Tahlequah Daily Press

October 23, 2013

For love of the game

For one local retiree, this week’s World Series matchup isn’t the first trip around the diamond

Staff Writer

TAHLEQUAH — Baseball is a way of life for Tahlequah retiree George Parker, and when the St. Louis Cardinals take on the Boston Red Sox for the fourth time in the World Series, you can bet Parker will be following the action.

When the two teams met in the for the first time in the 1946 Fall Classic, Parker was 12 and lived on a farm in Dixon, Mo., about 100 miles from St. Louis.

“As far back as I can remember, I was a Cardinals fan,” said Parker. “I didn’t always live in Missouri, but I always loved the team.”

The Parker family subscribed to two newspapers at the time, The St. Louis Post Dispatch and the St. Louis Globe Democrat, and George began early on in the season creating a scrapbook for the 1946 season.

“I was just a kid who had a lot of interest in baseball,” said Parker. “I played baseball and was a Cardinals fan. I had some spare time, so I decided I’d make a scrapbook. It combines the regular season and the World Series. I didn’t get to go any of the [Series] games, but I followed it closely on the radio.”

Parker can name every single player and his position on the Cards squad for that year, including the big names: Stan Musial, Harry “The Cat” Brecheen, Red Shoendienst and Enos Slaughter.

“Of course, the Sox had Ted Williams, and I have pictures of him, too,” he said.

The scrapbook includes group photos of both teams, action shots from pennant race through Game 7, individual photos of the stars, and even editorial cartoons.

Parker remembers the seven-game series as a nail-biter. The Cardinals won the even-numbered games, bringing the series to a tie, forcing the game seven, which clinched the series for the redbirds.

“I listened to it on the radio, and even though my dad was a fan, it was mostly just me,” said Parker. “That series, Harry ‘The Cat’ Brecheen, the pitcher, won three games for the Cardinals. If I remember correctly, the third baseman, Whitey Kurowski had a pretty good series, too.”

Parker’s wife, Glennis, said she was surprised at the detail the scrapbook contained.

“I’m surprised he had the access to all that material,” said Glennis. “Subscribing to two newspapers when you lived in a small town wasn’t very common.”

Glennis also remembers the radio coverage of the games.

“In those days, Harry Caray was the announcer for the Cardinal home games, calling plays live throughout the game,” said Glennis. “I don’t believe the announcers traveled with the teams back then, but Caray would be on the  radio for the away games, calling them as if he were there from announcements that came across a ticker-tape. It really made the listening audience feel as if they were there.”

Baseball makes a romantic connection

Glennis believes Cardinal baseball is responsible for bringing the two of them together.

“My dad bought one of the first FM radios in town,” said Glennis. “It was amazing because the sound was so good. Well, George said he was coming to visit me, but I think he came to listen to those Cardinal games. If the game was on the radio, George and I were sitting on the front porch swing, listening to that FM radio. We spent most of our summer that way.”

The couple’s love for baseball continued after they were married.

“Right before I went overseas to Korea, Glennis and I went to a Cardinals double-header [in which they played the New York Giants],” said George. “That was the time Stan Musial hit five home runs.”

Glennis remembers the game, but in a different way.

“I was eight months’ pregnant at the time,” said Glennis. “I remember thinking I probably had no business sitting through a double-header.”

George went on to coach baseball as an adult in Missouri and Oklahoma. He started the baseball program at John Brown University, and served as head basketball coach.

After moving to Tahlequah, George was assistant basketball coach at Northeastern State University.

His enthusiasm for baseball has not waned.

“Baseball is one of those games that hasn’t really changed much over the years,” he said. “It’s still America’s game. It’s become more of a power game; the big hitters, bunting and base-stealing has kind of subsided, and the playoffs are a lot different now due to having so many teams.”

George plays his cards close to the vest when speculating on the 2013 World Series.

“The Cardinals have a lot of young guns who can throw the ball,” said George. “But hitting may favor Boston. Hopefully, the Cardinals’ pitcher and the heart of the team will see them prevail.”