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Home » Baseball, Stories, True and Otherwise

Big Country Little Car Tour, Day 11

Submitted by on April 5, 2010 – 8:43 AM15 Comments

kcviewFriday dawned windy, with thunderstorms in the forecast. Campbell is a brave little cherry Starburst, good in most weather, but she’s not perfect; wind moves her around a lot, and on the high setting, her wipers clockety clockety clockety argh not worth it. Gusty, pouring, surrounded by semis…I started to dread the drive to KC.

It didn’t begin well. The GPS, “Tom,” gets a bee in his shorts if I don’t give each command enough time to load, which I hadn’t, but instead of getting confused and putting me back in Brooklyn, or repeating “turn riiiight, turn riiiight” without giving me a street name, or both, which is the usual hitch in his giddy-up, he elected to sound like he’d just swallowed a kitten-sized wad of frozen caramel. “Brrrr deh wwhhrrr frrrr brrreh.” “Christ. Grow up, Tom!”

I cooled it in the right lane, waiting for Tom to reboot, and passed a man swaddled in Hefty bags tromping miserably along the shoulder, and then a horse and buggy. I couldn’t even see the passengers — s/he/they had what looked like a stroller-umbrella contraption pulled down over the seat of the buggy — but the horse had broken into a canter, wanting the trip over with, swinging his muzzle from one side to the other to try to find an angle that didn’t sting his nostrils.

I swung out a little way to give the buggy room. Right as I passed them, Tom pulled it together and shrieked, “WELCOME TO CO-PILOT.” Startled, I flinched and shrieked back, “Fuck’s sake, drama-bot — settle down!” A big gust punted Campbell to the right. “Settle down, wind!” Campbell’s traction light went on. “Settle down, Cam!” Campbell flipped on her headlights on auto all, “You settle down, Yellanie Griffith.”

What have we learned? 1) Don’t buy the cheapest GPS; and 2) when you anthropomorphize your possessions, it’s only a matter of time before they’ll give you lip.


After a rocky first 15 miles, everything did in fact settle down, and I arrived at the Hyatt to find that my AAA card had gotten me a room for $89 that usually runs $279. License to spend at the Negro Leagues Baseball Museum store!

Or so I’d hoped. The NLBM fits an amazing amount of history and information into a modest area, but the way it’s done doesn’t work. A replica diamond with bronzes of the all-time greats at each position takes up the bulk of the inside space, and while the flow of the exhibits around it is clever, the diamond itself is problematic: it isn’t full-size, so the outfielders loom over the infield like the extra shortstops in Little League; visitors can’t take photographs inside, which defeats the purpose, to an extent; and that unused space means the timelines really get squished. The way the curator solved the layout problem is quite clever, but s/he shouldn’t have a layout problem to start with.

The exhibit area is fitted together so tightly that the eye doesn’t know where to go; I got confused in minutes, and this is material I know relatively well. (The proofreading lapses don’t help; “Biz Mackey” isn’t that hard to spell, and at least three panels left periods off the end.) A couple of diorama-type displays — a ’40s barbershop, for one — didn’t add much, and ate up an eight-by-twelve footprint each.

A lot of the archival material — seats, bats, flannels — doesn’t get labels at all, and then the uniform lockers at the end of the tour repeat information available in several other places. I’d rank uniform evolution pretty low on the list of baseball sub-genres that interest me, but I could have gotten into it if the exhibit had addressed, well, anything. It didn’t.

The store is similarly unfocused, and unkempt as well. I bought a few things, but I already own most of the books (and for once, this says more about the threadbare selection than about my groaning baseball shelf), there isn’t a coffee-table exhibit compendium…I felt let down.

I traveled a fair bit out of my way to go there. I did it because I love Buck O’Neil. I love all the stories there — Effa Manley, Rube Foster — but Buck O’Neil told them better than anyone. He had a rhythm. He had a grammar. He had a sense of humor; he respected the stories and the people in them, without sanctimony. I hope the NLBM finds a way to match up all the stories and the materials to that sensibility, because it’s important.


Back at the hotel, I enjoyed a late lunch in the deserted Terrace restaurant. The waiter mentioned a “big group” coming in later, and it came in like the tide shortly thereafter, dozens of minivans pulling up out front and disgorging families with their pillows from home under their arms and “Choose The Rock” t-shirts on. Lots of rubber bracelets. …I see.

Steps away from the door of my room. Bert the ferk?

Steps away from the door of my room. Bert the ferk?

In under half an hour, the lobby had filled with them: the Heart of America Leadership Training for Christ Con. Every boardroom and ballroom had them booked for sermon practice, Bible readings, and chaired discussions on how to witness to classmates without making them uncomfortable.

I’ve got nothing against church youth groups; I have fond memories of my own, because that group got along with itself in a way my class at school didn’t. But we didn’t take God out into the world that way. If I’d “witnessed to classmates” about anything but the latest Def Leppard video, they’d have taken me to the nurse.

Nobody witnessed to me in the gift shop or anything, but the Commandments apparently still do not include anything about walking single file, or standing to one side of the elevator doors to let others exit. It took forever to get anywhere, grownups walking five abreast, minnowy groups of children flashing past them. Nor, apparently, does the acceptance of Jesus as your personal savior preclude ice-fighting in the hallway, or at least not debating the tactics of same during the long wait for an elevator. I didn’t witness the battle itself, but Tessa, if you’re reading this, your brother is totally right: sidearm does give you the optimal combination of control and strafing area. I learned this from the minister’s daughter on a church retreat. Also, get hopped up on Tab first; it helps with the follow-through for some reason. Good luck.

Next stop: CoMo.




  • Grainger says:

    Ahh, nothing like the taste of a Totally Artificial Beverage! (Which isn’t actually how it got that name; apparently, the name was randomly-generated by a computer program. Which is, I think, an even better story.)

  • attica says:

    I really want to go the NLM. Reeaaaalllly. I will live vicariously through your report.

  • Jaybird says:

    I actually pulled something, reading “hitch in [the] giddy-up”. The only other place I’ve encountered that phrase was in “The Big Empty”, and for some obscure reason it makes me snort and snuffle.

  • MP says:

    Well. Thanks a lot. I snorted out loud at the lippy possessions and now I have to actually do some work. Why couldn’t I have been born with a trust fund?

  • StillAnotherKate says:

    In between voting for the last NCandyAA round and reading this, I ventured to the newstand in my office lobby and bought a Whatchamacallit. I then spit said Whatchamacallit all over my desk and keyboard at “Yellanie Griffith”. Heh. And Hew.

  • RJ says:

    “Nor, apparently, does the acceptance of Jesus as your personal savior preclude ice-fighting in the hallway, or at least not debating the tactics of same during the long wait for an elevator. I didn’t witness the battle itself, but Tessa, if you’re reading this, your brother is totally right: sidearm does give you the optimal combination of control and strafing area.”


  • Cyntada says:

    Having accepted Jesus as my saviour, I nearly got the whole gang thrown out of a Spires for lobbing ice completely over the head of the intended recipient and into a faraway booth. Our group (of strapped college students who were goofing off and commanding a huge booth for a total ticket of maybe $4.95, mostly in bottomless coffee) garnered some serious stink-eye from the server but were not actually invited to leave. It was late; he must have needed the tips or something.

    The unintended high arc involved a spoon-launch and admittedly hasty aim on my part. Ice-strafing is covered in Hezekiah 7; evidently I should have studied that passage a little more diligently.

  • Sarah the Elder says:


    “Totally Artificial Beverage” is totally more catchy than “marketed to consumers who want to keep ‘tabs’ on their weight” (the origins of the soft drink’s name, according to the almighty Wikipedia and Coca-Cola Co.’s corporate website).

    My sister loves the stuff; I don’t (the saccharin lingers unpleasantly on my tongue), though I must say I love the font used to spell out “Tab” on the can.

  • Sandman says:

    So much awesome here, but “Yellanie Griffith” is definitely a keeper. I love the “but the Commandments apparently still do not include…” construction. Like Sarah was somehow left off the circulation list for the Big Update Memo.

  • Margaret in CO says:

    Every woman I know with a GPS has turned off the voice. Maybe it’s just the women I personally know in 3D, but they don’t like that bossy voice telling them where to go & what to do.

    My beloved nephew used to aggravate his GPS by driving past the turn, forcing a martyred, put-upon “Recalculating…” followed by our evil giggles. I love that kid.

  • Krissa says:

    I just changed the voice in mine to the British dude. It’s like my own personal butler is kindly directing me to make the right driving decisions.

  • Cora says:

    YOU GUYS. Click on the above link she gives, then click on “LTC History”, the fourth link down on the left. Second paragraph, fifth line. I would dearly, dearly LOVE to see a Lad-to-Leaderette, I would. This is what makes grammar fuckups so much FUN.

  • Margaret in CO says:

    Good eye, Cora, good eye! OMG, so funny!

  • Jaybird says:

    Oh, man. Now I won’t be able to move on with my life until I’ve managed to piss off a GPS. ANYBODY’S GPS. With luck, it’ll be that Paul-Bettany-styled one.

  • Sarah says:

    @Krissa – my ex-roommate had a British woman’s voice who she christened Bebe on her GPS. We were fairly sure that if one disobeyed Bebe, she would not be polite. She would possibly shout obscenities in a charming British accent at you. Until she figured out how to drive the car herself, and God help us, the day the GPS can drive a car is a bad day!

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