“I’d like to throw you out with the trash.” –MARTY “Mr. Shortstop” MARION , to the young autograph seeker, 1948
Of course he had bigger things on his mind than signing autographs.
By 1948, Marty “Mr. Shortstop” Marion was in the middle of what would become eight All-Star years with the St. Louis Cardinals. He had already been voted MVP and won three World Series championships. Also by 1948, Marion was suffering from the knee and back problems that would shorten his career. Worried about his future and those of his fellow ballplayers, Marion put his blunt temperament and crackerjack business mind to use, leading the successful fight for Major League Baseball’s first ever Players Pension Plan.
“I was very outspoken in my opinions,” said Marion.
When he was on the team, Marty Marion always put the players first, but it was a different story after he retired. At his posthumous 2014 induction onto the Cardinals Hall of Fame, Marion’s daughter Martina Dill made a revealing comment about his relationship to his fans. “Since his playing days,” she said, “he always had time to answer fan mail and autographs, and even add a little extra postage if necessary.”
“Since” his playing days he had time for his fans. Perhaps he went a little overboard after that, trying to repent for how he may have treated them when he was on the roster.
There are Marty Marion autographs aplenty on eBay written in his shaky, elderly script. These autographs had to have been written slowly. Marion would have had to take some time and concentration. He would have had to care. Even if he had started showing up to baseball card shows primarily out of financial need, Marty Marion could not have remained as “outspoken” anymore.
Marion attended a baseball card show with his old double-play partner, second baseman Red Schoendienst, about six months before he died. Imagine Marty Marion, over 90 years old, with a pen in one hand and a brand new baseball in the other. Watch him slowly placing his signature within the ball’s laces, wobbling a big open circle to dot in the “i” in Marion, then carefully scrawling “ ’44 M.V.P.” under that. How could he have been dismissive with these signatures or his fans? He could not. In the time it took for him to sign each ball, each fan at the baseball show would have ample opportunity to snap a few pictures and plenty of time to ask “Mr. Shortstop” a long unanswered question.
Then, perhaps somewhere between gawking at his famously long, “Octopus” arms and the now old, gnarled hands that could once turn a double-play in the blink of an eye, you stop wondering about the motivations behind Marion’s late-in-life fan appreciation, and you start liking that he barked at you back in 1948.
When my dad was a kid growing up in 1940s Philadelphia, he was an avid sports fan who positioned himself at stadiums, train stations and hotel lobbies in order to get autographs of famous athletes.
He also sent requests by mail on self-addressed, stamped postcards.
His collection grew to contain dozens upon dozens of legendary signatures, including Jackie Robinson, Babe Ruth, Ty Cobb and Joe Louis. Also among the pages of his autograph books are the signatures of names that are lesser know today, but giants of their time.
The Ox Next Door: Al Wistert
While playing for the NFL’s Philadelphia Eagles, tackle Al “Ox” Wistert lived in my father’s neighborhood. He was known and loved not just for his feats on the football field, but for his generous Halloween hijinks. My father remembers Wistert having fun with the kids by heating up a pile of half dollar coins in his oven, then tossing them out his window to the children gathering below, delighting in their scrambling attempts to pick up and hang on to the piping hot treasures.
“Pro football’s a great game as long as you’re able to give more than you receive. – Al Wistert, upon retiring in 1951
My father remembers Al Wistert throwing money to children on Halloween, but he also went much further out of his way to help kids. Although he did not own a car in 1945, Al accepted a job as head coach for a New Jersey High School football team over 50 miles away. For several seasons Eagles Head Coach Greasy Neale lent Wistert his car so Al could teach the high school kids.
Although all three Wistert brothers played football for the University of Michigan, and all three are in the college Hall of Fame, Al was the only Wistert who made it to the NFL, and the first Philadelphia Eagles player to have his number retired. His initial contract was for the 1943 “Steagles,” a temporary merging of the Steelers and Eagles made necessary by the lack of manpower left by the WWII draft.
The wrist bone ailment that exempted Wistert from military service also forced him to develop an innovative form of blocking, in which he rammed a defender with his shoulder, then headed downfield looking for another victim. He was the smallest tackle in the league, but Al Wistert played both sides of the ball in every game and made All-Pro for eight straight years.
