Thursday, November 15, 2018

Searching for Burleigh Grimes

Big Bird, our new Tiffin RV never made it home from California, it ended up 123 miles short, being dropped off at the Cummins dealer/ repair location in Sioux Falls on October 20th, where it sat for three weeks.  It perplexed the engineers and technicians.  They put in a new engine harness, a new ECM, and a new fuel pump actuator.  They ran it around connected to the computer and then noticed some odd things, like the speedometer freaked out twice for a second before coming back, and the DEF indicator went haywire for only a moment.  Not being Cummins issues, so they said, they told me to come and pick it up on Monday.  I talked to Freightliner about looking at it but they couldn't see it for a day so we decided to see if the other items worked.  The engine clicking was, at least,  gone, the fault codes were gone, so as we were down in Sioux Falls anyway to get Yellow Fever and Typhoid vaccines, we picked it up and drove it home.

It was unseasonably cold and windy on the drive home so finally 22 days late, the Bird got to Milbank.  It was 4PM when I parked it so we had to hurriedly winterize it.  Unfortunately, the water pump had frozen up on the way home and it took me a while to get the stabilizers down, which were maybe stuck or cold, I didn't know..  We kept it heated overnight, did what we could, and then in the morning after having a space heater in the compartment by noon the next morning, the pump came back to life and we were able to push pink stuff into the system.  We were lucky, and it went above freezing for the first time in a week.

Two days later, we drove the Bird to Wisconsin for my sister's and dad's birthday, see if the engine light went on again.  We had none of the odd Freightliner issues and we got her set up at my grandmother's in Wisconsin without issues as a ruffed grouse watched me.

It flew before I could get the camera.

I arrived down in Clear Lake, WI forty miles south, for something to do.  The plan was to search for a rather non-descript grave stone.  It took me a while to find it.  In this time of self-glorification and search for fame, here was a grave that offered nothing of that, well almost nothing.

With all of  the self-glory seeking, seeing such a mundane gravestone seems rather out of place in the 33 years since his death .  All it says is Burleigh A. Grimes, 1893-1985, and a simple Polk County Veteran's flag, is almost all there was.  Was Grimes a war hero?
Compare his stone to one a hundred yard away for another famous native son from Clear Lake.

That of one of the last politicians, I respected.  Senator Gaylord Nelson, the founder of Earth Day, a Progressive who was also a sportsman, an environmentalist, and a realist.  He was also a true representative of his state, not someone just trying to get a ahead and make a buck.  He  worked for the Wilderness Society in the 80s and gave this quote as to his belief as to the number 1 problem facing the environment in America, which seems at odds with the current views of the Democratic Party and the Environmental Groups he championed.

"the bigger the population gets, the more serious the problems become ... We have to address the population issue. The United Nations, with the U.S. supporting it, took the position in Cairo in 1994 that every country was responsible for stabilizing its own population. It can be done. But in this country, it's phony to say "I'm for the environment but not for limiting immigration."

He was given the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 1995 by Bill Clinton.  It is hard to believe what many of these same people are saying today.  I guess that is why nothing ever gets done on immigration OR the environment.  But this is not a blog about Gaylord Nelson.

Burleigh A. Grimes was hardly a war hero.  In fact, although he enlisted in the Navy in 1918 during the Great War, Grimes led the National League in starts by a pitcher and was out of the Navy just in time for the 1919 season.  It is unsure of what if anything he did besides pitch for the Navy.  Yet he is honored as a Veteran during a war.

Written small above "Grimes" was a small baseball diamond and "Hall of Fame" etched in the granite.   So who was Burleigh Grimes and why does he rate a blog by me?
Burleigh Grimes was perhaps the toughest, nastiest, fiercest competitive  player that ever pitched in the major leagues.  He was just plain old mean.

He even described himself.
Why is it there are so many nice guys interested in baseball? Not me, I was a real bastard when I played.

