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Our “Don Cardwell” Connection

OUR “DON CARDWELL” CONNECTION

 

Don Cardwell Mets card

Don Cardwell Mets card

For those who don’t know or have forgotten, Don Cardwell was a Major League pitcher and was with the New York Mets when they won the World Series in 1969. He was most famous for pitching a no-hitter against the St. Louis Cardinals when he made his first start as a Chicago Cub on May 13, 1960.

But let’s backtrack and learn of a special connection the Singer/Byerly family has had with the famous Don Cardwell.

Don was born in Winston-Salem, North Carolina on December 7, 1935. He began his career in baseball in 1957. If you want the details of his career, just Google him.

Don Cardwell portrait

Don Cardwell portrait

It was about 1960 (it isn’t known if this was before or after his big win mentioned above) when Don was visiting his hometown and family. A cousin of his, Mrs. Greer, was a fourth grade school teacher at Griffith Elementary in south Winston-Salem. Don went to visit her at the school and during recess, pitched to her students for a while. One of those students was Philip Byerly. He and his classmates were excited and thrilled to have a real Major League Baseball player there in their midst.

Don Cardwell Mets card 2

Don Cardwell Mets card 2

In 1967, Cardwell began pitching for the Mets and stayed with them until 1970 when he was traded to the Atlanta Braves. It was during these years that Marcia Byerly lived in New York and attended or watched many a Mets game and no doubt watched Don Cardwell pitch. Sam Singer was at the final game of the 1969 World Series when the Mets won. Don Cardwell was there for that too. A dubious connection, but there’s more.

In January of 1973, Marcia’s parents, Sam and Martha, moved from New York to Winston-Salem. Sam found employment and they rented a house for a while until they later bought one.

Later that year, Marcia also also decided to leave the big metropolis of New York and moved to Winston-Salem. She worked at a bank as a teller for a while and had her own apartment.

Not long after arriving there, she met Philip Byerly at the bank. They got married soon after and began their life together.

In 1977, their world changed. Sam, only 63 years old, died instantly from a massive heart attack one night. Marcia was not employed at this time but was trying to find a job related to her art talents. She had not succeeded at this so far. When the dust cleared and the funeral over, she worried about her mother, only 56 at this time, and how she was going to make it without her husband. For some reason, this made Marcia decide to find another job of any kind so if her mother needed financial help, she would be in a position to do that.

Phil was working at a Chevrolet dealership at the time and Marcia landed an office position at a Ford dealership. At the interview she asked the lady if his working at the competition would be a problem, but apparently it wasn’t. So she began working there in Winston-Salem at Parkway Ford.

Don Cardwell with Chicago Cubs

Don Cardwell with Chicago Cubs

Can you guess who also was working there? Don Cardwell! He had retired from baseball in 1970 and no doubt wanted to do something else with his time so he was a car salesman. He was very tall, extremely personable and friendly. He and Marcia talked some about his baseball days and he still wore the 1969 World Series ring he got from that time. It was quite impressive! Phil came to visit at Parkway Ford and met with Don again. They talked about the time when Don had come Phil’s school.

Marcia later left Parkway Ford to work in the printing industry and never saw Don Cardwell again.

Sad to say, Don Cardwell died January 14, 2008.

Cardwell on the mound at no-hitter game

Cardwell on the mound at no-hitter game

However, the connection didn’t quite end there! While at a Winston-Salem Dash game in 2010, Marcia and Phil heard an older lady talking about Don Cardwell and their ears perked up. They brazenly asked her about it and it turned out she was his wife, Sylvie! We told her of our connection and she enjoyed hearing about it.

It just goes to prove, it’s a small world.

Sam Singer Takes the World Series Seriously

SAM SINGER TAKES THE WORLD SERIES SERIOUSLY

Mets charm

Mets charm

Sam loved a good baseball game and especially a “pitcher’s duel” where the runs were low and the two pitchers fought for strikeouts. He was a Brooklyn Dodgers fan until they moved to Los Angeles in 1957 along with the New York Giants who moved to San Francisco the same year. Both teams deserted New York leaving them with only the Yankees in the Bronx. In 1962, the New York Mets were born and reigned at the now defunct Shea Stadium in Queens which was replaced by Citifield in 2009.

While he enjoyed football on TV also, Sam became an avid Mets fan and when the Store was profitable enough, he and his brother, Al, bought two Season Box Tickets to all of the Mets’ games. They used the tickets themselves but also treated customers, family and friends to the games.

