The following is a guest article written by Pete Wingate.
The greatest story in Wingate history is from when my older brother faced off against Charlie Hough. (Apparently Charlie’s father was some sort of insane Great Santini-type who would hop the fence and scream at him and his brother when they screwed up. Charlie won as many games as Schilling, and his brother got to the minors. Still, no thanks.) In the ’50s, at Mendes Field in Smithfield, RI, Little League, my brother defeated the flame-throwing future knuckler Charlie Hough as close to single-handedly as possible by winning a 1-0 decision and plating the deciding run on an inside-the-park HR.
That was a little before my time. When I got old enough, my brother took me to Fenway in ’73 to see my first game, and I saw Orlando Cepeda hit one over the net. A few years later, my brother allowed me to tag along to work at Foxboro Country Club one day in ’76 because he knew that a threesome of Lynn, Rice and, somehow, Jim Freakin’ Burton had booked that day. He wouldn’t let me bother them, which may have been a good thing in Rice’s case. We watched the threesome tee off the 1st hole. First Lynn (grounder), then Rice (laser). Then the crowd dispersed. I remember feeling bad for Burton and sticking around, but I don’t remember his shot. Probably a heartbreaking floating line drive right up the middle . . .
When I was born in ’65, he already had amassed a great collection of Ted, Mantle, Mays and Aaron cards that are in my nephew’s possession now. I started collecting, but used to just play with them (outside of my treasured favorite Willie Mays “in action” card) and they got beat to hell. This was as pissed as he would get with me. He understood that I’d be sorry one day. I wasn’t, at least at the time. I eventually gave what was left to my nephew, too, since he had been thieving them a little at a time anyway. Except Willie.
His reputation as a Hough-killer aside, like 99.9% of us he flamed out in High School. Even though I grew up to be bigger and stronger than him, reaching the Power-Righty optimum of 6′ 4”, I was slurving by 15, more interested in guitars and girls and done a few months later without having met his standard. It still irks him more than me at this point, I think. Not that he would ever say it out loud.
He had my father, I didn’t. Father was handed free Lucky Strikes in Hawaii on his way to the South Pacific, never put them down and died of lung cancer a month before the Impossible Dream was over.
My brother’s been sick for 8 years now but has gotten much worse recently and just opted out of treatment. It’s not that unlikely that even though he didn’t smoke, the Lucky Strikes our dad smoked didn’t help my brother either. Neither do our genes.
Time is all that we really can have, isn’t it? The universe’s single gift to us. The gift comes in all sizes, but if I had all the time in the world, I’ll never figure out why some of us don’t get more of it.