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Aubrey Bruce

Aubrey Bruce

“Memories light the corners of my mind.  Misty water-colored memories of the way we were. Scattered pictures of the smiles we left behind.  Smiles we gave to one another for the way we were. Can it be that it was all so simple then, Or has time rewritten every line.  If we had the chance to do it all again, tell me, would we, could we. Memories may be beautiful and yet. What’s too painful to remember we simply choose to forget. So it’s the laughter we will remember. Whenever we remember the way we were.” – Lyrics from the Barbra Streisand song, “The way we were.”

At PNC Park on the day before Memorial Day 2015, the Pittsburgh Pirates smacked around a very beat up and injured New York Mets squad by the score of 9-1, sweeping a three game series from the boys from “the Big Apple. I was standing at the press elevator immediately after the game, when a member of the New York media corps remarked that “in light of all of the injuries that the Mets have recently suffered, they resembled a team [just entering] spring training.”

That being said, I was pleasantly surprised around the top of the 2nd inning when former Pirates relief pitching great Kent Tekulve sat down in the press box in the seat next to me.  Tekulve was in between his duties as one of the Pirates commentators’ for Root Sports.  I immediately struck up a conversation with him and it made a very pleasant baseball day, that much better.

I spoke about the late lead singer for the Spinners, Phillipe Wynne, dying from a heart attack at the age of forty-three in Los Angeles shortly after he had concluded a performance. Wynne was the singer of the song; “Rubber Band Man” one of the fan friendly “anthems” associated with the Pirates 1979 World Series Championship season.

(Photo by J. Meric/Getty Images)

Kent Tekulve (Photo by J. Meric/Getty Images)

“Teke” said  he” had also suffered a heart attack [in his 50s.]  I was also a bit surprised when he gave me his next bit of information.  “The song “rubber band man was originally meant for Pirates pitcher Bruce Kison but Kison didn’t really like the song,” he said with the memory bringing a smile across his face, “so the Pirates organist, the late Vince Lascheid, began to use the song every time I would open the gate to exit the bullpen to enter the game.”

After he exited to go back to work the memory of our just completed encounter stuck with me.

Ladies and gentlemen for those of you who may not know, Kent Tekulve was not only a great performer and competitor on and off the field, he was and continues to be a quality human being. Tekulve himself has encountered occasional health issues as well. He leaned over and shared a few stats with me, but mostly we just talked about how good it was to be covering the Pirates on such a glorious day.

For an old and sometimes sickly sports scribe I felt great discussing the Pittsburgh Pirates legendary past with a real, live Pirates griot.

I was struck by his humility and his humanity. As I glanced around the ballpark it dawned on me that the little ones, with their faces painted and their home made, “let’s go Bucs’” signs, will in the not-so-distant future be the fifty-somethings reminiscing about the good old days when Andrew McCutchen roamed the outfield and Gerrit Cole was staring down hitters.

We should always remember the soldiers, who have served unselfishly, some even sacrificing their very lives to preserve our way of life and our ancestral heritage.  And we should never forget the Pittsburgh Pirates of yesteryear that through their grit and determination ushered joy into our daily lives, bringing dignity and victory to a town that no so long ago was known and remembered only as the “smoky city.”   Memories light the corners of my mind.  Misty water-colored memories of the way we were.

Aubrey Bruce can be reached at: abruce@newpittsburghcourier.com or 412.583.6741

He is also a contributing columnist for urbanmediatoday.com

Follow him on Twitter@ultrascribe

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