All-Star Fan Favorite: Gerald Swindle

“And it made him feel so happy,

it made him feel so good…”

Dateline:  5AM

It was the longest noodle suck of all time.

I would have cut it, the noodle, or wrapped it around the fork, but from across the kitchen table, with his head bent down, and his eyes looking up at me, the longest noodle suck of all time…was buying him think time.

Behind me, the pasta sauce still bubbled on the stove, my aunt stilled hum, and I still waited for my answer.

Had I known the spaghetti hadn’t been broken up before going into the pot…I would have waited.

You see, I had the misfortune of asking a short question during a long noodle.

On a long noodle suck, spontaneity ain’t going to happen.

While we wait for the noodle suck to stop here, let me set the stage.  It’s a decade or so ago. ESPN has sent me home, Buffalo, to do some sort of story. I don’t remember what story, Bills or Sabres I’m betting, but whenever I came home I always knew where I could catch a free meal…and still get the per diem.

My aunt & uncle’s house.

Aunt Noreen.

Uncle Sibby.

Sibby Sisti, a MLB Utility Player for 14 seasons in the “Bigs” playing from 1939-1954 with the Boston Braves/Milwaukee Braves (in 1946 he played in the minor leagues and was named the Minor League Player of the Year while playing for the Indianapolis Indians).

I’m buttering some fresh Italian bread…and the noodle suck continues…

Uncle Sibby, “Call me Sib, Donnie, call me Sib…” had career stats of .244 Batting Average, 27 Home Runs, 260 RBI’s.

Sib played in the 1948 World Series and played with baseball greats Warren Spahn, Johnny Sain, Eddie Matthews, Eddie Stanky and was managed by Casey Stengel.

In the Robert Redford movie, The Natural, Uncle Sib played the manager of the Pittsburgh team during the film’s final sequence when Redford (Roy Hobbs) lights up the stadium with a home run shot to the lights.

“What was the question again Donnie?”

I’m 40-something years old, and up until the day Uncle Sib died, he called me Donnie.  I protested ANYONE else calling me that name, would even correct them on doing so.

...2012 B.A.S.S. All Star voted in by the fans.

Except Uncle Sib.

“I asked, ‘How does it feel to be elected into the Boston Braves Hall of Fame?’”

Uncle Sib was one of the first four players elected into the Hall along with Spahn, Sain and Johnny Holmes.

Before he could do another long spaghetti suck, Aunt Noreen came to my rescue and took his plate away from him under the guise of “You need more sauce, Sib…”

“Donnie…I didn’t have, never did have the stats of those other guys, but I think it was because of how I played the game…I was a fan favorite…and it was the fans that got me in.”

This morning, once again, I could smell the pasta sauce bubbling, could hear Aunt Noreen humming, smiling at the long spaghetti suck…even though both Noreen and Sib are gone.

And I’m sitting in the brunch area of the Hampton Inn.

And across the table from me is B.A.S.S. All-Star dude, and friend, Gerald Swindle.

I’m sitting waiting for his answer to a quick question, and he is just looking at me smiling.

His smile, I know, is the way he buys time.

All pearly whites behind the goofy grin…but I know that the brain connected to it is moving in high gear.

And here’s why, my simple question: “How does it feel to be elected as an All-star?”

I know how Uncle Sib answered that.

Now, Gerald, it’s your turn…big shoes to fill my friend…big shoes to fill…

“…and he sang from his heart…”

Full Disclosure:  I am not a fan of “All-Star” anything.  Never covered one while at ESPN…and thankful for that.

I think, in theory, “All-Star” events are cool; in reality, though, the events stink.

Full Disclosure Two:  To me, the only “All-Star” is THE GAME.


It is The GAME that makes the “All-Stars,” not the other way around.  And that the honor should be to the GAME.

Gerald knows exactly how I feel about this, “I believe, db, that you should give more than you get; you have to have a sense of obligation to the sport, if you want to get anything out of the sport.”

I put down my pen, look Gerald straight up and say to him, “Dude, don’t you think an athlete should leave the sport in better shape than when he found it?”

My answer to that question is simple. You should leave ANYTHING in a better spot than when you found it; we should always pass on goodness, not garbage.

“db…I think fans…what they see…they see in the athlete the drive to win…to win…but what they don’t see, they don’t see the heart of the angler.”

Now you will.

Gerald’s heart.

“…and he sang from his soul…”

Back to my original question:  “How does it feel to be elected as an All-star…”

“You know, db, I have thought about that a lot lately. Last year, I qualified to be here by making the top cut; but this year, to tell you the honest truth, this year means more to me than last year.”

I say nothing. Gerald is talking but it is the humming of Aunt Noreen that I hear…come on Gerald…bring the pasta home…

“I was sitting up in my tree stand the other day, and it really hit me…humbled me, db. Dang humbled me. Fifteen years in this sport, and I’m humbled by the ultimate compliment given to me by the fans.”

Eye to eye, “It down right just means more to me this year.”

And, “I want the fans to know that I will honor them back. I want them to know that I’m just Gerald; you get what you get. But that the bottom line is I’m the same guy who came down off building the houses and put down my nail gun to pick up this sport. I’m the same guy, same as they are, and I will honor them back.”

Uncle Sibby told me once that, “I loved being a player, Donnie, but it was the game that I loved the most…the game…that was there before me…and was still there after I left.  I played the game as if it was a gift, and it was, it is.”

Play the game as if it was a gift,

because it is.

Just ask the dude who sweeps asphalt for a living.

Just ask the dude who pours steel for a living.

Just ask the roofer on a hot day.

Or the cop on a freezing day.

Or the fireman in the smoke.

To play the game, is a gift.

It is a gift we bestow on the athletes.

It is a gift the fans of the game have given you.

Be humbled, sure.

But show us your heart.

Give the fans back the honor they have given you.

Know this, some night during this All-Star event I’m going to take Gerald out for dinner, and it will be on me, won’t find it on an expense report.

And, for Gerald, I will order spaghetti.

And we will toast utility players,

and their fans.

“…and he did not know how well he sang, it just made him whole.”

“Mr. Tanner”

Harry Chapin



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