A previous column prompted a phone call

Published 12:29 pm Friday, April 19, 2024

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I wrote a column last month reviewing a book entitled “Team of Destiny Walter Johnson, Clark Griffith, Bucky Harris and the 1924 Washington Senators”.

For those who missed it or don’t recall, the idea started as a way to obtain a book I wanted to read for free. The review was just part of the deal.

I came out even as it turns out and my somewhat guilty conscience is leaving me alone because I’m pretty sure my column resulted in a sale for author Gary Sarnoff.

I received a phone message the week after we published the review from Chapel Hill resident Jack Gaegler, whose wife Lisa, grew up here and graduated from Washington High School. She was a Respess before marriage. You probably drive down the street named after her relatives, one of them a former mayor.

The Gaeglers were visiting Lisa’s 87-year old mother, Patricia Ipock Respess for Easter, and Jack happened to see the book review in the WDN.

He also let it slip that his mother-in-law and her sister dated former major league pitchers Gaylord and Jim Perry, who grew up near Williamston, back in the day, but that’s a column that will have to wait.
Jack grew up in the non-original, but bigger Washington (D.C.) and told me his father went to one of the games in the 1924 World Series. He also has a team photo of the ‘24 New York Yankees because his great-great grandfather, Jacob Ruppert, owned them at that time.

Being a baseball historian, I was fascinated.

The Senators, one of the original eight American League teams in 1901 broke Gaegler’s heart twice as a grown-up; once with their move to Minnesota after the 1960 season, then again in 1971 when the expansion replacement team moved to Dallas-Fort Worth and became the Texas Rangers.

That was the final insult to the life-long fan and he switched allegiance to the Baltimore Orioles, where it remains today. No way they are fooling him a third time with the Nationals.

He did tell me great stories about former Senators slugger Frank Howard, the 6’7 jovial giant, who lived a few blocks from Jack’s house and played ball in the park with him and his friends in his spare time. They also attended the same church and Howard apparently sat in the front row. The minister would never notice if the folks directly behind him weren’t paying attention.

I met Howard several times when he was one of the Tampa Bay Rays minor league instructions. He would come to Durham at least once a year to check on the Bulls hitters. He was a friendly fellow and a great interview, who passed away in 2023.

Anyway, one of Jack’s employees at the D.C. V.A. had a ball Bucky Harris signed for her. You probably can’t tell from the accompanying photo, but it’s inscribed To Mary: Merry Christmas Bucky.
That’s pretty cool if you ask me.

The full-size ball next to it is from Jack’s favorite player and Hall of Famer Brooks Robinson who left us last September.

I met and interviewed him twice back in the 1990’s, the first time after he dismounted from a horse. That’s also a column for another day.

Jack also told me he was going to order a copy of the book after my review. I’m holding my breath for my commission.