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Antique Victorian Photo Brooch Pin Baby Girl Mourning Sweetheart
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$199.50
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OLD OLD Vintage Mourning Items Including FABULOUS BLACK Flower DECO Pin
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INTERESTING VICTORIAN PORTRAIT MOURNING PIN BROOCH PORCELAIN BISQUE RHINESTONES
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$337.00
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VINTAGE 10K YELLOW GOLD MOURNING PIN WITH HAIR
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MOURNING VINTAGE LARGE BOLD ORIENTAL MAN ON BLACK GLASS GOLD TONED PIN BROOCH
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Antique Victorian Gold Filled Seed Pearl Onyx Hair Mourning Jewelry Pin Brooch
$185.00
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$45.00
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14k Victorian Swivel Articulated Mourning Enamel Hair Pin Brooch Solid Gold
$495.00
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$225.00
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Victorian Onyx Jet Gold Filled Mourning Pin Brooch Pendant
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Antique Victorian French Jet Mourning Black Glass Large Pin Brooch BU19
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NOW REDUCED VICTORIAN MOURNING PENDANT PIN HANDPAINTED ENAMEL 800 SILVER SIGNED
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Victorian 14K Gold Genuine Black Onyx Diamond Mourning Brooch Pin Antique Rare
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$61.00
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Two Victorian Edwardian Chalcedony Gold Mourning Pins
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ANTIQUE VICTORIAN ENGLISH CREPE STONE MOURNING BAR PIN WITH SQUARE
$95.00
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VICTORIAN ANTIQUE GOLD FILLED HAIR MOURNING PIN
$145.00
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Vintage Art Deco Mourning Photograph Picture Pin Brooch Boy Scouts Lot 2 Pieces
$20.69
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vintage PIN brooch CIVIL WAR era daguerreotype mourning optical illusion man
$350.00
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ANTIQUE MOURNING PIN AMETHYST 10 k GOLD
$190.00
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14K Black Enamel Seed Pearl Mourning Bar Pin Brooch Yellow Gold
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VICTORIAN ANTIQUE MOURNING 14K GOLD BLACK ONYX TEARS NATURAL SEED PEARL PIN
$395.00
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Large Vintage Intaglio Mourning Pin Can Also Be Worn As A Pendant
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True Victorian Antique 925 Sterling Marcasite Bar Collar Pin Brooch Mourning 10g
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ANTIQUE 14K SOLID YELLOW GOLD ONYX RECTANGULAR MOURNING PIN BROOCH
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Gold Filled Victorian Rose Cut Diamond Blue Glass Fabric Memento Mourning Pin
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Antique Victorian Small Brass Enamel Photograph Brooch Pin 1 1 8 Mourning
$55.97
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Antique Mourning pin 10k Gold braided hair
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Mourning Pin

Mourning Pin

Pastime summer

PASTIME SUMMER 1965

Jan Sumner


THIS WOULD BE THE LAST HOPEFUL SUMMER of my baseball career, and it would be the most memorable.

Back in the 1960s, summer baseball for college students centered on what was then called "semi-pro" ball. It was a mixture of college ballplayers and an eclectic group of older guys, some of whom had played professional baseball at various levels. It was, for the most part, very competitive. For me, it was my first summer away from the high school legion programs. To say it was an interesting transition would be putting it mildly. I would grow up a lot that summer, not the least of which was altruistically.

 

President John Kennedy had been assassinated seven months prior, and there was a sense of mourning still hanging over the country. I, like many other Americans, didn't believe it when first told. It was my freshman year at Colorado State College (now the University of Northern Colorado), and we were eating in the dorm cafeteria, when a student ran in and yelled, "The President's been shot," then turned and ran out. I was sitting with a couple of buddies, one of whom turned to me and said, "Yeah, sure, and his wife ran off with an Arab prince." We made our way to the TV lounge, and there he was…Walter Cronkite mournfully telling us the unthinkable. Where we were, what we were doing, and who we were with, circumstances we would never forget.

 

That year in the majors leagues the St. Louis Cards won the World Series beating the Yankees in seven games. I'd grown up a Brooklyn Dodgers fan, so anyone who defeated the boys in pin stripes was a friend of mine. Plus the Cards had the great Bob Gibson, my favorite right hander of all time, so that made it doubly delicious.

 

I was nineteen years old in 1964, and a pitcher. Or at least I thought I was a pitcher. That same year Wally Bunker, age nineteen, won nineteen games for the Baltimore Orioles. I found this both depressing and inspiring at the same time. On the discouraging side, here I was just trying to find myself as a hurler in the college ranks, and here he was winning games in the big 2 leagues. On the positive side, it gave me hope, something to shoot for. I was still young, could throw hard, so maybe, just maybe, there was a chance. That chance, and my dream, would all come to an abrupt end the next summer.

