Saturday, November 28, 2009
Schalk relative reflects, remembers
Since the Schalk biography was released this fall, I have heard encouraging words from several of his relatives. This week, I received a nice letter from a great-nephew. It reads in part:
I just finished reading your book "Ray Schalk" and wanted to say how much I enjoyed the reading. Thank you so much for taking up the subject of my Great Uncle Ray Schalk. Mom had told us of all the correspondence back and forth between you and she and I was very much looking forward to the completion and the arrival of the book.
As we have all said in family long after his passing, we wished we would have had more time with Uncle Ray when he was around, and had more knowledge of his playing days and background. But as a youngster, you don't know the magnitude of someone like that until it's too late and they are gone. I remember thinking that yeah he was someone big back "in the old days" but I want to hear about Mickey Mantle, Willie Mays, Johnny Bench and those guys who hit the big home runs and so forth.
What really struck me about the book was how big a personality he was during his prime in Chicago. Being the second largest city in America at that time, he was a household name to anyone who followed baseball in Chicago, if not the rest of the country. I always thought he was kind of just there, sort of in the background on a team with Joe Jackson and the star pitchers. He really was something else and was very durable over those years. Not to mention all the celebrities he associated with, that was another story altogether.
He was quite a guy, a small man from a small town who made big in the big leagues. I remember when he came down, he always had his cigars with him and always dressed very well.
He was still pretty gruff at times. I recall one time he took us to an Illinois-Purdue football game in Champaign, III. My Mom and brothers went, for some reason my Dad didn't go, and I don't recall if Aunt Vin was there or not. Anyway we have great seats, probably on the 50-yard line. Later during the game and he asks me who I'm rooting for. Naturally, I'm from Illinois and I say "Illinois." He says something like "what the hell you doing, I bring you over here to see Purdue and you're rooting for Illinois!" I think it was half show and half serious, he didn't know that I didn't know his connection to Purdue. I believe I was about 11 or 12 at the time. Ah the fun old days with Uncle Ray.