RIP Bud, 1925 – 2014 ©2014 L.E. Taylor

Final page of an American history lesson by L.E. Taylor

Bud Masinick passed away in his sleep last week. Bud is the hero of his own tale of Middle-American valor, Bud and Schoolie. There is more to his story.

In 1944, two B-25 bombers were shot down off the coast of Formosa. The USS Ice Fish was sent to hunt for survivors. After twenty-six hours, the submarine surfaced about thirty yards from two life rafts lashed together, six aviators, thirsty and wounded hanging on. A rope was tied to the sub. As the boat’s “diver”, Bud was to swim out, tether the rubber dinghies to the sub, and guide them in as his shipmates pulled. As Bud grabbed the rope and tied it around his waist, the exec said, “Bud, you know, if you get out there and aircraft show up, we’ll have to dive.” Bud said, “Then we better hurry up,” and dove into the drink.

No planes appeared and the fliers were pulled aboard the Ice Fish. Bud reports that one man died of his wounds. Next day, the boat surfaced for a burial service at sea. It was Bud’s first and he took it personally. Hands covering his face, he wept. Bud grabbed his rosary and made his way to his bunk, jumped in, and covered his head. In the morning, he refused to get up. A flier came by to console the 19-year-old. Shipmates urged him to move around, get some chow.

“No. Go away.”

Into Bud’s second day in bed face to the bulkhead, an NCO put a beefy paw on the lad’s shoulder. “Bud, you gotta eat. C’mon. Let’s go.”

“No. Go away. I’m okay.”

The chief returned about twenty minutes later. “Bud. Cookie has made a big bowl of strawberry shortcake.”

The covers flew off, Bud hit the deck, rubbed his face. “Okay. Let’s go.”

One day not long ago, Bud and I sat on a bench beside a lake. Two formerly young men filling in some of the blanks for each other. I learned about the post war years, Bud’s mustering, his cross-country sentimental journey by train with an unexpected stopover in Chicago. The unglamorous life of a D-League farm hand. And finally his return to reality.

Of all the stories he confided, one came sharply to life. In his own words, the best I can remember them:

“I have no regrets about not following a career somewhere in baseball. If I had, I would have spent years in mediocre surroundings making a mediocre living. I wouldn’t have married Barbara, I wouldn’t have four educated and productive sons and daughters. No comparison. No regrets.”

He went on about how much he loved Barbara and how blessed he was.

Barbara is the twin sister of Sandra, the mother of my children – and incidentally the person who called me one day this summer, suggesting that I write a story about Bud Masinick.

So now the last page has been written. Bud has arrived at his final destination. We can’t know how it all works, but in earthly terms, he’s already been reunited with Barbara, his submariner buddies, maybe even Mickey Cochrane, Johnny Mize, Hank Greenberg…

And of course, Schoolboy Rowe.

“Hey Bud! Wanna play some pepper?

“Schoolie! I can’t. Didn’t bring my mitt.”

“Bud, y’all have no i-dear: We have the most wonderful ball gear you ever dreamed of.”




Lou Gehrig Was Right

Reflection on being ‘the luckiest man on earth,’  by L. E. Taylor

Recently, there’s been a lot of publicity on the “ice bucket” craze. It’s a stunt that’s supposed to raise awareness of ALS, the incurable neural disorder that took down the New York Yankee great, Lou Gehrig, in 1941.

The fad has people of all stations in life (most notably celebrities) dump buckets of melted ice (i.e., water) over the heads of themselves and others in the fashion of ebullient football players dousing a coach in the last seconds of a victory.

The Ice Bucket Challenge is a social media phenomenon. It’s supposed to “raise awareness” of ALS just as affixing colored ribbons to one’s bosom is supposed to help cure cancers or show support for minority victims of, uh, everything. The challenge has purportedly raised millions in pledges for ALS research.

One thing is certain. It certainly makes the ribbon-wearers and the well-selfied elites feel good about themselves.

This ALS stunt is the latest symptom of preening exhibitionism, un-dreamed of in 1941. Lou Gehrig had a different take. Standing before a microphone at home plate on July 4th, 1939, he had this to say about his own plight:

Fans, for the past two weeks you have been reading about the bad break I got. Yet today I consider myself the luckiest man on the face of the earth. I have been in ballparks for seventeen years and have never received anything but kindness and encouragement from you fans.

When you look around, wouldn’t you consider it a privilege to associate yourself with such fine looking men as are standing in uniform in this ballpark today? Sure, I’m lucky…

Lou acknowledged, by name and role, individuals whose guidance, professionalism and loving-kindness he’d been privileged to know, from baseball men to hard working parents. Then he concluded,

When you have a wife who has been a tower of strength and shown more courage than you dreamed existed—that’s the finest [gift] I know.

So I close in saying that I might have been given a bad break, but I’ve got an awful lot to live for. Thank you.

So spoke the self-proclaimed “luckiest man on the face of the earth.” But this essay, written for you, is not about Lou Gehrig, or ALS, or modern narcissism. It’s about gratitude.

You may blow this off as just a sermon. Not so fast, Agnes.

In the small hours today before sunup, I received an unexpected email from an old friend. It carried a link to an “inspiring” video. I’m suspicious of maudlin sentimentality, but I clicked on it. It was a human interest news clip. About a girl abandoned as a baby, now a bright, accomplished young woman. The secrets of the story came, one, two, three. Each provoked in me an audible gasp.

In a few minutes, all the pain of my recent surgery disappeared. My mind sharpened and my post-op depression dissolved. My thoughts drifted to Lou Gehrig standing there seventy-five years ago, humble and grateful in the hopelessness of a death sentence.

I sat in wonder, first at the horror, then at this evidence of human fortitude and the genuine “luck” of our under-appreciated gift from our Creator. It’s just a news show filler. Human interest about a girl.

Uplifting, no tears. Well…

I had to send it to you.