Degrees Of Separation
Though I longed to, I never got the chance to meet Ronald Reagan.
Therefore I had to rely on connections to greatness, such as Reagan and I both having worked for Palmer Communications (WHO & KLYF Radio), albeit years apart.
While I was on the Big Island, another of those Reagan connections passed away.
Robert "Bob" Weddell lived next door to the first home I ever purchased.
It was the early '80s and at that time I was working for KLYF, Bob invited me in to his house and showed me an invitation to Reagan's inauguration.
To say the least, I was curious about his Reagan memorabilia.
Bob explained that his dad had worked at WHO with Reagan.
Reagan fans will recall the story...
Jim Zabel: ...your ad-lib ability was really put to a super test with that machine right there, the old Western Union ticker tape that used to bring in the Chicago Cubs re-creations to you.
The President. Yes.
Zabel. And you had a stick one time—in that famous story—you fouled it off 34 times, 35 times.—
The President. [Laughing] Yes. It was— you sat—there was a window here. Curly Waddel was the operator, sat on that side with the headphones, and he would type and slip it under the window to me. And they used to keep track—because there'd be seven or eight stations competing and broadcasting, and most of them live, right at the park and we were within half a pitch of right up with the live ball game all the time.
Mr. Zabel. Sure.
The President. To do that, he had to abbreviate things down, like in would come the paper, and it would say, "Out 4-3." Well, that meant out from second base to first base, that meant it had to be a grounder. So, you'd take it, and you'd say, "And Dean comes out of the windup, and here comes the pitch, and it's a hard hit ground ball down toward second base. So-and-so going over after the ball, picks it up, flips it over to first, just in time for the out." And by this time you're waiting for the next one. Or he would send you "S-1-C." And that meant strike one called. So, you'd say, "He's got the sign, comes out of the windup, here's the pitch, and it's a called strike, breaking over the outside corner just"- [laughter] —"above the knees." And all of that.
But the thing that you're talking about was the time that—it was the ninth inning, the Cards and the Cubs, tied up 0-0, and he was typing, and I thought there's a play coming. And he kept shaking his head when I had—and it was Dean on the mound—and I had Billy Jurgess at the plate. And I had him getting a sign from the catcher, and finally here comes the slip of paper, and it said, "The wires have gone dead." And I knew in that ninth inning if I suddenly said, "Well, we'll have a little interlude of music while we get back connected with the ballpark," we'd lose every—they'd all turn on some of those other stations. So, I thought, "There's only one thing that can get in the—doesn't get in the score book: foul ball."
So, I had Jurgess foul one, and then I had him foul another. And then I had him foul one that missed a home run by a foot. Then I described two kids down back of third base that— [laughter] —were in a fight over the ball that had gone into the stands there. And pretty soon I know I'm beginning to set a world record for somebody standing at the plate and hitting successive fouls, if anyone ever kept those figures. And I was beginning to sweat a little, because I knew now that if I told them we'd lost the wire they'd know I hadn't been telling the truth.
Zabel. Who finally did get the hit in that game?
The President. Well, just—pretty soon, Curly started typing. And I had him throw another pitch, and in came the slip, and then I started giggling. I had trouble getting it out, because the slip said Jurgess popped out on the first ball pitched. [Laughter]
They mis-spelled Curly's last name, but his son Bob was proud of that story.
He was a good man and will be missed.