Thursday, March 26, 2009

Whistle that happy tune

I'm about to reveal one of the most humbling admissions of my life. Are you ready for this?

I can't remember with any great detail, no matter how hard I try, the 1957 World Series in which my childhood heroes, the Milwaukee Braves, vanquished the New York Yankees for their only world championship. I know everything there is to know about that classic seven-game set because baseball documents everything. I've listened to the radio accounts and watched video highlights. I remember collecting baseball cards of players with names like Adcock, Conley, Mantilla, Pizzaro, Pafko and Rice.

I've got a Bob Hazle signature model glove, and I even named two dogs after Braves pitchers from that miracle team: Spahnie (for Warren Spahn) and Lewie (for Lew Burdette -- who notched three complete-game victories, including the clincher at Yankee Stadium).

But I'll be damned if I can remember the intimate details of that glorious autumn in Wisconsin when "Bushville'' -- a name coined by a New York writer -- beat the bullies from the Bronx.

My excuse? I was barely 5 years old. Which doesn't really get me off the hook. People have earlier memories than that. Even I do. I can't remember listening to the '57 Series on the radio, yet I have vivid recollections about that same time of watching, with eyes wide open, "The Bridge on the River Kwai'' on the big screen at the Pix Theatre. (It's possible the movie didn't play in the tiny outpost of Whitehall until the following year. But still...)

And I remember a neighbor kid, just a year older than me, whistling that marching song everywhere he went. I can still see him strutting down Irvin Street, past our Whiffle Ball field, on his way to somewhere. You know the song, right? The proud British prisoners whistled it as they marched defiantly through the Japanese POW camp. It's widely known as "The River Kwai Marching Song'' but in fact it is the "Colonel Bogey March'' and was written more than 40 years earlier by a British military bandmaster who was taking shots at the menacing Chancellor of Germany.

(Just how did we get from a seven-game Series to a movie that won seven Academy Awards? We built a bridge, silly...)

The song supposedly has lyrics, but was whistled in the movie because the words were too "rude'' to be used. Something about Hitler only having one ball (and if that's true Eva Braun missed out on a great book title).

Me, I'm glad they whistled it. I might just whistle it today while recalling the chilling words of Commander Shears (William Holden):

"I'd say the odds against a successful escape are about 100 to 1. But may I add another word, Colonel? The odds against survival in this camp are even worse.''

And we think we've got it bad.


  1. Spahn and Sain and pray for rain ...

  2. Hammerin' Hank Aaron, in just his fourth year in the majors, hit 44 homes runs that season for the Braves - the first of four times he hit exactly that number.
    Which prompted the Braves' old club house manager to exclaim one day, "I sure wish't I'd given that fella No. 57!"