Shea Stadium Postcard

Shea Stadium Postcard

The seats were in the first row of the first tier above the ground level seats and looked from the home plate down the first base line. They afforded a spectacular view of home plate and the field.

Shea Stadium was only a few subway stops away from Jackson Heights where the Store was, so getting there was easy and affordable. Martha, Sam’s wife, often accompanied him to games mostly just to be together because she wasn’t an avid baseball fan. One time, the game went into so many extra innings that Martha, exhausted, gave up and took the subway home alone. You couldn’t pry Sam out of the seat!

Marcia especially enjoyed the times she got to go with Sam, just the two of them. He would make up sandwiches and other snacks for them to eat at the game. Even though the Mets lost often, they had a strong, loyal base of fans and they were among them. The game is so much more exciting at the field with all the hoopla, fans and noise going on. There was the famous “Yellow Poncho” guy who wore one all the time and was often featured on the television broadcast. His seat was not too far back behind Sam’s seats. It was almost like being near a celebrity.

Sam would also watch baseball on TV or listen on the radio to broadcasts, sometimes both at the same time. As he lazed back in his recliner, he would often fall asleep and begin to snore. Woe be unto those, however, who then tried to quietly change the channel to something else! Sam would wake up and exclaim, “I’m watching that!”

“But you were snoring!” that person would reply, but put the game back on never-the-less. You didn’t argue with Sam.

You’ve heard the old saying, “If you can’t beat ’em, join ’em.” Marcia did just that. It was either go somewhere else other than the living room, or try to figure out just what was going on out there with those men in the white uniforms running around hitting a ball. She began to ask questions and Sam would explain the rules and the plays. She learned baseball that way even though she never played it.

When October came around, it was time for the long-awaited World Series. It didn’t matter much what teams were in it, it was the culmination of the baseball season and truly a Big Event.

Shea Stadium

Shea Stadium

Back then, many stadiums didn’t have lights for night games, but even if they did, many games were still played in the daytime. Sam worked days so he and Al swapped off shifts so they could each attend many of the games. But they didn’t want to miss even one minute of the World Series, so for that time only, once a year, a small, black and white television was plugged in and sat in the back of the Store with the volume up so that all of the employees and the customers could hear it. Apparently, no one minded this. It was a big deal to everyone!

Shea from the air

Shea from the air

In 1962, the Mets posted a record of 40 wins to 120 losses, the worst record since Major League Baseball went to 162-game season. They never finished better than second to last and were often “in the cellar”, but Sam stayed loyal and was rewarded in 1969 when the “Miracle Mets”, as they were dubbed, beat the Baltimore Orioles in the 1969 World Series. Baltimore won the first game of the series and the Mets took the next four for the decisive win.

Can you imagine the whooping and hollering that went on in that luncheonette that day? Employees and customers alike were cheering with unbridle joy that their underdog Mets had proven they could be the Top Dog.

Everyone, but not Sam. Why, you ask?

Game 5 Ticket Stub

Game 5 Ticket Stub

Because Sam was actually at Game 5 along with his son-in-law, Seymour.  Nothing was going to stop either of these fans from that last wonderful game, not even the birth of Seymour’s daughter that day, also Sam’s granddaughter. Andrea was born on October 16, 1969, the day the Mets won the World Series.

Now, that is a true baseball fan. What a special day it was that day!

Carolina Mudcats vs. Dash Experience

CAROLINA MUDCATS EXPERIENCE

(click on photos for larger view)

 Our home team, the Winston-Salem Dash, were playing the Carolina Mudcats in Zebulon, NC and we decided to take a road trip and watch them play on July 18, 2012. It was clear but hot when we gassed up my Toyota for the 2-hour trip to Five County Stadium which is east of Raleigh. It was a day game starting at noon so we left about 9:00 a.m. and arrived just a little past 11:00 a.m. Perfect timing! We were both dressed in Dash gear and I had on my bright red Bolt shirt and Bolt Hat and Phil had on his purple Dash shirt and hat signed by all the Carolina League All Stars. No doubt who we were rooting for!

Water Tower

Water Tower

The first thing you see as you near the stadium from the highway is the Mudcats’ water tower which looks like a huge baseball with the Mudcats logo. Very cute! We pulled into the vast parking lot which was not paved and paid our $5.00 which gets you a free playbill. Whoopee!

We had a nice chat with the ticket ladies while trying to figure out what seats we wanted – the most important feature being in the shade. Apparently, there isn’t much, but the first 5 rows were under the upper section and so afforded a place out of the direct sun. When our lady found out we were Dash fans, she jokingly almost didn’t sell us tickets! Yeah, right.

