Author Archives: kbwslw

The Ladies of SLW; the Straws That Stir the Drink


20120621-211548.jpg

By SLW Senior Writer, Kevin Walsh

As another SLW Classic has arrived, thoughts inevitably drift to visions of being crowned tournament champion, wondering whether or not Tenacious E will return or kick-starting the seventh captain discussion, if only to watch grown men debate as if the outcome will earn the victor 72 virgins upon death.

These uncertainties are allowed because the majority of the weekend participants have no worries other than making it to the lake before the commish finds a reason to ban them. For this, we can thank the Ladies of SLW. No perverts, not the ones from Jo-Jins, but instead the ones who make sure none of the sizeable stomachs goes unfilled – Char Pope and DeeDee Hixson.

“There is no way this event happens without the tireless and thankless job of preparation by the sisters,” said SLWAA President Geoff Hixson. “Even though they enjoy the weekend and have gotten really efficient, they still spend a ton of time while we are playing or acting like idiots prepping, cleaning and generally keeping things moving.”

“Dee Dee and Char are Shangri La’ Wiffleball.” Said Commissioner Jaime Hixson. “They have allowed us to continue this nonsense for nearly 20 years. Not only do they do a ton of work in the weeks leading up to the event, they work endlessly at the event and make sure that us wifflers have all we need to stay nourished and hydrated and that everyone has a place to sleep.”

That effort and the resulting spread has drawn rave reviews from participants since the event’s inception, with no higher authority than the Voice of SLW, Jason ‘Dude’ Morgan, weighing in:

“We love the ladies,” Dude said. “They are essentially the Martha Washington’s of wiffleball. A fine poet once said ‘behind every good man there is a woman’, and that woman was Martha Washington, man, and everyday George would come home and she would have a big fat bowl waiting for him, man, when he came in the door.” Well Char and DeeDee are the Martha Washington’s and we’re all George and inside our bowls are breakfast sandwiches and other bounties of high-caloric meals.”

Char and DeeDee are able to enjoy the fruits of their efforts from the moment the first car pulls up.

“My favorite part of the weekend is when everybody starts to arrive,” DeeDee said. “I always feel so happy and proud to greet all the fine men who are good friends of Geoff and Jaime.”

“The old saying ‘If it ain’t broke don’t fix it’ can be used to describe wiffleball weekend,” Char said. “Jaime has added a new flair now and then and that must be working as 19 years is a long time for a bunch of guys to look forward to a weekend.”

For the men who are arriving, being greeted by a hug from Char and DeeDee signals the start of one of the most anticipated weekends of the year. It’s a weekend that has become an annual tradition and continues to draw guys back from all over the country- unless of course your fiancé drags you to weddings every other year.

That camaraderie was cemented years ago by the patriarch of SLW, the Mayor, Bernard Alblinger, a man whose name is synonymous with the SLW Classic. B.J.A. is the man who guided the transformation from weekend pickup game to a braggin’ rights event to a much anticipated reunion. His influence and legacy can be seen not only on the stadium marquee, but also more importantly in the memories garnered over the years.

“The memories of my Dad looking forward to wiffleball weekend so much stands out most in my mind when this time of year comes around,” said Char. “He really enjoyed seeing everybody get together and have fun. As everyone knows B.J. was all about fun!!!!!!”

Continued DeeDee, “My best memories are of dad and how much he enjoyed the weekend. The way he would get excited when the plans were being made before the event, how much he enjoyed seeing all the guys from year-to-year, and the conversations after the weekend was over.”

“He always made the comment what a nice bunch of guys called Geoff and Jaime friends and I feel proud to know that my sons have established friendships with such fine men, who enjoy coming together year after year for a fun weekend.”

It is no doubt that the Mayor was and is equally proud of the impact his daughters have had on the annual festivities.

“Obviously, since they are my mother and aunt respectively, I’m very close to both,” Geoff said. “I think they both claim most of the regulars as family after all these years. Everyone who has spent more than a few years has developed a nice relationship with both Dee Dee and Charlene. Many thanks to both ladies for years of commitment to the greatest Summer outdoor activity ever!”

“Let’s be honest,” Dude said. “Without them we would either A) all be dead from lack of nutrition and over consumption of alcohol or B) stuck eating jerky and Doritos in the hot sun.”

“Char and DeeDee’s selflessness is unparalleled and we couldn’t’ do it without them,” the commish said. “As a side bonus, they are also beloved by everyone and are a joy to have around throughout the course of the weekend. They certainly got the fun-loving attribute from the Mayor himself.”

Wifflegeddon?

In addition to the breakfast sandwiches and cheesy dogs, it is the chase for the championship that dominates conversations throughout podcasts and late into the Friday night before the event. It is a pursuit that has seen the Hixson boys come agonizingly close but narrowly miss. One can only wonder what will happen should Geoff and Jaime square off in the final game.

