The Gospel Truth

Bill and Judy’s Excellent Adventures

August 4, 2015
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With apologies to Keanu Reeves and Ted Logan:

When I was in high school my parents wanted to send me on a European pilgrimage with the school. I shuttered at the prospect of flying over the Atlantic Ocean and visiting places where I could not speak the language.   Regrettably, I did not go.

Several years later my wife won a drawing that rewarded both of us with a week in London. I made up every excuse in book–we did not have passports…it was too far and so on.  The free trip prevailed and we spent a marvelous week that was punctuated by a stewardess strike that forced us to catch a plane from Gatwick, rather than Heathrow Airport.

That began a 30-years travelogue of memories that have enriched our lives greatly. Bill and Judy’s Excellent Adventures have seen us travel to at least two corners of the world. We have visited Ireland and England four times and Rome three times. We once took a tour that started on a bus in Marseilles, France and ended on a yacht in Malta.

As I wrote in my 50th Anniversary biography for Holy Cross this past year, thanks to my eventual willingness to chance world travel we have browsed the shops of Dublin, prayed in St. Peter’s Basilica and walked the sands of Normandy and the streets of Valletta. With Pavarotti’s voice echoing in the air, I (we) have stood on a deck below Stromboli as it belched hot embers on a quiet summer’s night.

It was during my first Tauck tour–Judy had already taken one to Germany, Austria and Switzerland–that I happened upon the idea of collecting souvenir lapel pins as part hobby and part memory aid to remind me where I had been and what I had seen.

The pins have become very personal to me and I now have–counting some memorable sporting events and local attractions (like an annual play-off and world series game in St. Louis) in excess of 600. I have pins from Monte Carlo, the Hearst Castle in St. Simon, California and the Dali Museum in St. Petersburg, Florida.

I also have one from Monaco where we visited or actually stood on Grace Kelly’s grave inside their Cathedral.  I have others from the French cities of Chenonceau, Dinan and Normadie’, as well as Italy’s Assisi, Venice and Siena.   I have others from Yosemite, the Amish Country and Bubba Gump’s on Fisherman’s Wharf.  I love my Corsica pin as well as the one from Sherwood Forest.

My favorite pin is the most personal one I have and it really was not part of these adventures. I had always promised myself that if the late Brooklyn Dodgers captain, Pee Wee Reese, the closest man I had to a hero as a child, was ever elected to the Cooperstown Hall of Fame I would go.

He was in 1984 and so I took my eight-year son, Matthew with me. Because of my baseball writings and teachings–in St. Louis I was known as The Baseball Professor–I was able to secure a press pass that put me right next to Hall of Fame sportswriter, Bob Broeg, a personal friend.

They gave us all a souvenir pin included the names of all the inductees. One woman offered me 100 dollars for it on the street.

On our most recent trip up the St. Lawrence River in one of those Dam Ships, we idly walked around the Canadian town of Sydney. Nova Scotia. Signs for an Art Fair caught the eye of my sister-in-law and the four of us traipsed in and around the streets to find it in the hall of a local church.

An elderly man–a bit older than me–was offering his collection of pins for sale. Most of them had been collected like I had in his various travels. There was an inherent sadness I recognized immediately. In a profound way he was “letting go” of his memories and maybe his life.

The pins were not as interesting as mine but I felt compelled to give one of them a “good home”. I asked him which was his favorite and without hesitation he pointed to an oval-shaped pin of a chicken hatching from the cocoon of its shell. He had bought it in Chicken, Alaska–a real place I had never heard of and had no desire to visit.

We had taken a cruise to Alaska and wandered around such metropolises as Skagway and Ketchikan.  My brother-in-law and I met an ex-soldier, named Umberto in one of the bars we visited that scared me to death.  He was living with the bar maid who was twice his age. Couldn’t wait to be rescued by our wives.

He asked me to read the small print under the egg. It read, I got laid in Chicken, Alaska. I hadn’t the courage to ask him why it was his favorite!