Wistert was the son of Lithuanian immigrants. His father, Kazimer Vistartas, arrived in the U.S. from Lithuania in 1895. He fought in the Spanish American War, then served as a Chicago policeman for 20 years until he was shot, dying of complications when Al was only six years old.
The tragic details of Kazimer’s injuries and long, unsuccessful attempt at recovery are well documented. Thankfully, so is evidence of his kindness, which gives some insight into the source of Al’s own generosity. Kazimer was known as a helpful “do it all” guy who served as family barber and shoemaker, and often let the neighborhood children ride around on his police horse.
At Al Wistert’s memorial in 2016, his handicapped daughter Kathy got up to give a tribute to her dad. “Anything I was doing, he took an interest in,” she said. Perhaps fittingly, Kathy’s passion was horses. When Al retired from his post NFL insurance business, he moved the family to a farm by Oregon’s Rogue River so they could adopt and care for neglected horses.
Collections to Connections I have also been a sports fan since I was a kid, and have a vast collection of trading cards of my own. When my son was young and started showing an interest in the hobby, I accompanied him to autograph signings.
One day, 1970s Dodgers All-Star 3rd Baseman Ron Cey showed up on the autograph schedule. I dug my own, “vintage” card out of a box in the garage so my kid would have something to sign.
My father, collecting autographs at fourteen, did not imagine he would one day share them with his daughter. Just as I, at twelve, did not think I’d one day find myself happily standing in a long line with my own son to get a brand new autograph from “The Penguin” himself.
Sharing Stories Behind the Signatures turns collections into connections that tie generations together.
Ingredients 1/4 cup maple syrup 1/3 cup packed brown sugar 4 tsp vanilla extract 1/2 tsp salt 1/4 cup vegetable oil 1/4 cup honey 1/3 cup creamy unsalted almond butter 1/4 cup butter 4 1/2 -5 cups old fashioned rolled oats 1 cup unsalted almonds (raw or roasted), chopped coarse 1/2 cup unsalted sunflower seeds (raw or roasted) (Additional 1/2 cup unsalted chopped nuts or seeds of choice: pecans/walnuts/chia seeds – OPTIONAL) 1 cup raisins 1/2 cup dried sweetened orange slices, chopped into pieces (or mango/cranberries/apricots)
Instructions Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Line a baking sheet (approx. 9 x 13)* with parchment paper or foil & nonstick spray. Melt butter, almond butter & honey over low heat, stirring to combine. Remove from heat. Whisk maple syrup, brown sugar, vanilla & salt into a large bowl. Whisk in oil. Stir in butter/almond butter/honey blend. Fold in all the oats and nuts one cup at a time until combined and coated. Transfer oat mixture onto the baking sheet. Spread evenly and compactly, pressing down mixture with a stuff metal spatula.*
Bake 35-40 minutes until lightly toasted, rotating pan once halfway through. Remove from oven and cool on wire rack for 1 hour to set. Break granola into pieces as desired. Fold in dried fruit.
I got to Trader Joe’s before 8am. People were already lining up outside, each grabbing a shopping cart and placing it in front of their bodies, between themselves and the next person. The joys of social distancing.
I had just taken a cart for myself when a young, bearded man approached the area. We met each other’s eyes and smiled. I was impressed by how genuine this stranger’s smile was. We each said “Good morning,” and he proceeded with getting his cart and moving to a place in line.
When a senior patron was declined a request to be admitted inside early, I learned the store would not be opening for another hour, so I decided to come back some other time. I sanitized my hands, got back in my car, turned the key in the ignition and checked my rear view mirror.
It was then that I noticed the young bearded man in the distance behind me. His cart was along the wall with the others in line, his fellow customers standing, slumping, looking at their phones, but he had stepped out in front of them and was standing, straight backed, head slightly down, with his arms out from his sides, palms up and rising, as if he was welcoming, embracing and gathering the sun and the world, all at the same time.
From my rear view mirror vantage point, I watched him repeat an exercise in which his arms slowly kept rising until they were over his head, then came down in an equal meeting with each other just in front of his face, like he was pushing gently down onto slowly sinking, level water.
His arms continued the gentle push down until they were at his sides, and he flicked his wrists at the last moment, as if to dispose of any stray, unnecessary droplets of energy.