“I have been watching the championship games for the last few years and seeing neither one of them claim victory. Their comments have always been ‘I had a great time’ so knowing this I would be rooting for both of them,” DeeDee said. “Geoff is one of the most gracious second place finishers in the game and Jaime is so worried about everybody else having a good time a win would make him feel bad for Geoff. So, whatever the outcome of the final game, I would still have two champions.”

While Char would just be happy one of them wins, Geoff Hixson sees a different scenario play out from his mother – possibly due to the feeling that Jaime has been and always will be the favorite son. “In an All-Hixson final, Dee Dee would claim to hope for a tie. Reality is her baby would rate a notch above her first born. She knows the elder will be ok no matter what. She worries about the youngest.”

According to Dude, things may get a bit shakier, “Frankly I’m a little concerned with talk of Wiffle-geddon, those darn Mayans and their calendar ending, dogs and cats living together and it all merging into a Hixson vs. Hixson showdown. It makes my head hurt, but the wiffleball gods although fair can sometimes have a sick sense of humor. I’m calling it now Geoff and Jaime end up on the same team and lose the last game in extras due to an odd wind current. At that point the Hixson clan burns the entire house, field, area and we all move on with our lives as the ashes blow into the water never to be discussed again.

Whatever the case, an always-memorable weekend remains so because of the dedication of so many, none more important than the women who allow so many men to return to boys for a short time each summer.

Advertisements

Leave a comment

Filed under Opinion Pieces

Bernard Alblinger Talks SLW 20


On the verge of SLW 19, the front office uncovered this video of the legendary Mayor following the 2002 Classic.

Less than four days until arrival at historic Shangri La’.

Leave a comment

Filed under SLW News

Breaking Down Barriers at Historic Lakefront Stadium


by Kevin Walsh, SLW Senior Writer

Senior SLW Writer, Kevin Walsh

With heavy metal music blaring, NASCAR the dominating topic of conversation, and enough cigarettes and dip to embarrass a non-gay cowboy, Shangri La’s Lakefront Stadium has long been as white as a clean pointed sheet. That remained the case until a beacon of darkness shone through the white in 2004 when James Morton made his wiffleball debut, 57 short years after Jackie Robinson.

What Morton found, or rather what found Morton, was a welcoming, fun loving group of wifflers who enjoyed nothing more than a few innings on the diamond, a shower in the lake and some of the best food north of the Mason-Dixon line all the while catching up with friends.

“Everyone has treated me very well over the years at Shangri La’,” Morton said. I was embraced immediately as just another wiffler even though clearly I had a better tan than everyone there-except for Spence. He is one bronze dude.”

The ease with which Morton was accepted, he feels, can be directly attributed to the fact that many wifflers attended nearby Unity High School, where as the name suggests bigotry and intolerance did not exist.

“Unity High School is probably one of the most diverse places I have ever heard of,” Morton shared. “I remember when Lupe and Tyrone got in trouble for stealing cars that one time. It was hilarious.”

“I think Unity is where most of the wifflers developed their tolerance for other cultures. Being around all those different types of people really fosters growth and maturity.”

Being accepted off the field was easy, but being accepted on the field did not come as easily for Morton.

“I felt like I had to prove to people that I belonged, especially after being the last pick as an unknown in 2004. I think I accomplished that my first year by winning rookie of the year and helping my team get to the championship game, which should have been a series but was cut short due to the rain.”

Growing up as a child in rural Kansas surrounded by silos and wheat – because that and hair-piece wearing coaches are all they have in Kansas – young Jimmy Morton spent his summers day-dreaming of finding his yellow brick road leading to a mysterious and extraordinary land. Built as a football player, Morton’s path took him to the defensive line at Ft. Hays St. University and then to Lawrence, Kansas before he settled in at the University of Illinois athletic department as part-time employee and part-time noon ball player.

Pictured left to right starting in the top row: Commissioner Hixson, Chris Shoemaker, Senior Writer Kevin Walsh and SLW Pioneer James Morton.

At the U of I, Morton had the great fortune of meeting the man behind the Shangri La’ Wiffleball curtain, Commissioner James R. Hixson, a gentleman more in the mold of Branch Rickey than Adolph Rupp.

“Never in my wildest dreams did I think I would end up being the first black wiffler,” Morton explained. “Growing up I just dreamed of making it out of the wheat fields of western Kansas and ending up in a magical and exotic place. Sure enough, I ended up in the corn fields of central Illinois where there is a magical place called Shangri La’.”

Thus began Morton’s transformation from football and basketball phenom to SLW pioneer.

“Getting here was a long and arduous journey that entailed witnessing TStein (former SLW Rookie of the Year Travis Steiner) attempting to play basketball and watching Kevin wear his dress socks with his basketball sneakers. Needless to say it was a challenge to show up every day. And while you would think because I am black I would be a good basketball player I am not. However, Kevin and Travis still welcomed me into the group by inviting me over to the commissioner’s place for a couple of cocktails and some bowling. From there friendships were born and eventually the invite (to Shangri La’) was extended.”

