Archive for the ‘Columns’ Category

>Signs of the times

Posted: April 13, 2009 in Columns, Uncategorized

This morning, like many others, I stopped at the AM/PM to buy an energy drink on the way to work. What can I say? I have three kids, don’t get enough sleep, and need a little boost. Let me have my one vice, okay?

But unlike other mornings I have performed this mundane task, today I noticed a collective theme – that of everyday people scraping along in this dismal economy. As I stepped out of my car I noticed a beat up van with the door smashed in pulling into a nearby parking space. The woman in the passenger seat had to use the window to get out of the car. I guess they didn’t have the money to pay the insurance deductible to fix the inoperative door.

Then I went inside and a man was paying for $6 worth of gas. Not since my high school years when gas was less than a dollar a gallon had I seen someone buying such a small amount of fuel. That’s fewer than 3 gallons of gas. How far can you go on that? The man was dressed in business attire, sans a tie. Probably a cubicle dweller somewhere in Sacramento, or maybe a government worker. He must have been down to his last couple of bucks before payday and needed just enough gas to eke by.

When my time at the cash register came, I had my own “slow economy” moment as I opened my wallet and found a single dollar in there. My wife isn’t working right now and we’ve been squeezing every penny. I don’t take out a lot of cash these days from the ATM and we try to economize whenever possible, so I just didn’t realize how low I was on cash. Embarrassed that I came up short on my measly $2.50 purchase, I left my Rockstar Energy Drink on the counter and ran out to my car to scrape another $1.50 out of the dusty change bin in the center console of my car. Luckily, I had enough coin to complete my purchase, and the guy working the register was understanding.

But now I don’t have even that single buck in my wallet. Guess I’ll try to stretch for a few days without my morning energy drink fix. We’ve all got to make sacrifices these days. Perhaps I can find a coupon somewhere. At least I know from my observations this morning that I’m not the only one facing the crunch…

>Whether you are from Michigan or not, Detroit suburbs or the U.P., read this:
The Courage of Detroit

>(From Cache Chronicle)

The kids are fighting over the remote control while the baby pulls over a glass on the coffee table, spilling orange juice into your laptop. Simultaneously, the dog deposits the remains of his lunch on the carpet by the front door as the phone rings and your mother chides you for not visiting in over a month. You’re late for work and you’ve hit ignore on your cell phone three times since the alarm went off this morning. Add to this that you’re an hour late for work, there’s no gas in your car, and you have a meeting first thing for which you haven’t begun to prepare.

Our worlds have become increasingly fast paced, and all of this frenetic activity means one thing: STRESS. How can we relieve some of this stress and avoid the inevitable nervous breakdown? Try a few of these tips.

1. Exercise. I know you are thinking, “Where will I find the time?” You don’t have to run a marathon, just add a little more activity to your life. Take a walk on your lunch break, use the stairs instead of the elevator, or motivate the whole family to take a walk after dinner. Shoot some hoops with the kids. Stress is released from the body from physical exertion.

2. Eat better. Switching from a donut to oatmeal for breakfast will trim your waistline and make you feel better about yourself. It will also help to fuel you up for the day. If you’re more energized to tackle the tasks at hand, you won’t feel as stressed.

3. Write it out. Not everyone is a writer, but anyone can journal their feelings onto a piece of paper, into a word document on their laptop, or even on a Blog. Getting out the feelings of frustration in written form has a cathartic affect on the mind.

4. Cut back on the stimulants. Yes, many of us cannot function without that morning cup of coffee. But are two or three cups really necessary? If you’re too wired up, it can affect your stress levels, and it isn’t healthy either. Drink less coffee and soda.

5. Drink in moderation. It may seem like a beer at the end of the day can relax us and relieve a little stress, but drinking every day and drinking more than one or two drinks at a time isn’t healthy, and isn’t really relieving stress as much as it’s masking it.

6. Practice relaxation techniques. If your body is relaxed, it isn’t feeling the effects of stress. Try meditation, yoga, relaxed breathing techniques, or other methods to slow down for a few minutes each day and get in touch with your self.

7. Manage your time better. Use a planner, Microsoft Outlook’s calendar, your smart phone or personal digital assistant to organize your day more efficiently. The more orderly your life is, the less stressed you’ll be, and you’ll also be less apt to schedule multiple commitments at the same time.