He slowly repeated this exercise at least four or five times. I admired the lack of self consciousness that allowed him to do this in public almost as much as I admired the exercise itself, his patience and presence in the midst of pandemic and parking lot.
There is not much room on our minds right now for anything but the virus. The world is shutting and hunkering down, waiting for an invisible monster wave to crash. We feel sadness, anxiety and fear. Tom and Rita tweet from quarantine. We try to amass enough toilet paper and granola bars to wait it out on the high ground of home.
I didn’t get my groceries or even a chance at a pack of toilet paper at this particular trip to Trader Joe’s, but I did witness that calm. In these days, in this moment, it felt important.
A February visit to Clement Restaurant revealed many good signs,
starting with — a new sign!
All too often we hear about old San Francisco favorites closing, like Ambassador Toys in West portal, where generations perused everything from handcrafted puzzles to science kits and stuffed animals. Or the historic Clay Theater, a neighborhood art house that screened the kinds of films that launched a thousand coffeehouse conversations, and midnight showings of the Rocky Horror Picture Show, which spilled throngs of laughing youth onto the late night sidewalks, toast crumbs falling from their pants as they danced the Time Warp down Fillmore street.
After five long years since their kitchen fire and closing, a clean, bright and welcoming new sign for Clement Restaurant has been installed. Also looks like the awning for Clement BBQ next door has been scrubbed of a layer or two of city grime.
More Gleaming appliances have been installed.
How soon is the big day? “We are just waiting for the government to say OK,” says the employee at Clement BBQ ringing up my order.
What makes Clement Restaurant so special? Certainly there are other Dim Sum restaurants close by that offer a tasty Pork Bun and other delicacies? Well, sure. Taste is subjective, as anyone who has ever tried to order and share a pizza with another human being can attest!
There are many wonderful pork bun experiences within mere blocks of Clement restaurant, such as the sweet crispy-topped beauties at Hong Kong Lounge (above).
Hong Kong Lounge’s baked buns are a little smaller, but they are delicious! Saucier and more delicate than those that come out of the oven at Clement Restaurant. You get the sense that they are made carefully, and eating them in a grand, carpeted room at a cloth covered table under twinkling chandeliers just feels right.
Unlike Clement Restaurant, where the few rickety tables jammed against the wall were covered only in the sticky remains of the last customer’s order, and you have to ask for a napkin to wipe down the table before popping open a plastic container to consume your food.
But I don’t care!
Taste rules, but you cannot overestimate the power of personal association and the sixth sense of memory.
Ever since I can remember (and long before), a walk down Clement street has been dominated by Asian grocers and houseware supply stores, dim sum restaurants, and doubled parked delivery trucks unloading boxes of live, smelly crabs and other assorted seafood down wet floors into back kitchens and loud, fish markets.
Origins “Around the turn of the 20th Century, new cable and electric streetcar lines formed to deliver passengers to the Golden Gate Park, to the beach, and Adolph Sutro’s new Cliff House, Sutro Heights, and Sutro Baths.” Read more: A Short History of the Richmond District
The first sprinklings of bougeious yuppie-dom, like the sweet ‘n cutsie coffee and ice cream shop, the Toy Boat Café, didn’t come on the scene until the 1980s. That’s when I moved away to college, then to chase a career, marry and raise a son.
Yes, I have always come back every few months to visit my family, and stopping by Clement Restaurant is an engraved tradition that I passed into the next generation. I thought I was appreciative, but realized I had taken it all for granted when I returned in 2015 to find the place all boarded up.
A 2015 kitchen fire shut down operations at the address… but since the owner of Clement Restaurant also owns the two eateries on either side,the buns kept rising!
Assorted pastries were shouldered by the kitchen at Clement BBQ, the restaurant next door to the east, and the steamed offerings continued at Xiao Long Bao, located just next door to the west.
It was a great relief to continue to enjoy the unique and sumptuous blend of sweet/savory BBQ pork in Char Siu sauce recipe made only at Clement Restaurant.
The Long Road Back (a timeline in pictures)
Michael Flores, energetic and knowledgeable Superintendent for Bali Construction, welcomes the challenge of every new job, but admits progress has been stalled many times in the past four years. Insurance issues, PG&E issues. They had to reconfigure the sequencing of the entire power system, so it is properly shared between three establishments. Peering through the taped up windows revealed little. At first there was no progress. Just the locked door and the lingering scent of smoke.
