Friday, June 20, 2008

Thursday, Juneteenth, A.D. 2008

Texas has several rather distinctive holidays, in addition to the special days celebrated all over these United States or the world. Of course there is Texas Independence Day, 2 March, which commemorates the declaration of Texas' independence from Mexico and the launching of her status as one of the sovereign nations of humankind. And there are the anniversaries of the fall of The Alamo, 6 March, and the Battle of San Jacinto, 21 April, when Texans and particularly San Antonians remember the events that led to that independence.

However, a most unique holiday in this state is Juneteenth, on 19 June. On that date in 1865 Union General Granger landed at Galveston and proclaimed that all slaves in the state were free. So, yup, citizens of black African heritage are the major -- but hardly the exclusive -- celebrators of Juneteenth! In the morning on my way to work, for example, this white bread wished folks a "Happy Juneteenth!" One of the first I greeted thus was an African-American young lady who works with me at Fiesta Texas. But believe me, I was "equal opportunity" in my spreading of the greeting!

Perhaps because of the holiday, I got a "wild hair" and decided to celebrate Juneteenth by attending the evening Texas League game of our AA minor league team, the San Antonio Missions, in Nelson Wolff Stadium. This despite listening on the radio the evening before while the hometown boys lost 7-2 to the visiting Corpus Christi Hooks.

As I approached the stadium following the long walk down Callaghan from the bus stop on Old Hwy. 90, I was listening to the broadcast of the game. And I could see that even tho' the game was already in the third inning, the lines at the ticket windows were still long. By the time I got to the window it was already the sixth, so I contented myself with purchasing a "grass berm" ticket -- just to get into the stadium.

Once inside I got in another long line, for a the concession stand, to purchase a couple slices of "dollar pizza" -- Thursday games at the Wolff are "Dollar Nites" with dollar pizzas, hot dogs, beer and soft drinks. Now, the dollar beer isn't a bargain (except compared to the regular price in stadiums); I know any number of convenience stores in the Alamo City where I can buy a 16-ounce Lone Star Lite for less than a dollar. And Wolff Stadium cups aren't any 16 ounces! Nevertheless, I took my pizza and beer and sat down at a nearby table to enjoy these while still listening to the broadcast of the game on KKYX-AM 680. Stu Paul and Roy Acuff (NOT the Roy Acuff of the Grand Ole Opry, who's been dead for some years now) do the play-by-play on the air.

What I heard while standing in lines and then eating was a very good game! Leastwise, from the hometown boys' side. Pitcher Stephen Faris pitched a good one, and most if not all the other Missions players contributed in their own ways. One name that always stands out as I listen to the broadcasts is Mike Baxter. He used to play for Vanderbilt University, and Stu or Roy will sometimes remark about how this "Yankee" by origin (the region, not the ML team!) wanted to play college ball in the prestigious Southeastern Conference. And how Vandy has a great baseball program -- and gr-r-r-reat academic credentials! Other names that always catch my attention are José Lobatón, from Venezuela, Drew Macías and Sean Kazmar.

Then I went up to the press-box and talked to my buddy Stu Paul. We've carried on an e-mail correspondence for several years, and some time back he'd invited me to come up any time to say "howdy". When he stood up to greet me I at once noticed that he had slimmed down quite a bit! I remarked on this and he filled me in on his weight-loss plan. We also jointly marvelled at the attendance for that evening and the previous evening's game. Indeed, while I was still up there in the press box word of the official attendance came: 7,538. This is the highest attendance figure for '08, and probably one of the highest in the history of Nelson Wolff Stadium!

I actually got to sit down and watch the top of the ninth inning. Since the Missions were already ahead 2-0 there was lots of celebrating going on already. And since the Hooks from the Gulf-shore city didn't score any runs in this final half inning, that remained the final score!

Go, Missions!

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