It may be the sole summer of my youth that I recall with any real clarity: the summer of ’61, that listless season after high school graduation, when Al Mosher, Bill Salzer and I spent many humid nights at Crosley Field, watching the Cincinnati Reds, under manager Fred Hutchinson, win their way to a National League pennant and a shot at the Yankees in the World Series.
The Reds, alas, would lose the Series; Al, Bill and I would choose separate life paths but not stray apart. There would be Al’s wedding, and, later, a son. There’d be clueless weekend nights with Bill over Stroh’s beer at Shipley’s, where he’d lament statistics class, and I’d talk about my work at WKRC-TV.
And then it all fell apart.
On Dec. 15, 1967, 44 years ago today, Al stepped on a “friendly” land mine in Vietnam; his widow, Sharon, called me in New York with the news, and I went down to Washington for Al’s burial at Arlington. Bill, in the Army and stationed in Okinawa, escorted Al’s body home for the funeral. The three of us were together once more, together one final time.
I never saw Bill alive again. Two years later, a captain at Ft. Hayes, he was murdered by a soldier under his command.
Two young lives brought to an end in their mid-20s, and 40-, 50-plus years of life stolen from each, years they never had the opportunity to experience, to savor and to hold dear. I often tell myself that Bill and Al would love to be my age and have my Stage 4 prostate cancer — and that puts my cancer, and my life, in perspective; keeps my head screwed on straight; and reminds me of all the blessings of life, whatever the bumps.
Today, just to close this circle, my oncologist, besides treating me in the clinic, conducts prostate cancer research — at the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center here in Seattle.
And, yes, it’s named for the manager of those Cincinnati Reds, that summer of ‘61.