Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Talking John Birch Society Blues

Talking John Birch Society Blues

                          It was all finally coming together for Ray Kroc.  The owner of McDonalds and The San Diego Padres was about to put together a winner for the first time in the team's 15 year history, signing such playoff proven veterans  as Goose Gossage, Steve Garvey and Craig Nettles, while letting some of the younger players like Tony Gwynn, Alan Wiggins, Kevin McReynolds and Carmelo Martinez do their thing.  The year was 1984, and it started with something that even  Mr.Kroc couldn't have seen coming... his own death. The team would wear "RAK" on their armbands for the rest of the year, and go on to win their first NL pennant after coming from behind 2-0 to the Cubs in the NLCS, due in no small part to their pitching staff, also a mix of veterans and youngsters...oh, and a trio of radical right wing fanatics led by Mr.Pleasant himself, Eric Show. 

             Although more famous for letting up Pete Rose's record breaking hit (and scowling on the mound during the ceremony), Show was also  a member of the John Birch Society, a far right organization founded in the late '50s and named after a missionary who was supposedly killed by a communist in China durung the '40s.  As a relatively older member of the team, Show decided to convince other teammates to join, although only Dave Dravecky and Mark Thurmond actually did, making 3/5 of the starting rotation rather "red fearing".  One would think Steve Garvey would have joined, but I guess even "Mr. Clean" had his standards.  By all accounts though, Show was an intelligent man, often writing mathematical equations and posting them in the locker room.  One time , Alan Wiggins, also a smart man with demons of his own, solved it within minutes, and Show lost his shit.

        Founded in Belmont Ma. in 1958 by Robert Welch, The John Birch Society is still going strong, although it has a lot of competition now, including a group founded by former JBS member Thomas Metzger called "WAR"...better known as The "White Aryan Resisitance", a neo Nazi group (never understood the term "neo Nazi"...there's nothing really "neo" about them, really).  Other famous JBS members included John Wayne (yes, the very same) , Floyd Paxton, inventor of the bread clip, and  several members of the FBI.   Although being a staunch member of the group, Show was a mystery.  On top of his skill in pitching and matematics, he was also a jazz musician (not something you would think a radical right thinking person would excell at).  Anyway, no one knows for sure how much influence he had on the team's success that year.  Yes, they did win the pennant, but then they got steamrolled in the World Series by the powerful Detroit Tigers.

               Show retired a few years later, and his life took a turn for the worst, succumbing to drug addiction, which led to his death in 1994 by overdosing on a speedball in a hotel room (dying of a drug overdose...hey, maybe he WAS a jazz musician after all).  As for the other two converts on the team, Dravecky pitched for a few more years and teams, survived cancer, then became a Christian motivational speaker.  Mark Thurmond also pitched a few more years and then started an insurance business in Texas.  As for the Padres, they would have to wait another 14 years to play in the World series again, only to be swept by an even more powerful team, the New York Yankees, winners of a then record 114 games.  Not sure if there were any JBS members on that team, although if you offered a few of them steroids they may have joined...          

1 comment:

  1. I remember that the Padres had a JBS problem back then, but have no recollection of Eric Show's early demise. Very weird stuff. I gotta say, every time I watch the highlights of the Sunday games, those Padres camouflage uniforms get my goat. I know it's just marketing to a military town, but I react viscerally and want them to fail.