 Grimes was the last legal spitball pitcher, being exempted for 14 years after the pitch was banned in 1920.  Since he chewed slippery elm to produce more saliva, he had two days of beard growth on his face to spare his sensitive skin.  The process left him with a rather mean look, unshaven, drool with yellowish teeth and a snarl, that seemed to be out of this world.  Grimes just didn't look fierce, he acted the part.  Spending his teen years in a logging camp,Grimes was tough.  He got into a fight with his Pirate's manager in 1918, when he took offence to be passed over for a start.   The pair ended up in a fight almost to the death in the team rail car.  The two could not be pulled apart before Grimes took a bite out of his manager's leg and both were a bloody mess.
Rogers Hornsby was never a favorite of Grimes.  Of the 301 home runs Hornsby hit, Grimes threw 9 of them, the most by any pitcher.  In 1927, they found themselves both on the Giants.  Grimes accused Hornsby of not giving the proper signs and the two ended up in a brawl in the dugout in the middle of the game.   The game got delayed as players need to go separate the pair. Later, Grimes would "accidentally" throw at his own player if he wasn't looking.  He was traded to Pittsburgh after that season.

Here the two are standing next to each other in a MLB picture before the fight, Grimes is far left
Grimes officially only hit 101 batters,  77th on the all-time list but apparently the batters of the day were better at getting out of the way, because the pitcher was legendary for throwing at batters.  It was said that Grimes' idea of an intentional walk was throwing 4 times at the batters head.   Hall of Famer Frankie Frisch caused the ire of Grimes after spiking him on first base when the pitcher covered the bag after a bunt.  For ten years, Frisch needed to stay limber at the batters box because Grimes would throw at his head, sometimes even on four straight pitches.  Once Grimes hit Frisch while Frisch was just standing in the on deck space.  If there was a record for being hit in the on deck circle or hitting his own players, Grimes would hold the record.  The only reason this stopped was that in 1931, the two players ended up on the same team.
Oddly in 1964, it was Frankie Frisch that helped Grimes  get elected into the Baseball Hall of Fame.  Grimes pitched for the "Gas House" gang and won the Cardinals the World Series in 1931.  Frisch by his chairmanship of the Veteran's committee got a lot of the old Cardinals elected to the Hall if they deserved it or not.  Grimes obviously deserved it.  Ole' Stubblebeard retired from pitching in 1934 with 270 victories and then stayed with baseball and manged minor leagues and the Brooklyn Dodgers in 1937-38.
He became a great scout for the game and was responsible for the great Yankees farm system and then when hired by the Orioles in 1961, managed to find the talent to turn that team into a winner in 1966, and 1969-71, before he retired from baseball in 1972 at the age of 79.

     In 1974, He summed up his career:
"Baseball treated me very well"

So the news is mixed as to whether Grimes was actually such a bad guy in real life or it was all his marketing stick.  On one hand, his neighbor described him as a kindly old man.  On the other hand, he was married five times and was actually buried next to wife number 3.  There is nothing written about him causing fights in his days as a manager and scout, but then again, he was an older man during those days.  So who knows?   He did write that he treated every batter as a person standing between him and more money, so if he threw at his legs or his head, he would cost him a cut in pay.  So in the end, it is all just history, and the legend of Burleigh Grimes was that of the toughest person to stare down on the mound, a man that would just as soon throw the ball into your ear as anything. 
Now he is just a name on a grave in an obscure Northern Wisconsin town, and a man with a plaque in Cooperstown. 

I can only feel for the poor outfielders trying to pick up and throw baseballs the were all covered in drool, it reminds me of throwing a baseball to my old St Bernard "Hans."  Hans would have made a great spitballer...yuck!

Well, bad news to report, the clicking noise appeared about 50 miles out of Wisconsin, if history repeats, the engine light will come on again either on the way home or by the second leg of the trip to Florida.....sigh....not much else to replace.  


  1. So sorry to hear about your continuing problems with "The Bird". Frustrating I'm sure to have the folks who are responsible for fixing it effectively say "We threw a bunch of parts at it, never identified the problem, good luck!"
    I hope that it continues to run well as you take it to warmer climes despite the display issues.
    Exotic disease inoculations? Planning some out of the country travel, perhaps? Or is it a matter of "Just in Case"?


The Lowdown of the Lowcountry

On Wednesday, we moved from a very overcast and wet Southeastern Virginia to a sunny southeastern North Carolina.  We reached the Low countr...