2013 Elite Series Ramada Quest Bull Shoals Lake - Bull Shoals, AR, Apr 19 - 22, 2013

Jerry McKinnis: Moments of Magic

About the author

Don Barone

Don Barone

db has been in the reporting biz for over 30 years, won some Emmys and other awards, but is proudest of his four-decade marriage, his two kids and the fact he founded Tackle The Storm Foundation to help children.

“…years in the minor leagues…”

Dateline:  A dining room table story

How lucky we,

that in all our lives,

there comes,

moments of magic.

Sweet clicks, on the clock of Father Time.

“Two drafts, and a Whiskey Sour please.”

Seven words, maybe two or three seconds to say them, seven words that changed my life.

I was on my knees, head stuck in a cooler under the bar, I was struggling to hook up a keg of beer, the last thing I wanted to hear was an order for draft, as I pulled myself back out of the beer cooler I looked to my right to the service bar, and just saw a pair of legs, beautiful legs standing there.

How lucky we,

as I put my left hand on the bar to help pull myself up off the black bar mat, my head was like in an elevator, my eyes followed up the legs standing there…black skirt…top of the service bar…white blouse…brownish red hair…and then…

How lucky we,

…the most beautiful face I ever saw…and eyes, eyes that could see my heart,

“Two drafts, and a Whiskey Sour please.”

And that, was my moment of magic.  The first time I ever saw the love of my life, my wife Barb.

Didn’t know it at the time how important that moment would be in my life, how 40 years later I can still smell the draft beer, can still feel the cold of the ice, the wetness of the black bar mat.

Of all the moments in my life, millions of moments, a lifetime of moments, it is that moment that is frozen in my brain, my heart, my soul.

And that is what, makes it magic.

When for a moment, the clock stands still.

The gift from the universe, that changes our lives.

I don’t for think for a minute it was CHANCE, not random dumb luck, that brought me to that moment in time,

here’s why,

I was spiraling out of control, alcohol, other things, violence, gangs, on the edge of living a life of nastiness, then came, “Two drafts and a Whiskey Sour please.”

Random.

Or a silent hand reaching in, leading to a new path in life.

How lucky we,

that in all our lives,

there comes,

moments of magic.

“…ain't no place I didn't go…”

I have the picture, the photograph of the moment that this story begin to come to life in my head.  It’s the photo stuck somewhere around here on this page, of Jerry McKinnis playing catch.

So I'm watching Jerry play catch and I'm thinking exactly this, once a pitcher...Don BaroneSo I'm watching Jerry play catch and I'm thinking exactly this, once a pitcher...

Two moments, while watching him throw the ball to Mark Zona, the catcher, grabbed me.  One, the smile on his face, it’s the smile of a child playing a game they love, and the second moment, he just wasn’t playing catch, he was winding up and PITCHING the baseball.

I watched.

Took some photos of the whole thing.

Didn’t think much of it, but the moment never left my brain, got stuck up there next to my favorite episodes of the Twilight Zone.  That special place that keeps me awake at night.

Then came this, Jim Sexton, a fairly new guy to B.A.S.S. who moved in with the new owners, he’s the dude who I send my stories to, a nice guy who I’m sure had no idea of the ride he would be in for dealing with me, this Jim dude comes here, we become friends, and basically out of nowhere he tells me this,

“You know Bull Shoals is a special place for Jerry, I remember him telling a dinner of anglers and others last year at Bull Shoals how this is where he came after he left playing baseball.”

And with that, the moment of Jerry pitching woke up, and slammed into the front of my brain.

Honestly, stuff like that happens, it is just like it explodes up there, like something is screaming in my head, story….story….STORY DUMMY.

When it happens, it comes in fragments:

“…Bull Shoals is a special place…”

“….left…”

“…baseball…”

And then this forms up there in my head,

...always a pitcher.Don Barone...always a pitcher.

Jerry McKinnis…Baseball…Left…Bull Shoals…Special.

I never heard another word that Jim said to me over the phone.

Never heard because in my head my brain was screaming,

how lucky we,

that in all our lives,

there comes,

moments of magic.

“…well I gotta few hits but I never made the show…”

So this is what I knew, Jerry played baseball, Bull Shoals was a special place for Jerry. 

Trust me, I’ve done huge stories on a lot less information than that.

I’ve done stories based on this from a boss, “Something’s up, find it.”

I’ve been an investigative reporter at both the local and national level for over two decades, travelled the globe chasing, “…find it.”

Before I can find out why Bull Shoals is special to Jerry, I need to find out what it was that lead him to…special.

And with Jerry McKinnis, special begins with…baseball.

I heard all the tales of Jerry playing professional baseball, but where, for who, when, never made the stories I was told.

Time to, “…find it.”

“Dude, I need you to find Jerry McKinnis in baseball for me.”

“What did he do.”

Again, my investigative background, my baseball bookworm source is thinking who ever this Jerry McKinnis guy is, he must have done something bad, and holy heck was about to break out on him…

“…steroids again db…”

For a moment, I just sit at my desk and think…Jerry McKinnis…steroids…and then in Jerry’s voice in my head I hear exactly this, “…now golly db…”

“Ah no dude, far from it (no offense Jerry)  he played sometimes I think in the 1950’s.”

“For who.”

“Have no idea.”

“………?”  This means you know, the kind of silence that has questions in it.

Before it gets testy I do what all investigative reporters do…hang up.

I have this photo in my head that in the bowels of MLB is a room straight out of Hogwarts, and in that room is the record of every single person who ever stepped on a baseball diamond somewhere.

The guy I called, a source from way back, isn’t in that room, but if he was, he would be the head Hogwart.

In less then an hour he called back, “That Jerry dude…man, man he played way back,  like in 1956/1957 for something called the Seminole Oilers and the Pocatello A’s.”

I basically, am, blank.  Who.

“The what…the Pocahontas what…”

“Dude…like…two teams, one in Oklahoma and one somewhere in Idaho.”

“Oh cool…I just call the teams and get the info…thanks man.”

“…..good luck with that.”

Click.

“…so goodbye to the bus…”

I soon found out that maybe in the entire history of Major League Baseball there has probably never been a team named the Pocahantas-anythings.

And, that the Seminole Oilers and the Pocatello A’s, don’t answer their phones, because they haven’t had phones connected since about 1959ish.

In the investigative journalism business we have a name for this turn of events….hosed.

Obviously, since I actually thought there was a professional baseball team out there named Pocahantas, I’m not quite up to speed on minor league baseball of the 1950’s, which believe it or not, is not a problem.

When it comes to investigatin’ many times it is not WHAT you know, but WHO you know…

“…Siri…call…”

First stop, the Smithsonian, and mucking around in their records.  If it is old, it is in this place, catalog heaven for old stuff…

…but this, old stuff.

“Siri…call…”

Next stop, The Library of Congress…these are the guys all those who save EVERYTHING try to be like.  I’m sure somewhere in this joint they have cataloged every shopping list ever written.

And then,

up comes this,

Baseball in the Cross Timbers: The Story of the Sooner State League by Peter G Pierce, 2009

I wouldn’t have paid a second of time with this book information had I not saw “…of the Sooner State League…” because way up in the corner of the historical records of Jerry’s baseball career I saw that the team he played for, the Seminole Oilers played,

in the Sooner State League.

Moments,

of magic.

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