It’s the teacher, not the book


It’s that time of year. No, not when thoughts turn to witches, pumpkins and leaves drifting to the ground. It’s World Series time.

Yes, I’m sure you already know. But doesn’t it seem strange that they’re still playing baseball, the NFL is nearing its midway point in the regular season, and the NBA has already started?

If the World Series reaches game five, they will be playing in November. Has it always been that way?

No. For the record, the World Series has been played in November three times, but that’s mostly been due to happenstance.

The 2001 World Series was pushed back to Oct. 27 and ended on Nov. 4 because of the aftermath of the Sept. 11 attacks. The 2009 World Series didn’t begin until Oct. 28 and ended on Nov. 4 because of the World Baseball Classic before the start of the season. The 2010 World Series began on Oct. 27 and ended on Nov. 1.

The college football season has been pushed to mid January, the NBA plays basketball until mid June, etc. It doesn’t seem right. But that’s not what this column is about. It’s about the World Series, the Cincinnati Reds, and a kindly teacher.

Really, I don’t know why I’m talking about the Cincinnati Reds. I pretty much quit paying attention to them sometime in June and could not name one of their starting pitchers at the end of this season. But at one time I was a pretty big Reds fan.

Maybe that’s because the Reds played in the World Series the year I was born, then when I was 9, 11, 14 and 15 years old.

I’m not sure when I started paying attention to the Reds, but I do know that almost every summer morning during my formative years my day started by flipping through the Cincinnati Enquirer sports section to see what Red had done what the day before. I’d sometimes read the game story, but mostly I looked at the standings, the box score and the Major League leaders in the sports agate section to see how Pete Rose, Johnny Bench, Tony Perez and the rest of the crew stacked up against their peers.

It was kind of like a dose of ESPN way before anyone thought of such a thing.

Although I’m not so much anymore, in my younger days I was a sports junkie. Sports were not on TV every day back then, so if you followed them, you did it mostly through the newspaper and/or the radio.

Which is where this story has been leading to all the time. Mostly I followed the Reds through the newspaper, but when I was not very old this new gadget called a transistor radio came out. They were quite small for the time and when I was about 9 years old my parents bought me one. Actually, I think it had been a Christmas present when I would have been 8, but I was 9 in October of 1970 when the Reds were playing the Baltimore Orioles in the World Series.

By the time the World Series rolled around I had listened to many games on my little radio and was quite a fan. So, since most World Series games were played in the afternoon in those days, I got the bright idea that I might be able to sneak my radio to school and catch part of the game one afternoon.

I was in the fifth grade and one of my teachers was Mrs. Walter (Jerri) Shannon. She was the wife of a longtime Hillsboro City Schools superintendent and she had a reputation, among young students at least, for being very strict. I think she probably had a really soft side, but she was from a time when teachers were expected to be strict, and students knew which ones to be careful around.

Mrs. Shannon was one of them, and I suppose it had partly to do with her gruff voice. But it might also have been because, as I recall, she was known to carry a pencil around as she lectured the class. If someone wasn’t paying attention or was out of line, she might whap them across the knuckles with that pencil.

To put it mildly I, like most of my classmates, was scared to death of her. But not as much as I was a Reds fan. So, when a Reds’ World Series game started on an afternoon in 1970, and I was sitting in Mrs. Shannon’s class, I pulled my little radio out from wherever I had it hidden, concealed it the best I possibly could, and turned it on.

Although it was hard to hear, I listened a little bit with no one seeming to notice. But not for very long. Somehow, probably because I was trying too hard to conceal it, I knocked the radio off my desk. To me, it sounded like a bomb went off. And when Mrs. Shannon stopped dead in her tracks and looked in my direction, I figured I was as good as dead.

I do not remember the details, but it more than obvious that I was the culprit, and I figured a trip to the principal’s office, or worse, was coming.

But the second Mrs. Shannon’s steely glaze caught my eyes, it seemed to soften. Then she looked at me and said words I will never forget: “Well, if you’re going to listen to it, at least turn it up loud enough so we all can hear it.”

I have absolutely no recollection of what happened from that point on. Maybe my brain was too traumatized from what I expected to happen. Maybe it was permanently shocked by what actually took place.

But I know for sure that I looked at Mrs. Shannon in a different light from that day forward. And I never brought a radio to school again.

More often than not, I’ve found that it’s the lessons that come from the teacher, and not the school book, that have the most lasting impression.

Reach Jeff Gilliland at 937-402-2522 or on Twitter @13gillilandj.

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