Connie Mack Hit One ‘Outta Da Park’
By Tom Morrow
I had the great privilege of knowing and playing in a small musical combo headed by my friend, Eddy Kruck of Oceanside. Everyone had fascinating life stories. Our drummer, Boyd Rogers, was in the California Country & Western Hall of Fame. Eddy had played trumpet with some of the L.A. area’s big bands, and our pianist, Dick Adams’ life story would fill a book.
In the late-thirties, Dick and his brother, Robert, were teammates on Connie Mack’s American League Philadelphia Athletics baseball team. Mack was the only manager in history of baseball to win five World Series. One day in the hotel where they were staying for an away game, Dick and his brother were going up the elevator to their room. On one of the floors the baseball legend himself joined them. Mack looked at Dick, and then his brother, and said: You boys look husky enough to be on my baseball team.”
Dick replied: “Sir, we’re your right- and left-fielders.”
Nothing more was said.
Dick was an accomplished musician. He could play a trumpet with the best of side men, and there wasn’t anything he couldn’t play on the piano. When the War broke out, Dick joined the Army Air Corps. His duty station? “I spent the entire war at NBC radio studios in Hollywood,” he chuckled. “The Air Corps had a weekly radio show and I did all of the arranging as well as play trumpet and lead the band. The program was broadcast nationwide and to the troops overseas.”
There wasn’t a tune he couldn’t play. I wanted the combo to play “We’ll Meet Again” as a closing number, ironically, Dick said he didn’t know or had never heard of the song…even though the great British singer Vera Lynn made it popular during the War.
Dick asked me to “hum a few bars.” I did, and he immediately launched into the famous tune on piano, never missing a note. He could certainly read music, but he was equally talented in arranging or playing anything ‘by ear.’”
You’d think he would have had a career in music, but he spent more than 30 years as a teacher … of physical education.
We lost Dick about a year ago at age 92 or 93…no one really knew his age accept probably his family … a great “unforgettable” friend.
‘Smile Pilgrim when you ask that’
Back some forty years ago, I and a handful of other Orange County reporters had the good fortune to sit in on a “mock” news conference for a reporting class at Cal State Fullerton. I knew the instructor, who had a moonlight job as a reporter for the nearby Costa Mesa paper. Our only rule for attending was that we were to listen and NOT ask questions…that was for the students in the class.
The subject of the “conference” was John Wayne. When he walked through the door, it seemed as though his massive body filled the room. The session proceeded as you might expect, with several students asking a variety of questions. Then this little girl in the front row raised her hand. She’d been quiet up to that point. Horned-rim glasses, prissy-looking, she asked in a condescending manner:
“Mr. Wayne, why don’t the critics like your movies?”
Wayne looked around the room, then a big smile emerged on his face.
“Little lady, ain’t nobody likes my pictures ‘ceptin the public.”
When the laughter died down, the instructor concluded the class…how could you get a better finale than that.
It’s amazing today how many folks under 40 don’t know who John Wayne was. To millions of filmgoers around the world, the image of an “American” was and still is John Wayne.
You’ll Grow Into ‘Em!
“In 1940, things were so bad and equipment so scarce that I was issued an old World War I uniform,” the late Jack Kellogg of Vista recalled when he was receiving his uniforms at the U.S. Army Air Corps training center in Santa Ana. “When it came time for me to get shoes, the sarge tossed me a pair of size 10 boondockers. I told him I wore a size 8.”
The supply sergeant was unimpressed.
“They’ll fit ya,” he grunted. “Try ‘em on.”
Grudgingly, Kellogg sat down and put on the shoes. It was like slipping into two box cars, Kellogg recalled.
“Now, see those two buckets filled with sand,” the sergeant barked. “Go over there and pick one up in each hand.” Being a new recruit Kellogg did as he was told.
Kellogg admitted he didn’t notice the extra room.
‘Right,” growled the sergeant. “That’s about the amount of weight in equipment you’ll be carrying around for the next eight weeks, so get outta here!” Ironically, Jack didn’t get any blisters or sore feet.