In 1976 a bunch of guys that I worked with at Koos Inc. decided to form a softball team. We played for The Sands. We were sponsored by Charlie Huck and played in the lowest city recreation League possible. The makeup of the team was quite diverse. There were a few fellows that could actually play softball, a couple of decent athletes, a bunch of guys that needed a new reason to go the bar and a catcher of ample proportions who ran things. That last guy would be me.
The season was a combination of competing against teams that were as lousy as we were and getting destroyed by a team called Tappa Hafa Kega Dai. It would be the first and last season of The Sands team. The players who just wanted a night out found a new reason to go to the bar. Meanwhile, the guys who could actually play softball wanted more, and under the guidance of the catcher of ample proportions formed the legendary 400 Club.
In 1977, we would play as The 400 Club in city league and as Koos Inc. at historic Finney’s West. Forrest McConnell initially sponsored our Koos Inc. team, with Peter Lederer filling that role when he took over the business. The 400 Club had only sponsor – the late Vern Ekern.
Vern Ekern was a barrel-chested Norwegian with hands that resembled old catcher’s mitts. Despite his incessant reminding of us to “stop down and spend a buck”, Vern was the best sponsor a team could ask for. We always had full uniforms, complete with stirrups and entered all the tournaments we wanted. All Vern asked of us was to “stop down and spend a buck”.
And throw an annual Beer Bust.
Throwing a Beer Bust was never a problem for the 400 Club team. All that was needed was to set a date and give every player twenty $2.00 tickets to sell. It was always a sellout and every year something “special” would happen. Being a control freak, I always worked the door and collected the money and raffle tickets.
It was during a 400 Club Beer Bust that I threw the only punch in my adult life. A greasy little fellow who had signed his raffle ticket “Stormin’ Norman” was the recipient of this memorable punch.
And he had it coming.
Norman was trying to become a bit too familiar with Vern’s oldest daughter Bonnie. Despite her polite rejections, Norman continued to accost Bonnie to the point that she finally requested my help.
Try as I might to explain to the slightly over-served patron that Bonnie wanted nothing to do with him, he persisted. Again and again. Then he stepped over the line and grabbed Bonnie by the arm. I grabbed Norman and pushed him toward the front door.
Maybe I was being kind when I described Norman as being slightly over-served.
The man was drunk on his ass.
That would be the only thing that could explain what he did next.
After just being shoved a good fifteen feet, he turned around and charged at me with a demented look on his face. Now I was by no means a tough guy. In fact I detested fighting. But I was eight inches taller and a couple hundred pounds heavier than “Stormin’ Norman”.
And the inebriated knucklehead still charged at me!
After getting over my initial shock, I did what any gentleman protecting a young lady’s honor would do. I hit him. Hard.
To this day I am not quite certain whether it was my fist or my forearm that connected with Norman. I am also not quite sure just where I connected on my intoxicated combatant’s body. What I am sure of is that he was once again headed toward the front door.
However, this time he was air born.
Norman landed on the hard marble floor with a sickening thud. He didn’t look like he was going to get up. I’m not sure that he could have. A couple of his friends who obviously had more common sense then he did helped him outside.
With Bonnie’s honor in tact and her would-be assailant gone, the Beer Bust continued without further issue.
400 Club Beer Busts were always a highlight of the spring season and this particular one was no different. They didn’t always feature violence, but they were always noteworthy. In fact, another time we had seven or eight Kenosha Police Department squad cars there.
Remind me to tell you about that one sometime, it was a doozy.
Until next time…from the booth.