 

They were called the Denver Merchants. Each semi-pro team had a team sponsor or sponsors. Ours was a group of downtown merchants, most of whom were African-American retailers. The team itself was made up almost exclusively with African-American ballplayers. During those years CSC (Colorado State College), was the dominant college baseball program in the region, due in large part to the pitching staff. The Merchants recruited three of us to pitch for them that summer, along with our backup shortstop. All our homes games were played at 23rd and Welton in what could best be described as a shoebox- shaped ballpark. The right field fence was a mere 220 feet from home plate with an extended fence on top. Left field was about 350 feet and center; well, let's just say it would have been a challenge for Mickey Mantle.

 

 

I'd gone to a high school which had only two African-American students among over two thousand. This was the first time I'd know the feeling of being in the minority. There was Vern, and Buck, Jim and Curt, along with a number of others I unfortunately can't remember. Our manager was a large, intimidating man named Gene. He was loud, daunting, and got things done. To a man they could not have treated me any better.

 

Vern and Jim had played against Satchel Page, while several of the others had played various levels of professional baseball, including the old Negro Leagues. It wouldn't take me long to realize these guys could definitely play some serious baseball.

 

I only had about a one week break between the end of our spring season at CSC and the beginning of the summer season with the Merchants. Their first game was against Maddox Ice, one of the better teams in the league, whose first baseman used to coach me in high school and had actually become a good family friend. Mike had played some pro ball in the Yankee farm system, but never made it to the Show. He had a pretty good temper, 3

 

showing it regularly the summer I played for him. But he'd made me grow as a pitcher, become more tenacious, aggressive. For that I will always owe him a debt of gratitude.

 

The summer I'd played for him, he'd take batting practice off of me at the end of the day. He'd look out at me and say, "Come on Jan, bring it. Try and get it by me." I could throw hard for high school, but here was a grown man, who'd played some pro ball - he teed off on me. He'd crack one over the fence or out into the parking lot, then look at me and grin. It was a man against a boy. That would change three years later.

 

Here I was throwing the opener for the Merchants against Maddox Ice and my buddy Mike. He hit third for them. We were playing at our park with the short right field porch - perfect for Mike, who hit left-handed.

 

I had grown a little, put on a few pounds, and was throwing over ninety mph. Mike always had some chew in his mouth, and his first at-bat, dug in, looked out… and spit at me. This was the first time we'd faced each other in a real game. I stepped up on the rubber, stared in…and spit back, well, drooled down my chin, but he got the point. He'd taught me well.

 

He went one for three off of me that day, a single up the middle, but I struck him out twice, both times with heat. After the game he came up to me and said, "You throw a little harder than I remember." Sadly that was the last time I ever saw him. Our friendship seemed to come to an end that day.

 

That game was, however, the beginning of a summer baseball odyssey that still lingers more that any other. Besides our home park, we played all along the Front Range with a culminating state tournament in the small eastern Colorado town of Hugo. There was also a mid-season tournament in Greeley (home of CSC), where I went to school. All in all we played around twenty to thirty games from June through August. Everyone had jobs and families, which meant games were played on weekends or at night during the week. I too had a summer job and a girlfriend, so fitting the games in was difficult at times.

 

We won that first game against Maddox Ice and continued to win until we met the Boulder Collegians in Boulder. It was a night game and I wasn't throwing. The Collegians were not only a local powerhouse, but a national contender as well. Their squad was made up almost exclusively with star 4

 

college players from various states. That night they threw a phenom from Arizona State University against us. He was throwing somewhere in the 95-97 mph range. I don't necessarily remember seeing the ball, but you could hear it…sort of.

 

About the sixth inning he came up to hit, stroked one into left field and took off for first base. He'd taken about three steps up the line when I heard a loud pop, like a gunshot. He crumpled to the ground letting out a scream, clutching his leg around the ankle. His Achilles tendon had snapped and rolled up the back of his leg. It was horrible to hear and see. I'll never forget them taking him away, knowing that was the end of his career.

 

As I mentioned, we played a number of games at night, and some of the ballparks had some, shall we say, questionable lighting. For hard throwers this was an advantage, and since I only knew how to throw hard in those days, throwing in the shadows was great; and got even better once I got the ball scuffed up.