Entrance to Five County Stadium

They needed all the sales they could get on this weekday day game. Let’s just say the crowd was sparse, as most games at this time would be. There were a bunch of kids’ groups there and they seemed to enjoy cheering on the Mudcats even if they didn’t really know the game.

Stadium outside

We spoke with another employee about the stadium and learned it was about 20 years old, but had undergone a ton of renovation and updating in the late 90’s and beyond so now it was quite a nice stadium seemingly in the middle of nowhere. However, one of their sponsors’ signs boasted that a Wal-Mart was only one mile down the road and so civilization is nearby.

Stadium seats

Stadium seats

As you can see from the photos, the seats are a bright orange like their logo which has a catfish in it, an unusual choice of a mascot, but minor leagues are known for some strange mascots! They did have a guy in a Mudcat suit who was known as Muddy, of course. He played in some of the games and tossed out T-shirts once. In the fifth inning he signs autographs and after the game you can get photos with him (as I did). Our first stop inside was the Team Store where I purchased a Mudcats pin for my hat.

Marcia with Muddy

Marcia with Muddy

Cafe

Cafe

The theme in the ballpark concession area was fishing. I guess no surprise there. Bait Shop was the name we saw a lot among others. I was scoping out the food places and noticed that “Catfish Sandwich” was on the menu. Yes, they assured me it was really catfish too. I declined. I found another stand that sold BBQ, more to my liking.

I spoke with Bev White, a wonderful lady at the Info Booth and she saw the many baseball pins on my hat and said she and her husband, one of the ushers, traveled around to many of the stadiums also. I soon found out they will be at the Dash game next week and so hopefully she will find us to say hello.

Scoreboard & ads

Scoreboard & ads

We had some conversations with our usher, Frank, also, so I would have to say the employees we spoke with were quite friendly. Our seats were great: in the shade and the concourse apparently acts like a wind tunnel and we had a boisterous breeze cool us off. We were so close to the Dash players on deck, we could see just how big or small they really were. I said Hi to a few including pitching coach Gary Ward. I hope they appreciate that there were some fans there for them.

Scoreboard #2

There were two scoreboards, one of which posted the pitch velocity, but no pitch count or strikeout tally. However, that was not a big deal although we do enjoy those new amenities at the Dash ballpark. The entertainment though was definitely not as quite as enthusiastic and enjoyable as the Dash and some other places. They did have a few games, but much of the between inning stuff was advertisements and announcements on their Jumbotron which was more a Mini-tron. (It was quite small compared to most. Perhaps it shows up better at night.) It was okay, but maybe a little boring. No dancing girls or even dogs. I guess there’s not much you can do with a catfish.

The game was exciting and included errors, great plays, lousy plays, pitching both good and bad, lots of runs and even homers. For a short time, the mother of a Dash pitcher sat behind us and was cheering on her son. Unfortunately, he was not having a good day on the mound. She was visiting him and following the team around the area. Another Dash groupie like us.

Field

Field

Apparently, for the home team, a siren sounds with a home run and they shoot off fireworks for multiple runs with a homer. Unfortunately, we heard those a lot. Going into the last inning, the Dash were down 11-4. They did make a great offensive rally in the top of the 9th inning with 5 runs, but still fell short and lost 11-9. Ah well. This is baseball and you have to learn to accept disappointment. Can’t win ‘em all!

Speed Pitch area

Speed Pitch area

We headed home about 3:20 p.m. and hit some hard rain for a short time, but then it cleared off and it was smooth sailing the rest of the way home. I give this experience 4 ½ stars.

Our Greensboro Grasshoppers Baseball Experience

Our Greensboro Grasshoppers Baseball Experience

Newbridge Bank Park

Newbridge Bank Park

The sky was overcast, but no chance of rain loomed over the Newbridge Bank Park in Greensboro, North Carolina on this Thursday evening of July 12, 2012. The temperature was perfect: no more heat and humidity like the week before and not even a little chilly when the sun went down. The crowd at the stadium was surprisingly good for a weekday night (5,153 attendees), but perhaps the Thirsty Thursday cheap beer was a factor. In any case, it was a great night for minor league Low A baseball. As the Grasshoppers play magazine describes it: It’s Hoppin’ Fun Fever – Catch the Bug!

