On Dec. 10, 1989, Riverfront Stadium was filled to the brim with overexcited, half-drunk Bengal fans who were upset with the officiating, displaying their displeasure by pelting the referees with snowballs, and in some cases, ice balls covered in Miller Lite.
Mercurial Bengal coach Sam Wyche took the microphone to calm the crowd. “Will the next person that sees anybody throw anything onto this field, point them out, and get them out of here. You don’t live in Cleveland, you live in Cincinnati!” he shouted.
Contrary to Sam’s decree, my wife Brenda and I like Cleveland.
In fact, we spent last week in the city known as the Rock and Roll Capital of the World.
Sixty years ago, a television crime series known as “The Naked City” had a famous closing line – “There are eight million stories in the naked city, this has been one of them.”
We didn’t count that many during our week in Cleveland, but I made note of some of the people and events we observed in the big city.
A large cement truck moving very slowly was exiting a shopping center, which in itself was odd, due to the early morning hour and the lack of construction in the area. The truck kept moving and stopping, causing the truck to shake and jerk when the gears shifted. The truck stalled in the middle of the road and the driver jumped out of the cab. As we pulled around, the driver shouted, “I don’t know how to drive a manual transmission. I needed a job and told the owner I could drive a stick shift. I guess I was wrong.”
“Why don’t you go see an Indians game?” Brenda suggested the next day. “The Angels are in town and there is nothing you can do here.”
Although it was raining, I decided to ride a city bus downtown. I sat down on the little bench inside the bus shelter, listening as the raindrops streamed down the roof of the shelter. The rain was a steady sprinkle, and puddles had formed on the sidewalk. The forecast didn’t call for a steady downpour, but I was having second thoughts about sitting in the stands in the drizzle.
The big gray and white bus approached the shelter, the doors opened, and people began disembarking the bus.
A man, apparently intoxicated, took one step off the bus and fell face first onto the sidewalk. The man was dazed. His face was bleeding. He was bent over and his spine was twisted grotesquely, like the ‘Pretzel Man’ I had long ago seen at the county fair. Fortunately a nurse was nearby and stopped the flow of blood. I took a step back from the bus and thought about the crooked man, the blood, and the rain. I decided I’d drive my car.
Carnegie Avenue and 55th Street is an extremely busy intersection. The light was red and an ambulance was quickly approaching from downtown, swerving all over the road. It almost struck a telephone pole just before entering the intersection. Fortunately, the young female driver looked up at the last minute and swerved to the left, just missing a collision. She was texting.
While visiting at the Cleveland Clinic on Friday about mid afternoon, a surgeon walked out of the surgical suite to meet with a family. A young lady about 30 years old was sitting alone in the waiting room. The surgeon walked over, sat next to her and spoke very softly, saying words that only she could hear. She nodded a few times, and he left. She began to cry, and her shoulders started to shake. I walked over quietly and asked if there was anything I could do to help her. She said, “No. I just received bad news about my father. I am the only family he has left.” The room was cold and I noticed the young woman shaking, from both the coldness and the bad news. I handed her my green, wool blanket Brenda had brought me from Ireland last year. “Here, wrap this around you,” I said.
She curled her legs and wrapped herself tightly inside the warm blanket. She sat for about 15 minutes before handing me back the blanket. “Thank you for your kindness,” she whispered as she stood up and walked down the skyway.
The green Mercury sitting along the edge of busy Interstate 77 South caught my eye. The four doors were wide open, indicating the driver and passengers had made a rapid exit. About 40 yards away in the triangular grassy area of the Interstate, a couple who appeared to be in their mid-70s were holding a tall, young man, maybe their son, by his elbows, making their way slowly back to their car. It was obvious the couple was in distress, and no match for the young man.
Our trip to Cleveland reminded us, once again, when we think we have it bad, someone else has it worse.
We must only look around.
Pat Haley is a Clinton County commissioner and former Clinton County sheriff.