7 years ago
Saturday, December 22, 2007
In 1981 I went to the first Cardinal baseball game I’d been to since the pennant race in 1968. I was a Cub Scout then. It was the first time I’d ever seen or heard of their mascot Fredbird. During idle time Fredbird worked the crowd. He wrapped his beak around a baby’s head and I thought he was more entertaining than the team.
In 1982 I started working at the Oyster Bar which was 3 blocks south of the stadium. This happened to be the year we won the World Series and turned out to be a baptism of fire.
We still had the football Cardinals and a lot of sports personalities would end up at the bar including Fredbird. Fredbird was a guy named John Kendall and I was more star struck with him than anyone else. We became good friends.
Before I knew him very well Marion Wynkoop (Tracy’s wife) asked if I could get him to appear at their daughter Sarah’s 4th birthday party. That’s what I got for bragging that I knew him. I told Marion I thought Fredbird was too busy, but I’d ask.
To my surprise John said he’d love to do it. I told Marion the good news but she had already booked a party somewhere that had a fake Fredbird. I think John’s feelings were hurt.
Fredbird would always open a gate at the stadium to let us into a game. Then he would take us into the bowels and get us good and drunk on Anheuser Busch products. He’d also find us great seats, usually behind home plate. I remember once our neighbor in front of us was the mayor.
Every year St. Louis has a bicycle marathon that begins around 1:00 in the morning. I’d get off work at the Oyster Bar and John and I would sneak into the stadium. We’d have a few beers and I’d borrow his bike for the race.
After I moved of Nancy’s apartment in Lafayette Park I found out John lived next door in another apartment building. I came to a party at his house and was surprised to see him making out on a couch with Lisa Sherman. We had recently broken up and didn’t know they even knew each other
Somewhere in the mid 80’s Fredbird’s head was stolen. St. Louis was in a panic. It was finally recovered when radio station KSHE put up a $500.00 reward.
John is a childhood friend of Jeff Lockheed's and I believe that is the reason I even know Jeff.
To this day John still wears his 1982 World Series ring he received as a team member.
By contrast Kim Tucker was the skydiving Fredbird. He’s also a good friend of mine and a great photographer. He took the pics that appear on my freefall wedding entry. He’s famous in skydiving circles for being the only person to spiral around a leg of the Arch twice in one jump. There’s a great picture he took with a fish eye lens of his dangling Fredbird legs hanging over the stadium. I’ll try to post this picture if he’ll let me.
I’ve probably been on hundreds of jumps with Kim but the most memorable was a time we exited the back of a 727 jet going 207 mph. Terminal velocity is 120 mph so it was like hitting a wall when we hit air. The idea was that DB Cooper exited a 727 at 200 mph and we wanted to see what it was like. Somehow Kim videotaped the whole thing with a camera on his helmet.
At some point in the late 90s I quit teaching first jump students down in Sullivan Missouri. My wife wanted me home to raise our kids. My last night at the airport we partied until the bar closed. It just happened that it was prom night and the cops were out looking for drunken teenagers. I had driven through a river that morning in my 4-wheel and my license plates were spattered with mud. I was pulled over on the highway because the cop couldn’t read my plates and thought I might be one of these teenagers. Next thing I knew I was blowing .033 (over the limit) and spending most of the night in the Eureka jail. Did I mention Kim was also an attorney? It cost quite a bit but Kim got me out of the DUI. When I appeared before the judge the arresting officer noted that I was clean and polite. Clean and polite??! Ever since then I’ve considered Kim my mouthpiece. He’s a municipal judge now.
A brief aside: It comes in handy to know a judge. When I was living in Lafayette Park I got a parking ticket in front of my place that I didn’t think I deserved. I decided to fight city hall. The judge turned out to be one of my regulars at the bar. We pretended we didn’t know each other and the ticket was thrown out.