My husband Phil and I parked across the street as there is no stadium parking per se, just various lots around it. Still, it was close and of course, the usual $5 fee. We picked out our seat tickets at the box office (only $8 each) and entered. Our first stop was the team store because I always try to get a pin souvenir and picked one out. Our seats in Row J were just the right height up for a good all over view and I do believe they were more ample in width than at BB&T Ballpark in Winston-Salem which was actually modeled somewhat after this park. Newbridge does have more rows and has a larger seating capacity which seems strange considering they are a lower ranked team.

Jumbotron

Jumbotron

Park2

Park view of downtown

I was very impressed with it overall: two lawn areas, nice Jumbotron, view of downtown buildings, beer area off to the left side if you want it, plenty of food choices and clean bathrooms. (I didn’t see a kids’ fun place, but maybe I just missed it.)

Park1

Park1

I was surprised their announcer gave out all the starting team names very early (before 6:30), but then he announced the Grasshopper players as they ran onto the field going through a large McDonalds “M”. During the national anthem, a few fireworks went off as the lady sang about the bombs bursting: a nice touch!

I had heard about the black lab that the owner of the Hoppers has trained, so I was looking forward to seeing this. At the beginning of one of the early innings, the dog (one of two actually) came out with a bucket of baseballs in her mouth and took them to the umpire! Very cute. That was only the beginning.

Miss Babe Ruth

Miss Babe Ruth

During two of the innings when the Hoppers were at bat and got a hit, the dog, Miss Babe Ruth, waiting patiently at the side of the dugout with the owner, would race out onto the field and retrieve the player’s bat that he had flung down on his way to first base (or more). She was rewarded with a treat when she brought the bat back to the owner. What a sight! And tonight was a good hit night so we saw this repeated a number of times.

Also, during a time between innings, Yogi, another black lab, would chase a baseball thrown far out into centerfield and brought it back. They had some kids lined up and whoever the dog gave the ball to got some sort of prize. This was so entertaining and different that it is definitely a big plus for this venue.

Guilford the Grasshopper

Guilford the Grasshopper

Of course, like all the teams nowadays, they have a mascot: Guilford the Grasshopper, a large, green grasshopper in a baseball shirt and funky shoes. He looks eerily similar in size and shape as Bolt, the mascot for the Dash. On the website www.aminorleagueseason.com there is a story about the factory that actually makes these mascot costumes. Check it out sometime.

So, Guilford (named after the county in which Greensboro lies) goes around mugging for the fans and also dances on the dugout at times. I was able to get my photo taken with him. He doesn’t speak (like Bolt) and one of their guys follows him around and helps with photos and such. Kids of all ages just love him!

Spaz, No. 24-7

Spaz, No. 24-7

They do have something else though that was different: Spaz, Number 24-7. Who is Spaz? He’s this local guy in a baseball shirt and court jester hat whose job title (as he put it) is the “Crowd Motivator” which sounded better than what I thought he was: “Audience Warmer Upper”. He worked the crowd all night, working them up into noisy frenzies to spur on the players, sang Happy Birthday to a fan, danced on the Dugout, helped with the games and did an all-around bang up job.

I spoke with Spaz for a few minutes and found out he has been doing this type of thing for quite a while including at Greensboro College where he went. Talking to him was a good friend who was a basketball player and I spoke more with him and found out that he used to live very close to where I did in Kernersville. It’s a small world!

Let’s talk about the food, always a favorite topic. The names of the food vendors were creative and paid homage to Greensboro’s history. There was one called “Cornwallis’ Last Stand”, another “O’Henry’s Corner” and “General Greene’s Grille”. Of course, the hot dog place was “The Dog Pound”. We had BBQ which was a nice change from hamburgers or hot dogs. Unfortunately, the fries came in a cup swimming with ketchup which I didn’t much like, but I ate them anyway. I also saw someone with a full-sized helmet full of popcorn! Wow. There were also other vendors with ice cream and other goodies so no one will starve while there, but as with all venues of this type, your wallet will shrink considerably.

Be warned also: they actually checked my bag upon entering and I was chastised for having bottles of water I had brought, but the man let me go with a warning. I was surprised they went that far to ensure you didn’t bring any food or drink inside and not particularly happy about the personal invasion.

Robert

Robert

I noticed that at the end of each inning, the ushers (in their neon orange shirts-you can’t miss’em) would come forward and stand near the playing field and then return upstairs when play began. I asked our guy, Robert, what that was all about it. They do it for a variety of reasons, but mainly safety: to keep fans from getting on the field or the dugouts, keep the aisles clear and to hopefully be a presence to deter fans from throwing items down from the upstairs seats or smoking which is not allowed. This seems like a good practice.

