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.”