Bob Mitchell: Throwback jerseys serve as reminder of experience

Wednesday, July 5, 2017

While watching the St. Louis Cardinals struggle through one of their recent games, a view of the stands brought back a pleasant memory involving a group of Barry Countians.

Sparking the memory was a view of two senior citizens who were wearing Cardinals replica jerseys of the past. They were seated in front or behind each other so the names on the back of their jerseys were obvious. They must have been fans of Stan Musial and Joe Gargiolia.

Musial, who I once saw play in the old White City ballpark in Springfield, a Hall of Famer with the Cardinals, who once pitched, later played the outfield and finished his career at first base. It was truly a treat to watch him uncoil out of his batting stance and bounce a hit off the screen in Sportsman Park’s right field for a record-breaking double.

Gargiolia was a catcher for the Redbirds with no record- breaking performances to his credit, but he did advance to the sportscaster ranks and commentator later in his life.

Back in the 1960s

John Dalton, from southeast Missouri, had just been elected the new governor of Missouri and had selected five Barry Countians to serve on his Honorary Colonel staff for inauguration in January. Those named were: Fielding Sizer, John Hunt and Almon Maus of Monett, and Lige Frost and myself from Cassville.

The particularly pleasant part of this story was that all members of this group, except myself, had to buy uniforms for the event. The one worn by my uncle Means Ray in a previous ceremony, with some alterations, fit me perfectly.

I can’t imagine there being a colder place in Missouri in January than Jefferson City, with the wind blowing off the Missouri River. The event was an outside ceremony.

Dinner encounter

The first evening in Jefferson City, the group went out to dinner as a group, having the forethought to rely on others to make a reservation. When we were seated at large table, we noticed there were two extra chairs that were being eyed by others in the establishment, We hoped they would remain vacant.

Then through the door walked these two celebrities and they immediately spotted these empty chairs, inquiring of the waiter if they might join us in the packed restaurant. The waiter asked us and our reply was an immediate affirmative.

The pair expressed their thanks and immediately filled our evening was baseball and lifetime experiences that will be long remembered.

Included in their gestures were autographs on monogrammed napkins from the establishment, which I promptly lost even before returning to Barry County.

Fact of forgetting

The fact of the matter is, this experience might never have popped back in my mind had those two Cardinal fans not been of the era that still hung onto their uniform replicas with the former players’ names across the back. Then there has to be a thank you to the camera operator who spotted the scene that afforded the view.

Cold conditions

Another fact associated with that event was the temperatures that caused some unusual situations for dressing.

For the daytime activities, it was permissible to dress for the occasion, with all the layers desired. For the evening, it was a different story.

Making the reception line in the Rotunda required going down the spiral staircase from an unheated area on the second floor. Word had it that the men in uniform were getting along well, since most were wearing long johns.

For the ladies, it was a different situation, their long dresses were not made for warmth. So, many of them admitted, since the formal attire went to the floor anyway, they too had visited one of the Jefferson City department stores and purchased them some warm under layers for comfort.

The Monett group

This outing was made better with the existence of these people from Monett, as Sizer — who was a partner in early Forest Products of Cassville — later became a very progressive mayor of that town. Hunt, in the insurance trade, later became postmaster of Monett and was a son-in-law of the late Magistrate-Probate Judge Jim Sater.

Maus, one of the most respected attorneys in the area, later became a member of the Missouri Court of Appeals, Southern District in Springfield. He was a very avid float fisherman on regional rivers.

Frost became a Southern Judge on the County Court (now commission). He had a real estate firm in later years in Cassville. Mrs. Frost was secretary of the Chamber of Commerce during a heavy work period of industry coming to Cassville.

Bob Mitchell is the former editor and publisher of the Cassville Democrat. He is a 2017 inductee to both the Missouri Press Association Hall of Fame and Missouri Southern State University’s Regional Media Hall of Fame.