcher in Stevens Point who was signed by the Milwaukee Braves right out of high school in 1959. Ray pitched in the minor leagues for seven seasons before hanging up his spikes due to bone chips in his pitching arm. His baseball career ended in 1965, the same year the Braves moved to Atlanta.
Peggy pointed out that out of all the local boys, Ray played the longest with the exception of Rick Reichardt. Ray’s famous teammates included Phil Niekro and Joe Torre, and they’re both in the Hall of Fame. Orlikowski worked for Northside IGA for several years and also played in Stevens Point’s first year of Little League. Tom Razner, Dave Roman, Jim Shuda, Wayne Jinske, Reichardt, Jared Redfield, and Jim Zimbauer were other notables in Point’s inaugural season.
Speaking of famous athletes in town, Norbert “Nubbs” Miller, my history teacher at Pacelli in ‘66, was a coach in Stevens Point’s first Little League season. Nubbs was a local standout in football and word on the street is that he signed with the Baltimore Colts during their glory years of Unitas and Moore and Marchetti.
Supposedly Mr. Miller was the last player released by the NFL powerhouse. That’s pretty impressive as the NFL didn’t have many teams back then. Nubbs was a terrific running back!
Not positive who actually started curling in town, but I’m pretty sure Ben and Dave Garber had a lot to do with it.
Continuing the sports theme, the other day Jim “Jumbo” Clark drove by. Jumbo used to be the UWSP Pointer baseball coach and was involved in local government. Jim stuck his head out the window of his car and yelled, “How about them Cardinals”! Jumbo is a super St. Louis Cardinal fan.
Pssst. Erin Auer of Delta Dental makes great chicken dumpling soup. And here’s a tip for all you seafood lovers: I was at Trig’s for a nice jumbo shrimp sale. Told the gal who checked me out, Amelia Konitzer, that I intended to boil the shrimp. She convinced me to try something else. Amelia said what she does is peel the shrimp, take the tail shell off, sprinkle garlic on the shrimp, and pan fry them in butter. Five minutes or so on each side. Then she dips the tasty morsels in shrimp sauce. Quite frankly, that sounds awesome.
Yes, it’s true. Pete Zimbauer, a guy from the old neighborhood, used to raise pigeons in his backyard. Don’t have the slightest idea of what one does with the birds, but he was great at raising them. Also, a buddy of mine used to raise chickens. I think it was Lee Kluck.
The crowds at Erin Laffe’s Thursday Women’s Fall Softball League at beautiful Iverson Park are getting bigger each week. Just sayin…
John Fitzgerald Kennedy was once at the Hotel Whiting in Point, and Bill Clinton was at the American Legion.
Many years ago, my buddies and I were playing bingo at St. Steve’s. Ma Pesch and Mumbler Giese were there. Because we forgot to bring markers, we used popcorn kernels. The game went on and they called some of my numbers. I told Ma, “If they call I 19, I’ll win!”
Ma said, “They DID call 1 19.”
Turns out Mumbler ate my popcorn that marked that square. No win for the Shoe.
Congrats to Brent Thauer who is now Sergeant Thauer of the Plover Police Department. In other law enforcement news, and this is according to the cops’ notes for their softball team, Lance Lewis once won a participation trophy in rec league softball, and Justin Klein has an extensive beanie baby collection.
Does anyone else miss the old neighborhood grocery stores in Point?
Triangle…Cigel’s…Rudnick’s…Weltman’s…Stanislawski’s…Thrifty…Jurgella’s…Westgate? Where the heck did everything go? Loved going as a kid into Knudson’s Grocery on Strongs Avenue. They had a penny gumball machine. If you got a yellow gumball with a red stripe, they gave you a dime (which was a fortune back then). One day I got a yellow gumball. Went home and took my sister’s red nail polish and painted a red stripe on the gumball and took it into the store. The lady clerk laughed like hell and gave me the dime. Oh, those were the days.
Flash! John Pionke goes by “Nips” and Bobby Nitka answers to “Nipper”.
Does the youth of today ever have “sleepovers”? We had them all the time as kids. You’d get four or five of your buddies and put up a tent in someone’s backyard. The crazy part is, you then were seldom actually IN the tent. Most of the time, we just kinda wandered around town. One night we walked over to the downtown A&P and (how can I explain this?) “permanently borrowed” one of the watermelons they always left outside. It was delicious. Thank God for statute of limitations.
Randy Wievel and I used to interview a lot of pro athletes for Sports Collector’s Digest. (The City Times’ Joe Diedrich once worked there). Gary Varsho of Marshfield was a fun interview when he played for Don Zimmer and the Cubs. Former Phillie’s pitcher Jack Baldschun was always a delight. Placekicker Chris Jacke of the Packers really got upset at me for asking him about blocked field goals. One of the nicest guys to talk to was Packer Hall of Fame center Ken Bowman. He had a really low voice and was fun to chat with in the mall. To this day, Bowman never gets the credit for helping Jerry Kramer block Jethro Pugh of Dallas on the winning play of the “Ice Bowl”.
Was thumbing through an album recently when I came across a check I “won” in the 1987 $5000 Instant Cash Sweepstakes of the Social Security Protection Bureau. They kindly enclosed my first round winner’s check of $.09. That’s nine cents. Thinking about cashing it one of these days.
You’ve heard about something is as exciting as watching paint dry. Well, I get a kick out of watching grass grow. True story.
Here’s something to think about. Let’s say you’re gonna flip a coin ten times. You flip it the first nine times and it comes up “heads”. What are the odds that the tenth flip also comes up heads?
It’s fun playing song videos on You Tube. Always get goosebumps when Ed Sullivan announces: “Ladies and gentlemen – Right here on our stage – from Liverpool, England…
Here’s one that’s kinda neat. Years ago, my brother Casey’s wife Sharon won a trip to a Vince Gill concert in Colorado. She went to the concert and got to meet Vince backstage. Brought back a great photo of her chatting with Vince.
I was working at Trey Foerster’s Plover Profile at the time and did a story about it. Ran the pic too. The Profile laid it all out on one page and it looked great. Years went by. Turned out Vince was having a concert at Quandt in Point. Wasn’t really into “country” but thought I’d swing by and hoped to give Vince a copy of the story. Bottom line: I’m in the lobby at 6 o’clock, concert is at 8. I’m the only one there and the doors are locked.
I can hear them setting up inside…finally two security guys walked out and I snuck in the door when they left. A few people were on the stage. I walked right down the middle aisle and stopped. Some guy in a sweatshirt was working on a big amp. He was on his knees.
I stopped and said, “Uh, excuse me. Where can I find Vince Gill?”
The guy stood up, extended his hand for a handshake, and politely said, “I’m Vince.”
I almost fainted.
I asked him if he had some time to see the Profile story. He said sure, he loved it.
I took some pics of Vince with the paper and told him Casey and Sharon were coming to the concert. He sent some guy to a backroom, then said, “You call your brother right now. Tell him I’m giving him and his wife and you VIP passes to this concert.”
We shook hands and he went back to the amps. What a classy guy. My brother and his wife couldn’t believe it.
You can’t hit a home run if you don’t swing the bat.