“I was both excited and astonished that I got the invite,” Morton continued. “I couldn’t believe Hixson was willing to take the risk. I also couldn’t wait to put my skills on display to show everyone he made the right decision in giving me the invite. I credit Commissioner Hixson for having a vision of what the future could be.” It didn’t take long for Morton to pay his dues at Lakefront Stadium after being roped into the construction of the state-of-the art backstop with the commissioner and jack-of-all-trades Jim Hixson. “It must have been a million degrees that day,” Morton remembered, “but the time spent was well worth it.”

Although Morton did not wiffle growing up, he was intrigued by westward travelers who spun tales of Lake legends of yore and allowed him to entertain the notion of booting down the barrier.

“I think most people assume I was born with a wiffle bat in my hands based on how good I am, but I didn’t pick up the game until later on in life when I moved to Illinois. Clearly I was meant to play the game and I’m glad that Shangri La’ Wiffleball has allowed me to put my talents on display,” Morton said.

“TA was one of the first wifflers whom we emulated. We heard accounts of him and his prodigious talents all the way back in Kansas. I always hoped I could be as good as him and that is still what keeps me motivated to this day.”

As with most athletes, Morton finds motivation in many things, including music, and while the Maxim 2010 I-Pod of the year spits out ear pleasing tunes for many wifflers, Morton would not mind a little more variation.

“As part of the effort to make me feel like a member of the group, Geoff Hixson will play one rap song a year on the sound system,” Morton mentioned.

Other than the lack of urban music, Morton concedes there is nothing he would change from his journey.

“It has been a blast,” Morton said.

Morton has persevered and endured on his way to becoming the first black wiffler and may one day have his own wing in the SLW Hall of Fame.

NOTE: Commissioner Hixson declined to comment on this story as any discussion on race, sex or vegetables makes him fidgety and uncomfortable.  As a result, the league office and the Commissioner do not endorse this story.

7 Comments

Filed under Opinion Pieces

Commissioner Hixson Family Research Uncovers Long Line of Baseball Royalty


By Kevin Walsh:

The sound of the push mower revving up, the taste of mosquito repellent adding that extra buzz to our beers and the morning smell of fresh baked orgasmic breakfast sandwiches (yes, they are that good) have all been well-known staples of the Shangri La’ Wiffleball history and lore. The family behind the experience though, is not quite as well known as they would like us to believe.

Recently uncovered documents recovered after the Shangri La’ flood of 2001 show that SLW history has been shaped by familial ties to some of baseball’s most controversial commissioners. Papers have indicated that Hixson blood ran deep in the veins of MLB commissioner’s Kenesaw Mountain Landis and A. Bart Giamatti. Coincidences in the two leagues histories can no longer be written off as happenstance.

As baseball’s first commissioner, Landis is best known, not for his banning of ‘Shoeless’ Joe Jackson following the 1919 Black Sox scandal, but instead for his ruling in a fledgling central Illinois wifflleball league. At that time Landis was known east of Champaign, IL as ‘that little Hixson boy’, a reference to his family ancestry in the land. At the time the wiffleball league was just establishing itself as the premiere wiffleball league in Middle America, when the talented, but quick trigger Landis, not pleased with the outcome of the 1917 classic, banned Series MVP Dane Gentry for an unsubstantiated, but widely circulated rumor of throwing games. While the charges were never proven, the Gentry family received a lifetime ban from the wiffleball field and Hall of Fame.

The ban remained until 1994? when Gentry’s great-grandson, playing under the alias, Shane Gentry, was approved for league play. His tenure lasted until 1996 when it was discovered he was an heir to the Series MVP and subsequently re-banned. After 12 years of under-the-table negotiations, Shane Gentry was allowed to rejoin the league, but forced to bat left-handed and, regardless of championships and towering home runs not allowed the join the most hallowed Hall in the land – the SLW Hall of Fame.

Followers, fans and supporters of SLW were appalled to learn of the first connection to a dirty MLB commish, but in 1998 the loyalists were floored when it was learned that A. Bartlett Giamatti, who was responsible for banning the ‘Hit King’ Pete Rose in 1989, was also posthumously involved in the banning and shaming of another legend, Cousin TA. TA, best known for his uncanny rally-killing ability at the plate and buzz-killing ability off the diamond, was forced into elimination from the tournament by young Jaime Hixson in his first act as commissioner.

Shortly after taking office, Hixson learned the ‘A.’ in A. Bartlett stood for Alblingler and that Giamatti, after seeing TA at the bat as a youngster in 1984 deemed his spawn as unworthy of ever stepping foot on the sacred Shangri La’ ball field, thus robbing the crowds of years of entertaining at-bats and awkward conversations.

Luckily, after a full review of the Hixson/Alblingler/and wherever else they come from-family tree has proven to have no connection to Bud Selig – they are Catholic after all. The SLW leadership should be in capable hands for years to come providing Jaime, Geoff or Jed ever produce a male heir, if not it’ll be a wiffleball version Madonna, Rosie O’Donnell and Geena Davis and we will all be shamed into coming back and pretending we enjoy women’s athletics.

1 Comment

Filed under Opinion Pieces