Wednesday, January 19, 2011

An Evening With Pops Derwood

Pops Derwood is practically a celebrity in his living room, so we've asked him to bring that fame and a .205 career batting average to Offbase and share a story or two about his illustrious career in the Chicago Cubs organization. His book, I Didn't See That Fast Ball, But I Heard It, is not scheduled for release until January, 2012, but here is an excerpt.

More Tales from the Low-and I mean Low-Minor Leagues

Sorry to use an old-timers term, but all I could say was ‘yowza yowza yowza.’ The woman that walked into our trailer with Pete LaCock’s summer girlfriend was a knockout. Blond, busty...oh, and smelly.

The smelly part was that she was picking onions in this small, South Dakota town for a summer job (the summer job should have been the first hint of trouble to come). So, she smelled like an onion.

I had no intention of doing anything that would cause me trouble. I was practically engaged and though I was also lonely as hell sitting in rookie ball in the Pioneer League, this was strictly a ‘look at the menu but don’t taste’ situation. Of course, she and her friend weren’t thinking that way at all. Way before Susan Sarandon and that other girl were following the minor league team in Bull Durham, groupies were following team buses in the bushes of Idaho, too. And these girls actually followed the bus. When we had 13-hour bus rides to places like Ogden, Utah, some of our players would actually find their girlfriends following the bus and sleeping god knows where (we knew where), and showing up at the ballpark at night.

I must say I was intrigued that this very pretty, onion picker was following the bus and kept talking to me. But I was a good boy from start to finish. Not only didn’t I touch her, I didn’t encourage her and didn’t invite her to follow me anywhere, which is going to be real important to this story as you will find out in a minute.

As for Pete? Well, Pete was the No. 1 draft choice, which made him different (I found out just how different when I slept on the floor of his apartment after getting shipped to Caldwell, rolled over in the morning and saw his bats with his freakin’ name on them in a box. My bats said K55 and didn’t have anybody’s name on them, especially not mine). Pete was different because he was from California, and the son of Peter Marshall of Hollywood Squares fame. He was going to the big leagues and he was going to break whatever rule he wanted to break and though our manager, the great Sparky Davis, fined him so much he was borrowing money from me to buy his chew, Pete was less concerned than me about rules.

So what’s the importance of my not having been a bad boy? Well at the team's season-ending party at the palatial and beautifully-appointed Holiday Inn, a guy with cowboy boots, chew in his mouth and a shirt that looked like he had just shat in it and put it back on, sidled up to me.

“So you been hanging out with ____ huh?” (the onion picker).

“Nope I ain’t been hanging out with anyone. She just follows the damn bus.”

“Well, that’s good.”

“Why’s that?”

Drum roll....

”'Cause she’s 14.”

I didn’t even say ‘how old?’ or anything like that. I just ran away as fast as I could and headed to my room to hide under my bed to wait for the school bus that was driving us to the airport the next day.

Looking back, the school bus was quite fitting.

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