8. Make lists. Make a list for yourself on your phone, computer, or paper of what you need to do, and you won’t feel so overwhelmed. Tackle one task at a time and mark them off when they’re completed. It’s a satisfying feeling to eliminate each job from the list.

9. Do something you enjoy, even if only for few minutes each day. Garden, do a Sudoku puzzle, swing the golf club, or walk the dog. Life is short. You have to leave some time for fun. If you have something fun to look forward to each day, all of that hard work will seem more worth it.

10. Learn to say no. Having too many commitments is the reason why we feel stressed. There just isn’t enough time in the day to do everything. You don’t have to volunteer for every work assignment, every school committee, and to coach all of the kids’ sports. Pick a few of these and do them well. Relax and let someone else volunteer for the rest of those positions. You don’t have to save the whole world all by yourself.

Associate Editor

In this drive-through, online, wireless, digital, surround sound, super-sized, high speed, direct billed, no-interest, instant messenger, instant gratification lifestyle we’ve developed, it’s easy to fast forward through life, and to gauge ourselves strictly by our accomplishments.
But life — real life — is lived in the day to day, nine to five existence.
It’s lived in the little moments in-between, the footnotes to greater things. Gratification doesn’t come from punching the clock on another day, week, or month. It comes in unique moments, like seeing your newborn child’s face for the first time, a smile from your wife after the pain of labor has subsided, and the look on people’s faces when they renew their relationship with the miracle of life.
These little moments, or side excursions, make life livable – as long as we remember to live in those moments, those golden instances that fade too quickly if we let them.
How easy is it to forget what’s important? Family, friends, having a little fun once in a while…
It’s pretty damn easy.
Until something comes along to remind us why we enjoy living. Why we try. Why we find the reason to smile, or laugh, or enjoy ourselves.
And we once again renew our faith in the value of life, re-evaluate what’s important, and try to set out once again to live like we once promised ourselves we would.
I’ve experienced moments like this several times. Most notably on Wednesday, March 24, at 10:30 a.m., Friday, April 13, at 3:15 a.m., Thursday, Sept. 1 at a time that is now unremembered. On each of those days, a miracle occurred. A miracle that occurs every day in every corner of the world – hell, in every corner of the universe for all we know.
On each one of those days, I met my children for the first time. Two through the miracle of birth, and one through the miracle of sacrifice that comes from adoption. Those moments are about new life, the continuation of life, the perseverance of humankind.
They’re a lot bigger — and a whole lot heavier — in the scheme of things, than worrying about the little things, like a promotion at work, bills, or rush hour traffic.
For these children, five months, three years, and eight years old, the whole world lies ahead. Anything can happen. They can live to do anything they want to do. The possibilities are endless.
You can’t put a price on that.
It’s easy to take these life changing moments for granted, but we do ourselves a great injustice if we do. Those who are truly happy, are the ones who seize the moment, seize the feeling, and revel in it. This sounds corny, and cliché, and that’s why we refuse to realize it.
Because too often in life, we fast forward through the new beginnings, the fresh starts, the arcs in the story line.
We rush through the little moments to get to the next great part of our existence, but the living of the little moments suffers, and is forgotten, or the significance of these little slices of real life are lost.
When I was eight, I only wanted to be 10 — so I’d be in the double digits. When I was a teenager, I just wanted to be 16 so I could drive a car. Then I counted down the days until I was able to go to college, then marked the calendar until graduation, getting married, having kids, buying a house…until there was no living in the now, just marking time until the next level was achieved.
At every step, I’ve been working to make it to the next step, because every next step, I thought, would finally make me the happiest. All the while, I should have realized that I was already happy, and I should have appreciated what I already had.
Life isn’t in the next step. It isn’t necessarily what’s around the corner. Life has to be lived in the here and now, in the daily grind, in the evening meal, the little league game, helping the kids with homework, sharing a movie with a spouse, even cleaning the house or doing yard work.
These little moments “in between” are what we’ll wish for years from now, and what we’ll miss when it’s too late. Not the promotions, the monetary windfalls, the toys and houses we buy, or the prizes we win as we travel along in this plane of existence.
Because the joy in life is the new birth, the laugh shared with children, the shared experience with a best friend, a birthday party, a hockey game, or a half hour in the park throwing the frisbee to the dog.
And once these moments are gone, these little “life vignettes,” they can’t be recaptured with videotape, film, or on a digital hard drive.
They’re gone before you know it.
That’s why we have to live for today, and recognize what’s important.
It’s the journey, not the destination that counts.
Cean Burgeson can be reached at:

Associate Editor

I have known my best friend for over 30 years. We’ve kept in touch despite what parts of the state or country we’ve lived in, throughout each stage of our lives since grade school.
That is a long time to maintain a friendship, and it has had every chance to falter, fail, or fall to the wayside, but it hasn’t.
With email, cell phones, and instant messenger, it isn’t so hard to keep in touch with those we care for — or so it would seem.
There are friends I had in high school, or college, or in other cities I’ve lived in, that I have since Googled and can no longer find.
Some of these are friends I saw every day at work, or even roomates I lived with for a couple of years.
And forget about finding old friends of the female persuasion. Most change their last name when they get married and become almost impossible to track down.
So what makes us keep some friends but not others?
What is the glue that holds some friendships together, but doesn’t bind them all?
There appears to be different classes of friendship. We have the one best friend, or group of good friends, the ones you would take a bullet for or hide a murder weapon for if asked, and then there’s whole other classifications of friends.
There’s the work friend, who, you might hang out with once in a while, or get a beer with after work, but once you get a new job, the tie is lost and you dont’ really talk anymore.
There’s the high school and college friends who tend to move away, move on, and lose touch, scattering into the wind like dry leaves after graduation.
The friends who tend to drop off of the radar the fastest are the “friends of a friend.” These are acquaintences who we only know through someone else. Occassionally, we hit it off with one of these folks, and they graduate to a friend first-class, but usually they fade away once the mutual friend you both share moves on.
This is similar to the friend through marriage. These are the people you hang with because they are your spouse’s friends, or the boyfriend/girlfriend of your friend. If you want to chill with your buddy, you have to endure their romantic partner, whether you like them or not. Break-ups or divorces end these acquaintences quickly.
What really gets awkward is when you hit it off with this third party friend, and continue to stay friendly once the relationship is over. Divorce the spouse, and the friends go with him/her.
I guess the big questions is: What makes us keep in touch with some people, but not make the extra effort with others?
With me, it’s often a three strike process. I move to a new town, maybe share a few phone calls or emails with a friend from the old town, and once they don’t return a call or an email three times, they fall from the frequent friend list.
Pretty soon months and years pass, and they’re ancient history.
My really good friends will call back, and I will call them back. It just isn’t worth the effort to keep up a one way friendship.
There is an exception to the three strike rule, however. We all have those friends who are just lazy, or scattered, who aren’t really good at getting back to us, but once you do connect with them, you both feel as if you’ve never lost touch. These friends require extra care and feeding, and patience, but usually are worth it.
That old saying really does apply. Good friends can go a long time without speaking or seeing each other, and just pick right up where they left off.
So, the answer to why we keep some pals and lose others really boils down to how much we want to work to keep in touch, and how worthwhile it is. And how good we feel when we keep in touch with them.
So, if you haven’t touched base with a friend in a while, call, or email, or instant messenger, fax, or do whatever you have to do to keep the lines of communication open.
Don’t let them fall into the abyss of ex-friendshipdom. It’s a lonely place, populated by old work friends, friend of friends, and other assorted characters who didn’t cut the mustard.
Cean Burgeson can be reached at:

Associate Editor

Canoeing. The word doesn’t look right. It totally breaks that rule about dropping the “e” before adding “ing.”
Or maybe the word just looks strange because it’s been so long since I’ve actually done it. That’s why I jumped on the chance to take part of the Forest Festival canoe tour of the Big Manistee River on Tuesday.
I figured I already had a canoe that wasn’t being used, so why not?
You see, I’ve had a canoe for almost 13 years, and I can count on one hand the number of times I have actually put paddle to water while sitting in it. We received it as a wedding gift from one of my wife Tiana’s dads (long story). At the time, we were kind of land-locked, living in an apartment in Lansing. So the canoe lived at my mother-in-law’s house for a while.
Then we moved to Washington D.C. The canoe stayed behind. A few years later, we moved to Los Angeles. The canoe stayed behind. Somehow — and I don’t recollect how — the canoe moved around on its own. I think it was at my other father-in-law’s house for a while, and then somehow ended up at my parent’s little piece of land on Little Platte Lake in Honor. There wasn’t even a house there back then, just land. I think we had it with us when we rented a house on Little Platte, too, but its all fuzzy now. For at least the last eight years, it has sat overturned on the bank of Little Platte Lake, awaiting some action.
What I’m trying to impart is that the canoe moved around a lot, and saw very little paddle time. Which is odd, because I used to take a canoe trip every June with my father and some other father/son duo’s as a kid. We canoed rivers all over the state — even the U.P. We would research which rivers were the fastest, or most challenging, and off we’d go the first weekend of June each summer to tackle ‘em.
We would always camp out, and spend a whole day on selected waterways, racing each other, tipping each other over, and generally doing that male bonding thing that we guys do. We even canoed a river with all of our camping gear once, camped overnight in the middle of nowhere just at the river’s edge, and then got up the next day and did it all over again.
That ritual of canoeing went on for years, until we reached college age. I don’t think I’ve been in a canoe with dad since. My wife and I went a couple of times while we were dating, and that was the last canoe trip for me. And as I recall, they were all good times.
So it really surprises me that I went so long without hitting the river again. I guess jobs, kids, and the other time restrictions imposed by a 21st century existence sometimes crowd out simple, enjoyable activities like a good float down a lazy stream.
Fast forward to Tuesday, when I convinced sports editor Matt Wenzel to come with me for a paddle session. I tried to practice canoeing by myself on the lake once a few weeks ago, and the front of the canoe tilted up at an alarming angle, making it difficult to either steer or see. So I needed some weight in the front.
That’s where Matt came in.
He made better conversation than a bucket full of rocks, and could pass back treats from the cooler to me. Plus I found out he makes a darn good spotter/steerer.
I’m proud to say we had zero collisions, and not even a single close call. Pretty good, considering we were out of practice. I suppose canoeing is like riding a bike. Once you’ve got it, you never lose it.
For two city boys, who weren’t even sure where the boat launch was initially, it was nice to just float, make simple course corrections once in a while, and enjoy the trip. We saw a couple of big birds, fish, what looked like some sort of river mammal who swam right in front of the boat, and some fishermen and other assorted gawkers along the shore (see Matt’s column.)
The trip was quiet, serene, and un-cluttered with the auditory graffitti of daily life. No television, radio, traffic noise, or telephones ringing. For a few hours, we unplugged from the world, and reset our brains.
Seems like everyone could stand to do that once in a while.
Cean Burgeson can be reached at:

Associate Editor

My three-year-old yellow lab’s name is Gunnar. But his name should be tow-truck.
I’ll explain.
I have been an on-again off-again runner for over 20 years. I’ve done one marathon — probably my last — and a couple of triathlons, along with several 5K’s and 10K’s to round things out. I wouldn’t say that I’m a great runner. I’m not fast, and I don’t ever win my age group.
But I enjoy running, and it makes me feel good. So I try to run a couple of times a week when the weather is nice. And I also like to exercise Gunnar. He gets plenty of exercise during bird hunting season, but the winter leaves him a little chunky. It just isn’t fun to take him outside for a walk during the bitter, cold, northern Michigan winter. So, it only made sense that I drag him along on my 5K workout runs.
Usually, he keeps up with me just fine. With his boundless energy and four legs, he stays just a bit ahead of me, sometimes pulling at the length of his leash. The only time I ever outlasted him on a run was when I foolishly took him on a five mile run. About halfway through, he just gave up and sat down. I tried to pull him along, but he refused to move his little legs. He was like one of those stubborn old mules in an old Laurel and Hardy film.
It turns out, he isn’t completely destructible. He can get tired. He does get overheated.
But at the 3.1 mile distance I usually do, he is a fantastic running partner. And a good motivator too. That’s why I said I should re-name him tow-truck, because when I’m dragging a little bit, maybe because I didn’t get enough sleep, or I ran the first half of my workout too fast, or simply because I’m not in the mood to run, he tows me along.
Gunnar keeps pressing on, keeps those paws pounding the pavement, and looks back at me with a “c’mon, man, put it in gear” kind of look. And that gets me going again.
He does exactly what you want a good running partner to do. He helps me through the rough spots.
There are some days when I really don’t want to work out, and I see him sitting by the door with that drooly perma-grin that says “where are you going? We’ve got work to do, partner.” I try to ignore him, but the guilt overcomes me more often than not, and we at least go on a brisk walk if we can’t make it for a full running session.
I’ve run with friends, co-workers, and in running clubs — but the best running partner I’ve ever had is a furry yellow guy with a Scandinavian name who used to eat his own poop when he was little.
In fact, the only drawback to running with him is the occasional, shall we say, by-product, that I have to clean up after him when the run is over. But I suppose it’s the price to pay for his friendship, and his companionship.
So, as long as he is able — and I’m willing — I’ll continue to use him for motivation to exercise, and I’m sure he’ll continue to follow me out the front door and down the driveway for our two or three time per week running sessions. You’ll see us out there, along the side of the road — sometimes with me pulling him along, other times with him pulling me along.
Mostly with him pulling me along.
Cean Burgeson can be reached at:

Associate Editor

About 14 years ago, I was blissfully unaware of how a motorcycle would change my life forever.
Single and working my first job as a legislative aide at the state capitol, I had few cares in the world. The rent on my tiny, slightly furnished studio apartment was relatively easy to meet each month, and the only other bills I had were a small monthly fee for the privelege of driving my Geo Tracker, and payments on a $500 credit card balance.
My days were spent toiling away at my little government job, and the nights were wasted on cheap beer and free bands at any one of East Lansing or Lansing’s assorted taverns. It was at one of those beer gardens that a mutual friend introduced me to a cute, curly-haired girl on a noisy Thursday evening.
After a few minutes of light conversation, the time came for us to part ways, and I felt the courage to ask her out slipping away. Then she said something that made my ears perk up.
“I have a motorcycle — you should take a ride with me,” she said.
That’s when I knew I had to get to know this girl better. How cool is a chick with a motorcycle? I got her number and asked her out a few days later.
If you haven’t guessed already, that motorcycle chick eventually agreed to become my wife, Tiana. We’ll celebrate our lucky 13th wedding anniversary in August.
The funny thing about her saying I could take a ride with her was that she hates riding with someone on the back of her bike. You see, my wife’s somewhat of an independent spirit, especially when it comes to the cycle. I can remember only a few times (maybe two) that I actually got to take that ride she promised.
So, the only way I could really ride the bike was by myself — if she would let me. And she wouldn’t let me until I took the state certified motorcycle class and passed to get my motorcycle endorsement. Which I did.
And then I got to ride the bike.
When we were first married, we were flat broke. College bills, credit card bills, and all the costs associated with starting a new marriage kept us poor but happy. With finances tight, that old Yamaha of my wife’s became our second car.
Rain, shine — or even snow sometimes — one of us would ride the motorcycle to work, while the other drove the car. Until one day we finally had enough money to buy a second car. So the motorcycle sat.
And sat.
The demands of work and other diversions of life kept us from even taking pleasure rides on the bike. That’s when Tiana was offered a job in Washington D.C. It didn’t make sense for us to take the bike with us, so we sold it.
When two guys showed up at our door to pick the cycle up, it wouldn’t even start anymore. It had done it’s duty. The machine which had opened the door to our relationship moved on to greener pastures.
We went years without buying another motorcycle. Despite moving to Washington D.C. and later Los Angeles, we both kept our motorcycle endorsements current on our drivers’ licenses, hoping that one day we might again eventually buy another bike.
It wasn’t until over 10 years later that I got a call from Tiana while she was down in Detroit on a business trip. “I’ve found a bike and I fell in love with it. Can I get it?” she asked.
How could I say no?
So we became the proud owners of a 1989 Harley Davidson Sportster. It had a flashier paint job than our old bike. It was 1200 cc’s compared to the old Yamaha’s 550. I’ll admit, it’s a cool bike.
With gas prices soaring, I like to ride the cycle to work now. Six dollars worth of high-test gas will last me weeks. And it’s a blast riding down the road with the wind in my face, my shirt blowing back, and nothing but sunshine and road dust between me and the rest of world.
But I have to admit, I wonder sometimes, what ever happened to that old Yamaha. Is it sitting in a junkyard or backyard somewhere, rusting and unused? Or is it in someone’s garage, lovingly cared for and enjoyed by an owner who somehow senses the magic and history the bike had for a couple of it’s owners from over a decade ago.
I like to think the latter.
Cean Burgeson can be reached at:

>In their hands (MNA April 07)

Posted: April 17, 2007 in Columns


Associate Editor

We all make mistakes at work. Here at the newspaper, mistakes are hard to take sometimes, because thousands of people see them when they happen. It can be embarrassing, but it isn’t the end of the world.
And no matter how bad we feel when we commit a blunder here at the News Advocate, we can issue a correction for our faux pas, and move on to publish the paper another day.
But not all career paths have this much latitude. And not all jobs have the same stress level.
This became evident to me as I watched the staff of the obstetrics unit work on Thursday and Friday at West Shore Medical Center to deliver the newest Burgeson: Owen Cean.
I know that when I make a mistake, spell a name wrong, or mis-spell a word, I get a phone call, or a snicker from a co-worker, or in the worst case scenario, someone sends me a nasty E-mail or leaves me a biting voicemail.
And it gets me down sometimes. I know that it really shouldn’t, though. I certainly don’t have that stressful or critical a job compared to other fields.
Sometimes it’s important to step back and put our jobs into perspective, because when folks in the medical profession make a miscalculation, lives are at stake.
You wouldn’t know it from watching these professionals work, though. They are courteous, kind, able, and competent. Their jobs, whether it is nurse, doctor, or other specialist, require knowledge in medicine, technology, and even psychology. The latter may be the most important of all at times.
And they deserve some credit, because people who are sick, injured, or in pain certainly aren’t the best customers. So, it takes a very special kind of person to work in the medical field.
We’re lucky to have a fantastic group of individuals working at our local hospital. Some Manistee residents may travel to Traverse City or Cadillac for treatment or for the birth of their child, but, as more than one staff member at West Shore told me last weekend, patients tell them that, “once they have a child here, they won’t go anywhere else.”
Watching the local O.B. team work, it was easy to see why this statement is true.
We had our first child in a huge hospital in Pasadena, just outside of Los Angeles. We arrived in the wee hours of the morning to find that none of the delivery rooms were available, and we were forced to wait in a triage area with other laboring mothers until a room opened up. Our doctor was spread so thin that night, it felt like he was only with us for the last ten minutes of the delivery to make sure he made an appearance.
The nurses and other staff were friendly, but we were only one of many priorities that night, and we didn’t get a chance to really connect with the staff like we did here in Manistee. And once our birth was over, we were quickly ushered into a hospital room so someone else could slide into our birthing room.
That’s the reality of treatment at a large hospital. It isn’t a slam on those folks. They have a lot on their plates. And we still had a good experience.
I can’t tell you the name of any of the people who helped deliver my son eight years ago, though, but I won’t soon forget about Mary, Wendy, Rosie, Karen, Dr. Joanette, and the other warm individuals who made our delivery and stay at West Shore so easy and stress free. I apologize if I’m leaving anyone out — there wasn’t one person we had contact with who wasn’t pleasant and helpful. Thank you to each one of you.
So, as much as I sometimes miss living in the “big city,” with access to shopping malls, 24-hour video stores, pharmacies, and all-night fast food outlets, I don’t regret having my third and final child in small town Manistee.
We couldn’t have asked for a better experience.
I came out of the birth of my second son four days ago with something (besides a healthy little eight pound wrinkly guy). It was the knowledge and reminder that medical professionals everywhere deserve our respect and gratitude, especially here in Manistee — because our lives are literally ‘in their hands.’
Cean Burgeson can be reached at:

Associate Editor

Spring means many things. Warmer temperatures, budding flowers, the return of tourist season. But there is one thing that spring means to me more than anything else.
The Burgesons all play baseball. It’s a long-standing tradition in my family, starting with my grandfather. Millard was quite the ball-player in his time. As near as I can tell, he played since he was a lad. I’ve found some old box scores and news clippings about him, and apparently he was a member of a few different teams in his youth. From what I can tell, he played amateur ball for a club called the Moose in Bay City. He also played for a Knights of Columbus team and another team called Berdan Bread.
One clipping says that the Knights team was the American League champ of the City Amateur Federation. That’s grandpa in the photo there, circa 1933 in his Knights uniform. According to my grandfather, his career as a starter began when he was riding the pine as a backup infielder. The regular third baseman misjudged a line drive and took a hot shot off of his forehead. He had to be taken from the field as a result of the injury, so the coach said, “Burgeson, get in there.”
From then on he played mostly infield, and had some noted play in a few of the clippings, until he was drafted into the Army. After he was captured by the Germans while fighting in Italy, he spent almost three years in a prisoner of war camp in Moosberg, Germany. In an amazing coincidence, one of his former teammates on that championship K of C team, a sergeant in the air corps, was brought to the same P.O.W. camp where he was interned, and the two were able to reunite and help each other to survive for 34 weeks until they were both liberated by advancing Allied troops.
I wonder how much of their talk during those long days of confinement turned to their time playing baseball?
After he got back from the war, I’m not sure how much grandpa played, but he was always available to play catch with me growing up, right up until the time he got sick before his death. He also played whiffle ball with my dad, my uncles, and me every summer at the lake. I’ve even seen him play a few times with the OPC (Older Persons Center) softball team well into his retirement from the Detroit court system.
My father played baseball growing up, too, and there are some old family slides of him and his brothers in those saggy old-time baseball uniforms from the 1950’s and ’60s. He played on and off as he got older, and played softball for years while I was growing up. Once I got older, I played on some adult league teams and many church league teams with my dad, with him usually at second base and me at short, completing double plays against the Catholic and Methodist church teams in my hometown of Rochester Hills.
Before that, I played in that YMCA league from T-ball on up, playing mostly shortstop, and loved it like nothing else. Our teams were never great, and somehow were always relegated the sponsors from the lower end of the spectrum, such as an obscure hardware store out near the county line, and we got the team colors nobody else wanted, like green shirts and brown hats. We were the team made up of kids from the other side of the tracks, and would often fall to the much better dressed power-house teams like Keim Realty, populated with players somehow recruited from other districts, despite the denial of the league organizers. Every once in a while, though, our ragged bunch of Bad News Bears would beat the kids from the nice side of town, making it all worthwhile.
When given the choice between playing soccer, flag football, or baseball, I chose baseball. And I was obsessed with being the best I could be. I’d bounce a tennis ball off of the garage door and field it, over and over again. Before that, I had one of those springy nets that I could bounce the ball off of for fielding practice, and I took grounders off of that until it finally fell apart. For fly-ball training, the sloped roof of the garage provided hours of workouts as I’d throw the ball up onto the peak and catch the ball as it rolled down and off of the roof. I even rigged a hard ball on a rope from one of the old apple trees in our back yard to practice hitting with. My dad was the coach, just as his father coached him, so we had all the bats, balls, and other equipment which allowed me to practice all summer long.
And I practiced as much as I could.
Of course, as most kids do, I would wait for my dad to come home, exhausted from his job as a retail manager, so he could play catch with me. I know that he must have been tired, but he almost always would throw a couple hot grounders, fly balls, and hard tosses to me before it got dark — and sometimes it was a heavy shade of twilight when he would finally tell me “three more throws, and then back inside.”
I played the “Y” league until I was old enough to play on the junior high, and then high school teams. After high school, I played in every intramural softball or adult league team I could find until the demands of fatherhood years later eventually made playing ball a luxury my time could no longer afford.
When I was younger, I got to go to Tiger games at the old park quite a few times with my dad, and I would always buy a program and keep score, a habit I continue until this day every time I go to a game. I feel privileged to have been a guest there in the late ’70s through the early ’90s. And I’m happy to say that I went to a game in 1984, when the Tigers made all metro-Detroiters’ dreams come true in that magical wire to wire championship year. I’ve been to Comerica Park, and it’s nice, but Tiger Stadium had so much history and charm — it’s hard to think of the Tigers playing in their new modern-day park without pining a bit for the old days.
But, in baseball, as in life, things have to change, and one of those changes is that I don’t play much baseball any more. But I’m not sad.
This year, my son starts little league, after starting his career playing T-ball and machine pitch. So, I still get to play with him and show him the benefit of the baseball knowledge my grandfather and dad passed down to me in the Burgeson family sport — baseball.
Cean Burgeson can be reached at: