For as long as I can remember I’ve always been known as “Doc”. Stories of where that all started go back to a couple different tales, one of a doctor kit I got when I was 3 or 4, another is me mimicking Bugs Bunny from the old cartoons that were on every weekday afternoon and Saturday morning. No matter where it came from, it was better than Stanley Orvis Stemberg. Everyone always called me Doc, even teachers in school. I pitched a little minor league baseball and in the one really good year I had with the Piedmont Phillies in homey Kannapolis, North Carolina the newspapers started calling me Stanley Steamer. Kannapolis is a suburb of Charlotte, and I suppose Southern homespun folks thought that was a cute name. The year after I blew out my shoulder and became a knuckleballing reliever, Stanley had no more steam. I was only retained because I was so well liked in the organization with coaches and instructors. I actually could have hung on and even got a shot at the majors as a relief specialist, but no matter how I looked at it, that eventuality was 3 or 4 years away and the pay in 1995 was nowhere in the modern strata of ball player salaries. I kicked around a few years as a player-coach in the Phils system, but I had background in plumbing and auto-repair from summers working with my Dad and Uncle before I got signed. So I made a decent living, having opened my own plumbing business, and leased my Dad’s garage out (that I sort of inherited) to a Mobil franchise.
My year as “Stanley Steamer” I met and married Arlene. We stayed married for 5 years. Once I was no longer a serious prospect and began looking for other ways to support us, I guess the shine wore off of me. We weren’t married much more than a year when we both knew we had made a mistake. We didn’t talk much, or act as if we had much in common very often. However, we did like to sweat up the sheets, even right up to the day we went to sign the papers on our divorce. She only wanted half of what we had, except for the bills. We didn’t own a home, or have kids, and had two 3-year-old cars complete with payment books. She got the better car, I got both payment books (lucky me). There was no real malice between us, and I don’t think either of us ever cheated. It was as amicable a separation and dissolution of a marriage as you could imagine. We’re still friends, easy because she stayed in Charlotte (has married and divorced another ballplayer) and I ended up back home in Watertown, New York.
Before I married Arlene I was a lady killer of sorts, never having much of a problem finding female company as a local star athlete (in my own mind) and a pretty good looking guy. I was going home to New York every Fall and getting back to the Charlotte area just before pitchers and catchers reported to Spring Training. There was always a Femme Jolie looking to go to Florida for 6 weeks with an athlete roommate. That girlfriend usually lasted until she met one of the guys on the Major League team, or a guy who might get promoted up the line faster (maybe Reading or Scranton – neither as good as Charlotte, IMHO), but they got payed better and got better meal money.
After I was no longer a sports super hero and retired from the game at the ripe old age of 29 finding female companionship was a bit tougher, but I usually did well. When I’m not working I usually dress well, nothing too foo foo, but always nice jeans and a nice shirt that fit my body nicely. I’m still in good shape, only 10 more pounds from when I played ball, but I’m down some hair, for sure. But, my days of flirtatious females coming on to me was long passed, or so I thought.
It was the Saturday of Memorial Day weekend and I was out running errands before I went to my favorite brew pub to help them celebrate their 2nd anniversary. I hadn’t had much of a breakfast so when I went by Sam’s Drive-In I stopped to get some protein and carbs working in my belly. Sam’s is a place where you can get a burger and fries and little else. Sam runs the place with one or two helpers and if you order a hamburger it comes with ketchup and a pile of fried onions, unless you ask otherwise. Sam’s son leans out the window to the constant lines of people and takes the orders, 7 to 10 at a time and he never messes up.
As I walked up to the end of the line going through my pockets to be sure I had enough cash. I didn’t and I had to go back to my car to see if I had my stash. (Sam doesn’t do credit cards). I usually have a $50 bill in the glove box for emergencys. When I walked back up to the line I heard a friendly voice call out.
“Oooo, I LOVE that place, my husband and I used to go there all the time.”
I looked up to see a nice looking woman pointing to my hat and I had to take it off to see which one I was wearing. It was for Rare Brews, the brew pub I was headed to.
“Oh, I’m just heading there for their anniversary celebration, they’re releasing their most popular brews in cans today for the first time.”
“That’s great for them, I should get there, but I have the kids and their Aunt Rona today. Rona’s from Baltimore and loves our little treasures around here. We’re bringing her to Rosie’s Pizza for dinner tonight.”
“Oh, you can’t go wrong bringing her here and then to Rosie’s, the best pizza I’ve ever had.” I said still wondering; “Did I know her? Does she think I’m someone else?”
Then the woman turned back and spoke with her kids, her friend Rona (not a real Aunt I found out later), and I went about minding my own business when she turned back.
“Really nice what they’re doing downtown, at the brew pub and all the new little eating places. Have you tried Two Bagger Sliders? That was another of our favorites.” She asked brightly.
“Oh yeah, their cheese steaks are great and Beef Wellington egg rolls are to die for.” I added, still stymied how this woman, way out of my league, and at least 15 years younger than me, was so taken by my presence. She HAD to think I was someone else, so I asked an obvious question hoping the answer wouldn’t dissuade her from continuing the conversation, making her realize she did not know me.
“He doesn’t bring you to those places anymore?” I wondered aloud to her.
“No, he left me and the kids about 6 months ago.”
“I’m so sorry to hear that.” I said figuring it would be the end of the conversation.
“Oh, don’t be. He led a double life, was an embezzler and total fraud. He might be in Mexico for all we know. If he ever comes back he’ll go to jail.” They were just getting to our spots in the line and she gave the young Sammy a complicated order for 3 children, herself and “Aunt” Rona. He got to me and I just held up 3 fingers and then crossed two. It was Sammy sign for 3 burgers and fries. The fries came with a spurt of ketchup in the corner unless you asked otherwise.
As they began to fill the orders in front of us young Sam would pause and look up and take a few more orders. Rona who was in front of the 3 girls, looked back to her and said “I don’t know how he keeps track.”
“He just does!” She answered and then she turned to me.
“She was my roommate in college and just loves the girls and coming here to get all the great food.” (and Rona from Baltimore piped up as she kibitzed with the kids) “Stuff that’s NOT crab!”
I just smiled as Sammy had her order ready and Rona was paying for it as the kids were delighted that each of their orders was on a separate paper plate on the tray. I knew this was the end of our little tete-a-tete so I asked the most awkward of questions.
“I’m sorry, but do I know you?”
“No, but can’t a girl flirt with a good looking guy? It was nice talking with you.” She said as Rona shouted back “Come on Kailynn, I paid for it all and the kids are getting a table.”
Young Sammie called out “3 with fries, do you need a drink?”
“Uh, NO!” I said as I watched “Kailynn” walk away in her little jean shorts and yellow t-shirt that she filled just fine.
I paid for my food and realized as I walked to my car I had a little chubby on my pants. It was hot enough for early June that I was glad to have an air-conditioned car where I had a cold bottle of water to wash it all down with. I was parked on the opposite side of the drive-in so I didn’t see the table or car where these two women and the 3 kids were. I was downright flummoxed, and I do mean FLU-MOXED.
I am 45 and I don’t want to fool you into thinking that I look a day younger. I may still have somewhat of a build, but my face, hairline, and overall demeanor shouts “Approaching 50 – proceed with caution”. Why was this very good looking woman, who was maybe 30-33, tops, who had 3 kids, the oldest being 8 or 9, openly flirting with me in front of her kids, her “best friend from college” (she also appeared to be 30-ish, so there was no mistaking age), and the rest of the people standing around us. Did I imagine the flirt? Was it just idle conversation? I told myself that if I were her husband and saw the banter between us I would have walked up and stepped in to see what was going on. It really was that blatant. She was so fresh, so reeking of youth with her flat belly, sexy bust line, bright eyes, cheery smile, and melodic voice, ... and she was speaking to me as if I were her boyfriend. I had to admit that for the first time in ages, just the thought of a woman had me excited in my pants.
.... There is more of this story ...