In honor of the start of Spring Training baseball, this is a charmingly wonderful song from the later, reunion-part of Peter, Paul and Mary's career. A song by Noel Paul Stookey, "Right Field."
I actually crossed paths in the oddest way with Paul Stookey when a wee kidling. One Sunday when I was probably around eight, my folks took my brother and me for a day jaunt to O'Hare Airport. (Yes, there was a time when a family might go to the airport simply to watch the planes and see the bustle of people.)
As we were wandering through, my brother (he was probably about 11) said, "I think that guy we just passed was Jerry Lucas." Not many people would have recognized Jerry Lucas, though he was a fairly successful professional basketball player. He had been an All American forward on Ohio State and was now a pro, though his professional career didn't reach the renown of his college days. Anyway, we wandered on and ignored it. But a little while later, it was still bugging my brother. He was sure it was Jerry Lucas and wanted to go back and find out. So, he headed off to search, and like a good little brother, I followed.
Now, consider two things: 1) That this was a time when parents were fine letting their two kids go running through an airport, and 2) my brother actually thought he'd be able to find one person he thought he might have spotted five minutes earlier in O'Hare Airport, the busiest airport in the world.
And we found Jerry Lucas. It was him. He was surprised and pleased to be recognized, we got his autograph, and then headed back to find our parents.
Very excited, we were a bit tired, so we found some chairs and all four of us sat down to rest. And sitting down, we turned our heads and noticed a guitar case and bass case next to us. There was a tag on both of them with a logo that said, "Peter, Paul and Mary."
It will not surprise you that we chose not to go anywhere for the time being. We had no idea what would turn up at the other end of this adventure, but we were going to find out.
Eventually, the owners of the instruments showed up. One was Paul Stookey. The other, if I can recall correctly, was their longtime bassist, Dick Kniss. We got the autographs. It was, as yo might guess, a swell day at the airport. And memorable. (I even kept both autographs for a very long time, but alas they are no more.)
By the way, consider one more thing: This was a time when a major musician felt no qualms about leaving his instruments unattended at the world's busiest airport.
Years later, as I mentioned elsewhere, I worked on a Stephen King movie in the town of Ellsworth, Maine. One day I saw a flyer in town for a concert that very night with Noel Paul Stookey, who lived a few miles down the road in Blue Hill. I showed up, but it was all sold out -- however a father and son had a spare ticket to sell, so I got in. The concert was wonderful, and I was tempted afterwards to go back stage and say, "Hi! Remember me?!"
Anyway, in honor of baseball, here's "Right Field." By my good buddy, Noel Paul Stookey.
(By the way, much as I love this song, my favorite moment might be the look of knowing recognition from two women 49 seconds in. The cameraman and director lucked out big time.)
Robert J. Elisberg is a political commentator, screenwriter, novelist, tech writer and also some other things that I just tend to keep forgetting.
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