 

Well, one night I was throwing against a future major league pitcher, Barry Lersch, who spent about six years in the big leagues, mostly with the Phillies. I had thrown against him in high school, college and now here in semi-pro. We were both having a pretty good night, Barry with his big curve ball and me with the heat. We took a 3-1 lead into the seventh, and I was sitting on the bench waiting to go out for the eighth. The dugouts were made of chain link fencing and ours backed up to a pathway behind it. Suddenly I felt something poking me in the back through the fence. I turned to find an old man in an overcoat, bent over sticking his finger through the fence, jabbing me in the ribs. It was a very warm night, so the overcoat should have been my first clue. I looked him in the face and could see he was feeling no pain. He pushed his finger back through the fence and said, "Touch my finger."

 

"What?" I asked.

 

"Touch my finger," he said, getting louder.

 

By now all the guys on the bench had noticed and were starting to get amused. I stuck my finger out and touched the end of his finger. He turned his finger like it was caught in a flame then pulled it back through the fence, "You's cool on the mound baby," he said with a big grin on his face. Then he turned and shuffled off down the street. The team broke out laughing, along with hooting and howling, about how "cool" I was on the mound. This endorsement, of course, had come from a man who had consumed far 5 too much liquid refreshment. I may have been a number of things on the mound…I don't think cool was one of them.

Most of our games were played on Sunday afternoons. Our home park in downtown Denver offered no relief from the sun. It was bracketed with concrete sidewalks, which in turn were surrounded by blacktop streets. The entire field was dirt and gravel. This all equated to extremely hot conditions. There were metal bleachers on the first and third base sides outside the chain line fencing. They were benches about four or five rows high.

 

That applied to the entire summer. I was never disappointed. We lost in the state tournament, which was at the time frustrating, but taken in context with the whole summer, seems insignificant now. What I gained far exceeded a few defeats.

 

Of all the summers I played baseball, it still remains the most vivid in my memory. The bandbox ballpark, the hot days and hotter uniforms. Vern, our catcher, standing in the on deck circle smoking, then putting his cigarette out on a callas in his hand. Hitting a home run and having the entire team meet me at home plate, as happy for me, as I was for having hit it. Bill, our massive center fielder hitting a home run at our home park that had to have gone well over 500 feet. It cleared the center field fence and landed on top of a small office building. The laughing and kidding, and the sadness when it was over. I left at the end of the season with every intention of playing for them the next summer. That summer never came.

 

I was almost killed in a car wreck coming back from school that next summer and for all intents and purposes my baseball career was over. I 6 never saw or heard from any of them again, but I'll never forget my last pastime summer of baseball.

Little did I know that twenty-eight years later baseball would return to my life in the grandest of all ways. In 1993, I would start throwing batting practice for the Colorado Rockies and continue to do so for the next six years, followed by my first book

Up until this point I'd only played with and against my peers. Now for the first time I was going against grown men, some of whom where in their thirties and forties. I felt young and inexperienced…and so I was.Virtually, every Sunday afternoon with the game in the third or fourth inning, an old man, attired in winter wear, complete with top hat and cane, would show up and stroll along in front of the stands. As he passed by the spectators, he'd stop, turn to the fans and reach out with his cane, lifting one of the women's skirts. They'd slap the cane away and yell at him, "Harold, get out of here," then burst out laughing. He'd pivot, place the cane back on the ground and without saying a word, saunter off into the hot summer afternoon. It got to the point I started looking for him every home game, which became a major distraction when I was pitching, but I adjusted, and he never let me down.

 

Fat Pitch. Who'd a thunk it!

About the Author

Jan Sumner was born in Independence, Kansas, but has spent his entire life in Denver, Colorado.  He is a graduate of Metropolitan State College in Denver.  He has been active in baseball his entire life and in 1993 started throwing batting practice for the Colorado Rockies.  Hethrew for them through the 1999 season and wrote a book about his experiences called FAT PITCH, published in 2001.  It's an insightful and humorousbehind the scenes look at the Rockies from their first days at Mile High Stadium through their first four years at Coors Field.  He then wrote a murder mystery, JACK ZANE: EVIL AT STORM LAKE, about a serial killers reach from the grave, haunting lives twenty years after his death.

 

 

 

Jan also wrote, LEGACY OF A MONARCH: AN AMERICAN JOURNEY, the biography of Byron "Mex" Johnson, an All-Star Negro League baseball player of the 1930s -1940s. It is a history of not only a black baseball player, but of an African-Americans journey through American history.

 

 

 

 

SEAMS is Jan's latest novel, a fictional trip taking the Cummings family of Washington, Missouri through the Depression, WWII and a life devoted to our national pastime centered around their love of the St. Louis Cardinals.  Baseball is a timeless game that weaves its magic, heartbreak and exhilaration, yet somehow stays wonderfully unchanged.  This is the story of three generations of one family set against the landscape of the heartland of America and its national pastime.

 

 

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