The place was cleared and gutted on the inside and then spent some time as a storage unit. Stacks of supplies would appear. A ladder leaning against a wall. Boxes and boxes of To-Go containers, tumbled over each other. The front windows wore dirty, peeling stickers and long expired ads for city events.
Stepping inside in July 2019, the long narrow place is bright white, except on the right wall, where the original brick has been exposed..
CHANGING BACK IS STILL A CHANGE
I have a tendency to be nervous about change. And I haven now grown accustomed to going to Clement BBQ next door.
While waiting in line, I may take in the state of a whole roast pig, dressed for consumption or hanging from a hook suspended over a worn, round butcher’s block.
I may watch as steam table orders are filled. Scoops of chow mein slopped into takeout containers.
I can lean against the sacks of bleach piled high against the mirrored wall. And I always look next door for a peek at the progress…
Superintendant Flores points out that I am not the only one who has stopped by the open door of the re-construction of Clement Restaurant to share my longstanding personal fondness for the place and the taste that takes me back.
I tell him that I am excited for the reopening, and grateful to the owner for maintaining the baked delights for his customers. He knows the value is beyond taste — it’s time travel.
When he hints that the owner maybe “expanding the menu,” a shiver runs through me and I quickly exclaim, “Don’t change the recipe!”
The Bill Graham Exhibit at the Skirball Cultural Center
Bill Graham, an orphan of the Holocaust, became the most successful and influential rock music promoter in history.
The Skirball Cultural Center’s new exhibit, Bill Graham and the Rock and Roll Revolution, is an amazing representation of the 1960s counterculture movement and a moving portrait of the man, an orphan of the Holocaust who turned himself into the most successful and influential music promoter in history, and a dearly loved humanitarian. The exhibit is extensive and includes personal memorabilia, photographs, concert footage, vintage art posters and a psychedelic light show.
“6 Ways to Dig the 60s”
1. Meet a Wide-Awake Kind of Man Bill Graham spent much his childhood fleeing the forces of Nazi Germany. He had to adapt to more than one new language, family and country by the time he was twelve. As a teen, he toiled as a waiter to the rich and famous in the Catskill Mountains while running an underground poker game, had the guts to speak up for worker’s rights before the employees were unionized, then fought in the Korean War and avoided a court-martial after refusing to go into a lopsided battle that eventually killed his commanding officer.
Although Graham didn’t talk much about his early life, or claim to remember either his mother or father, his experiences informed everything he did. By the time he promoted his first show, a benefit for the San Francisco Mime Troupe in 1965, Bill Graham had already built up a sense of himself, a feeling that he was ‘master of [his] destiny.’
2. Break Free from Hypocrisy
Shuttling through orphanages and foster homes and developing a keen street sense solidified Graham’s aura of autonomy and authenticity, which went over well with activist performers of the sixties. The Who’s Pete Townshend referred to him as a man ‘free of hypocrisy,’ with an unshakeable support for those fighting for freedom of expression and against the abuse of power. That, coupled with his innovative sense of the theatrical and a sharp brain for business, made it possible for Graham to back an assortment of talented, radical, drug-soaked performers and allow the countercultural rock icons of the ’60s and ’70s to reach a mass audience and effect social change.
3.Hang Out with Rock Stars
What if you threw a party and Everybody came? Bill Graham produced rock concerts like that. He made the experience of music an immersive one. In their heyday, San Francisco’s Fillmore and Winterland auditoriums hosted acts such as Janis Joplin, Bob Dylan and Buffalo Springfield all on the same night.
He continually asked the performers he knew to recommend up-and-coming artists he’d never heard of, and then put those folks on the bill with more well-known talent. That’s how Santana got launched and how The Doors were brought to San Francisco. He wanted to educate his patrons, so he booked poets and even a Russian dance company. Bill Graham was also the first to expose B.B. King and Chuck Berry to white audiences.
4. Appreciate Art
Ingest a more than generous dose of bright colors, kaleidoscopic patterns and distorted typography by viewing all the incredible vintage posters on display. Artist Lee Conklin’s 1968 poster advertising Vanilla Fudge and the Steve Miller band has a drawing of two naked bodies. It looks like they are facing each other, but they have no faces. They are only human up to their shoulders, and then they become hands, clasping one another. Some posters are more gruesome, but always compelling. A New Year’s Eve concert poster offers up a painting of an hourglass, with the flopping bodies of hundreds of little humans trickling through.
Tune in to some of the guitars on display, like Jerry Garcia’s ‘Wolf,’ or a chunk of a Fender Stratocaster salvaged from Jimi Hendrix’s collection. The belt Mick Jagger wore at Altamont hangs on one wall, and a handwritten note from Donovan on another, calling Bill Graham ‘by far the friendliest and most considerate promoter I have ever had the pleasure of working with.’ You can also read letters from fans begging for tickets to the last show at the Winterland auditorium: ‘Grateful Dead is not just a rock concert, it’s a state of mind.’
Take a look at the charred relics from the offices of Bill Graham Presents, which was firebombed in 1985 by suspected neo-Nazis. Read the original, typewritten 1967 ‘Summer of Love Proclamation,’ with quotes from Allen Ginsberg and Timothy Leary, who sought ‘to give young pot smokers and young acid heads a sense of their historical meaning.’
5. Live By a Strong Inner Code Bill Graham wanted everyone to feel warm and secure, so he took care of all the aspects of production, like running out to get Otis Redding ice cubes, displaying current-event news clippings in the lobby to give shy patrons a chance to get comfortable or placing a basket of free apples at the entrance. Soon, it wasn’t as important as who was playing at the Fillmore as it was that you were at the Fillmore.
Some performers resented that Bill Graham was ‘making bread off the scene,’ but Graham was more than willing to give back to the community. He understood the promise and power of rock and roll, and he lived by a strong inner code that acknowledged both the tremendous power of music and his obligation to use that power as a force for good: ‘It’s that question of what do you know, and then what do you do with it?’
What Bill Graham did with his power was to continually build his relationships and his humanitarian mission, branching out from Bay Area causes to international relief victims in Africa. Graham promoted performances in conjunction with Amnesty International, a concert to benefit the victims of the 1989 San Francisco earthquake, and organized a huge concert to welcome Nelson Mandela after his release from a South African jail in 1990. Sadly, Bill Graham’s life was cut short when he was killed in a helicopter crash the following year.
6. Absorb the Whole Experience You’ll start your visit looking at pictures of a little boy in a German orphanage, and you’ll wind up gazing at an enormous butterfly costume suspended from the ceiling. You can hear ‘White Rabbit,’ ‘Respect,’ and many others blast from the light show as you look around. In theater seats behind red velvet curtains, projected swirls of smoke and colored oils let you watch and wonder, listen and let your mind drift. You can even dance if the mood strikes. One thing you can’t do is take pictures. Like the sixties themselves, there is no substitute for being there.
I’m one of those born and raised San Franciscans whose heart was left there when they moved away. So, my ears, now residing with me hundreds of miles away, gratefully absorb the weekly Outside Lands San Francisco Podcast — the podcast of the Western Neighborhood Project, a group that studies and preserves San Francisco history, especially of the “western neighborhoods” of San Francisco.
I am continually surprised and entranced by the stories they bring to light of the people and places that existed before, interesting well-known and/or lesser known folks and the homes and neighborhoods in which they lived. These stories, especially of “ordinary” people, remind me that everyone who calls themselves a “San Franciscan,” (including me!) holds in their memories and experiences a valid sliver of a piece of the City’s history.
I especially enjoyed the recent Carol Schuldt podcast. Woody LaBounty’s descriptions of this “Queen of the Beach” acknowledged her eccentricity while a personal, reverential tone shone through. He and his co-hosts succeeded in painting a picture of a rescuer/rebel in all her glory.
It’s too bad that it was the intensity of Schuldt’s connection to nature that made her seem so odd. It made me think about how our present disconnect from nature is what is really more odd.
I wish I had known her — and to be honest, I wish I had known OF her. I lived in the city till I was seventeen years old, but was not a beachgoer, and I am at once thrilled to hear about her and sad that I was not able to enjoy even the knowledge of her existence all those years she was alive.