Baseball At The North Pole

June 1972 your then 17 year old happytwinsfan set out to hitchhike with his best friend Mark from Michigan to Fairbanks, Alaska where I would reunite with my older brother. I stayed there until 1978 when I entered the University of Minnesota. I left too early. In 1981 the North Pole Nicks joined the Alaska League.

The Journey

North Pole, Alaska is a small town about 20 miles south of Fairbanks. Eielson Air Force base is about 20 miles south of that and that’s where 2,000 mile Gary (as opposed to 1,100 mile Sam who took us across the Canadian border) was headed in his Volkswagen bus (of course) when he picked Mark and I up. Gary was an unhappy Vietnam era Air Force Sargent on the way to his new posting at Eielson. We were good friends until he left the area in I forget what year.

He was assigned a room in the “Black Barracks” where I was allowed to sometimes hang out and get stoned with him. Gary was assigned to the “Black Barracks” because loud soul music was permitted to blast off the walls 24 -7 and the funny little white guy who liked to play Scarlatti on his harpsichord at 2 in the morning while smoking pot and drinking room temperature straight Scotch out of a coffee cup wasn’t a bother to anybody. Of course the Air Force wasn’t much concerned with whatever transpired during off duty hours in the “Black Barracks”.

Have you ever smoked a joint through an Air Force mask? It’s really fun. I highly recommend it.

About those Nicks

Nick refers to St. Nicholas so yes they were a team of Santa’s. if you need further proof of that the town of North Pole includes Santa’s house. Trot on up there and they’ll be happy to give you a tour.

They were good to. They played from 1981 through 1987 and over twenty of them made it to the bigs. Including Mark Grace. And they played against fellow Alaska Leaguers Barry Bonds, Mark McGwire, Bret Boone and John Olerud.

We’re talking high level baseball under the midnight sun. No stadium lights needed for those July night games. If the ball game ever did continue into the brief dark of the summer night you might see this which I first saw when I was working late shoveling horse shit for the Alaska State fair for $2.50 / hour, September 1972

North Pole Law Enforcement

My brother owned a lot of the Richardson Highway about half the way between Fairbanks and North Pole. He had a trailer sitting on it, no water, no electricity. No outhouse either but no problem if you needed to piss you just walked out the door and picked out whatever spot looked good. Some of the bushes for some reason annoyed me so I routinely pissed on them. When it came to pooping our neighbor, a North Pole cop, shared his outhouse with us. Paul also shared his weed. You could get high just by sitting in his cabin and breathing the air. His attitude was if you steal or hurt somebody you’re going down. But what people choose to eat, drink or smoke is non of the law’s business. He even once sold me a pound of grass (for zero profit). As you might guess my brother and I did not sell one speck of it. It was duly consumed. BTW during my last few years there pot was legal as the Alaska State Supreme Court ruled that the state could not demonstrate a compelling interest to justify its banishment, so, always trying to be frugal, I grew it in my bathtub under fluorescent lights.

Paul was a big guy who was way into the Robert Service thing. He lived with his wife and small child in a log cabin which he hand built.  He had a sled dog team staked out in front of his house.

I had met a couple, Fred and Tina who were driving out to meet Paul and party with us. Fred was in his mid twenties and Tina was a local girl in her early teens. It was some sort of Lolita thing with James Mason replaced by a slovenly Berkley hippie in exile. I found the whole thing fascinating and perturbing. Jeesh, what is this? Fucking Fred and Goddamn Tina, which is how I described things to Paul. He loved it and could hardly wait to meet them. What fantastic names. When they arrived he ran out of his house, jumped over his front fence with hand outstretched. “Fucking Fred and Goddamn Tina – pleased to meet cha!”  Fred was a little taken aback, but that only lasted a few seconds and we had a good time.

I’ll stop boring you now. May I present you with your North Pole Nicks

 

Merry Christmas everyone.

 

12 thoughts on “Baseball At The North Pole

  1. Sounds like you had quite a teenager-hood there….ah, Alaska, the Final Frontier in oh so many ways. I had no idea they stayed legal on pot for that long…..I thought you meant the Nicks were a baseball team but then there were the “other” Nicks in the video, what a great time the Wizards must have had playing that game!…..I’m kinda glad I didn’t see (or hear) Stevie in the video…..and I don’t believe a word you said about the black barracks. If it was true it would explain quite a lot about our illustrious military…..Merry Xmas one and all!

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    • The part about the black barracks is true, including the part about the air force mask. It wasn’t officially called the “black barracks” but every face in there that I saw besides mine and Gary’s was “black” and that’s what it was called by all the guys. It was so cool to listen to hm playing (well – he was a graduate of Brown University in New York and something of an expert in classical music) classical music and when he stopped for a while hearing Barry White blasting away from somewhere else. And all the black guys were totally friendly to us. Everyone pretended to try and hide their pot smoking etc., and the Air Force pretended to be fooled. Believe me, there are human beings and fun to be had in the United States Air Force, as well as the United States Army. There’s a tale or two I could tell you about hitchhiking across Fort Wainwright which was between my brother’s lot and Fairbanks.

      The Nicks were a baseball team that at one time included Mark Grace and 20 or so other guys who made it to MLB. The video above is apparently some sort of reunion. I tried and failed to find a video of one of their games and thought that this one was at least Christmasie.

      Liked by 1 person

    • Per the pot legalization, shortly after I left the conservative backlash included the enactment of laws which basically ignored the Supreme Court ruling and effectively banished pot. The political pendulum swung in a way that scared the courts off from blocking them. It was only in the last election that the people of Alaska said we want our weed knock it off.

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  2. Speaking of the North Pole, I ate at a very nice restaurant right near Santa’s House, about ten years ago – it was partially buried, just up to the sills of its windows, to help keep it warm during that unnatural meteorological condtion which obtains up there for an inexcusable frozen chunk of the year. We had to plug our rental car into a parking stanchion via a torsion-spooled extension cord inside the grille to keep the engine oil from freezing while we ate. A pain in the nates, but the reindeer venison was pretty good.
    Never mind that Santa’s House is over 1700 miles to the south of the North Pole. It’s an adorable scam.
    An-ee-way, I am sitting at Gate B20 at Cincinnati airport in Kentucky waiting for my flight home to my palm trees and swimming pool and well and truly out of this preposterous season. May global warming work its wonders and drive winter back north of the Canadian border where it belongs (I can raise my house on stilts and fish orf the front porch to my heart’s content).

    I attended the three annual Over the Rhine Christmas concerts, which were a joy as always, largely orfsetting this wretched weather. I scored my annual breakfast bowl of artisinal Cincinnati chili and eggs with a side of goetta from Camp Washington Chili, had the wonder waffles at Taste of Belgium (with a delicate syrup made from framboise lambic beer, oh boy) and the planked salmon with kale and Brussels sprouts sald at Taft’s Brewery. Sure, you need the molars of a sauropod to chew kale but think of all the good things you’re doing to yourself by ingesting this vegetarian answer to formaldehyde. I also met up with the usual crew of once-a-year friends who always congregate in Cincinnati for the shows to bask in the radiance of Karin Bergquist’s presence:

    And we even tolerate her husband Linford Detweiler’s presence on stage just because he can play and sing so beautifully.

    Of course I was here when the “big trade” news broke. The local fans are pretty excited about it, but they may not be by midsummer after Yasiel Puig has been haunting I-75 for a few months. But then, I-75’s loss is Alligator Alley’s gain, right?

    So, happy thinly disguised Neolithic fertility ceremony to all of you. I’m going to another annual event tonight, Iko-Iko’s lead guitarist and founder Graham Wood Drout’s Krampus party. But don’t worry. I’ll be back before New Year’s to remind us all not to fuck this one up too.

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  3. I have a bit of news. It’s not baseball-related, but what the hay. I got a new job! It’s a good professional job with a living wage, and it is fulfilling work to boot. I’m finally returning to the work I love. I must say, I’ve had a pretty good year and this is an excellent Christmas gift. I expect it will complicate my commenting capabilities, but we’ll work on that. Yea!

    PS happiest of holidays to all you misfit toys, unrepentant homers, and lovable losers. One less year of Trump. We’re gonna make it!

    May none of you find DKB on your Christmas roster and to all a good night.

    Liked by 1 person

    • When good things happen to a baseball fan that is baseball related. When bad things happen to a baseball fan that is usually football related. Congratulations.

      My delusional thinking skills tells me that Trump’s ongoing political stupidcide with his shutdown Sally act will drive his approval down to say 35%, at which time the rats start jumping ship which is then followed by (finally) the release of the Mueller report accompanied by blood thirsty Democratic House investigations. Wouldn’t it be lovely if President Pence fulfilled his pre resignation promise to pardon Trump and his family members before the Twins and Brewers face off in the World Series!?

      Now go to bed so Santa can come down your chimney.

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      • I just did it. Perfectly. That comes from 50 years of repeating entire Firesign Theater routines from memory in various stages of inebriation. It’s a more effective test for encroaching dementia than a dipstick.
        My reward was a nice hot bowl of millet porridge with Rancho Gordo’s finest Christmas Lima beans, onions and garlic with a dab of imported French butter.

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        • Merry Christmas to all from semi-tropical Texas. Congratulations, philiac, Sounds like your life took a good turn in ’18. All the best.

          And Gator, we may soon be the only two who can still recite Firesign Theatre like some demented Rosary. But may it be so for some time.

          Just to let you know, Gator, I finally perfected (second try) the Julia Child classic bouef bourguignon for a group of friends. I can now expire happy. Although that is not my plan for some years yet.

          Happiness to all, and perhaps great changes in 2019.

          Liked by 1 person

        • We hosted a little holiday party on the 15th. One of the attendees is strictly gluten free, so I made cornbread pudding. It’s weirdly tasty. Paper says it isn’t quite as good as regular bread pudding, but it was pretty good. If you put bourbon, butter and sugar in a sauce over anything, it will be tasty really.

          We got a bone in ham for Christmas, so I’m going to make a pot of beans this week. Mmmmm

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