The Free Press, Mankato, MN

Local News

July 20, 2013

Ojanpa: Hit a single and call it a day


“Can I get some gas?”

He grumbled an answer, put on his helmet, and stepped into the sun.

But he didn’t get more than a few feet before he grumbled again.

“You pulled up to the wrong side of the pump. Pump it yourself.” And with that he shuffled back into the station.

For a newspaper feature writer, finding a guy like Falk is the equivalent of stumbling upon the Holy Grail. Cantankerous, ribald, wry and wholly unfiltered, the larger-than-life Falk was the mother lode.

The late Falk was, and remains, my personal gold standard for great characters to write about. There were others over the next three decades, but none like him.

Thank you, Pete Falk, for keeping me going all these years in trying to find another you.

Which brings us to Kruk.

On July 30, 1995, the chain-smoking, hefty ballplayer was literally on his last legs when he stepped to the plate for the Chicago White Sox in the first inning of a game with the Baltimore Orioles.

In a pre-arranged scenario with his manager, he hit a single, took himself out of the game, bid quick goodbyes to his teammates, and retired on the spot.

Which has always sounded just about right to me. So thank you, John Kruk, for showing a guy how to put a cap on 38 years.

I’ve had a good run, now I’m done.



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