Now to the game and what a game it was! It had it all that night. There were 6 total errors, flubs and good plays by both teams. The Hagerstown Suns got an early 2 run lead, but the Hoppers tied it up in the 7th Inning which is where they were going into the 9th. No one scored so it went into an extra inning where the Suns got a one-run lead so we went to the bottom of the 10th with the Hoppers behind. Not good!

One man got on first due to a Sun error, 1 of 5 for the game. Two outs and up to bat came Ryan Rieger. The count was no balls, two strikes (a great pitcher’s count) but then the pitcher let the count run up full to 3 balls and 2 strikes. At this point, Phil said that pitcher had just messed up and was going to make a big mistake.  On the next pitch which right down the middle of the strike zone, we all heard the THWACK of leather meeting wood and we knew it was gone, gone gone! Up high and deep over the fence for a walk-off home run and a much needed win for the Grasshoppers. The crowd, including us, went wild with cheering! A few fireworks went off to commemorate the win. While the Hoppers were all out on the field congratulating Ryan, the owner let loose Miss Babe Ruth and Yogi who chased balls thrown into the outfield. One dog retrieved the balls while the other pooped on the grass (twice). No doubt the grounds crew here have a pooper scooper in their arsenal of tools.

It was an enjoyable and memorable night. I give it Five Stars.

Phil did remark that they didn’t have “honeys” cavorting and dancing like the Dash Pack. Typical guy. Personally, I think the dogs out-trumped dancing girls.

The DASH Experience vs. Durham Bulls

Phil

Today, May 22, 2012, Phil and I were suffering from Dash Withdrawal because our favorite team was on the road so we went on our own road trip to see a Durham Bulls day game. It turned out that they were playing the Charlotte Knights, a White Sox AAA affiliate! Naturally, we had to root for them and we also thrilled to see 4 players who used to play for the Dash: Terry Doyle (pitcher), Justin Green (Left Field), Drew Garcia (Right Field) and Josh Phegly (Catcher).

It was an easy drive to the Durham Athletic Field and sky was Carolina Blue with a few white, puffy clouds. It was warm, but not too bad and we had seats in the shade. We sat close to home plate on the first base side and realized quickly that our seats were very close to the ones in front, but it was only this row, so we moved down a row where the leg room was better.

Durham Bulls Athletic Field

We noticed quite a few differences between our Dash Ballpark and this one. The most obvious one was their scoreboard which was oddly old fashioned, perhaps intentionally. A man had to manually place the numbers in the little windows. The balls, strikes and outs were shown at the very bottom with lights. Unfortunately, it was hard to see these stats as the players obstructed our view at times. This was the only scoreboard in the entire park. They did have a screen, but it wasn’t as nice as our JumboTron. I have to say that the sound system wasn’t great and we couldn’t understand much of what was being said including their person who presided over the games (our “Sarah” equivalent was nowhere near as good as she is!).

Scoreboard

The concession stands were back behind the seats where the game was not at all visible and I didn’t see any TVs showing the game. You could hear the play by play guy, but again, it was hard to understand especially with the noise on the concourse. Of course, there were plenty of beer places!

They did have a Wool E. Bull mascot who was pretty cute as he arrived in a blue, souped-up go-cart and I did get a photo of me with him. However, he just isn’t as perky and sassy as our own Bolt. The kid’s area was far from where we were so I can’t say how it was, but there was certainly no Merry-Go-Round which is a feature of BB&T Ballpark and looks so great all lit up at night. I was impressed with the good attendance for a weekday 1:00 game. We saw a busload of people being brought in and leaving.

Me and Wool E. Bull

Much of the music was the same as ours and other things on the big screen were similar. We did note that they have 3 umpires instead of our 2. Also, they didn’t do any fanfare when the Durham Bulls team was announced like we do. It’s amazing how you don’t realize how great a job they do at BB&T Park until you go somewhere else and it doesn’t quite hit that high mark!

Our Dash Pack personnel are so personable, perky and fun! Theirs didn’t have funky names on their shirts either and weren’t around to greet patrons on their way in or out. We so appreciate that ours are always out there and so friendly.

The game went well. Terry Doyle pitched 8 innings and the final score was 5-2 Charlotte, so we were happy campers, although we were the only ones! A former Yankee player, Matsui (spelling?) was a DH for the Bulls. He is with Tampa Bay and is down here rehabbing we think.

They do have a well-stocked team store and I bought a pin as I like to collect them. We walked around the complex next to the stadium for a little bit before heading home.

It was a great experience to visit another ball park and we plan to do more when we can.

I give the Dash Experience 5 Stars and the Durham Bulls…4 Stars.