I had originally wanted to construct a neologism–calling this essay—a Pingrimage because like all human beings life is a continual search for truth and answers to questions that plague us while we still have breath.

Traveling to far off places can be a broading and educational experience because while people may dress and talk differently under their cultural skin they are all human beings, just like us trying to find our way in this life.

Were I to attach all my pins to a world map, they would configure just what marvelous parts of God’s vast universe I had seen. This is not only a geography statement but also one of ontology for me because it shows just how little we can do and see in the short time allotted to us on earth.

It is a sobering thought, pregnant with a universal significance.  We must not waste a moment in anger, bitterness or despair.  Our time belongs to us but we belong to God.


A 24-Hour Memoir Part II

June 6, 2014
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13) In the spring of 1972 I received my doctorate from St. Louis University. While it never materialized into a real career it gave me the necessary tools to handle a lot of different things. While my teaching jobs were never fulltime that freedom allowed me to write and most importantly spend 28 years behind a radio microphone discussing the issues of the day. It was WGNU radio that provided me with a forum to learn more about human nature and truly find out just what I believe and why I believed it. It was better than a Ph.D.  I was also the station’s general trivia champion twice.

14) In 1974 I had my first professional article published in St. Louis Fan Magazine. I called it The Greening of a Cardinal Rookie. The Cardinals gave me my first press pass so I could interview third baseman, Ken Reitz who had broken in the September before. He gave me six quotes in the locker room and I wrote 3500. Even then I knew how to expand and embellish.

15) On May 9, 1974 I appeared on the NBC Today with Gene Shalit for three and half minutes. I was there to talk about my baseball history course at Maryville College. I argued that it was probably the first accredited course of that nature in the Midwest.

16) Hall of Fame sportswriter Bob Broeg started calling me the Baseball Professor. I parlayed that into my own TV show on local cable that ran for 17 months. I wrote, produced and starred in this baseball variety show, named The Baseball Professor, I did it all except film it. No notes just my memory and fast-speed voice tempo. I think all of 11 people saw at least one episode of this unique show.

17) It was after the visit to Cooperstown that I had an epiphany at the Albany airport. I decided to start a historical society for the old St. Louis Browns. One of their former players, Rick Ferrell had been inducted along with Pee Wee and I was saddened by the fact that no team would retire his number like all the other inductees. (I don’t think he ever had a number with the Browns I later learned.) We are celebrating our 30th anniversary which is eight more than the number of living members of that defunct St. Louis team.  (22)

18) Having grandchildren is sometimes a lot better than having children. I will never forget the first one. Unlike her daddy I saw her just minutes after her birth. From such a tiny red little human being she has grown into the fine figure of a young woman, now preparing leaving home for college this coming fall.

19) Her brother could not have been a better athlete. He has excelled at every sport he has ever tried and were it not for his penchant for concussions—one each in football, basketball and lacrosse–who knows how far he might have gone. He has now taken up tennis, his dad’s game. And after a slow start he won his last his last five varsity matches before Districts. For years we really bonded while playing Madden Football. I must have a little of his aggressive spirit because I got tired of losing 60-0. Once I learned how to play I would beat him at least 40% of the time. He just hated that.  And when I beat him in three of four chess games–look out!

20) Their baby sister was born with a small hole in her heart. She had open-heart surgery at 18 months and now can run a mile in 7:18. I never could run one that fast. She has the same aggressive spirit as a dad and brother. And she is a whiz with the books and a fantastic volleyball player, slated to follow in her sister’s footsteps.

21) My daughter’s only child is our intellect. With a verbal IQ of 153 she we have been talking politics for years. She’s almost 12.  Six years ago she informed me she was a liberal Democrat because she loves their principles. She reads more books than I do, acts, sings and even ran for Student Council. For her poster she chose the Most Interesting Man in the World, the Mexican beer guy, who happens to be my new hero.

22) The best vacation my wife and I ever went on was the trip to Southern France where we spent a week on a French yacht the Le Poniard that we boarded in Nice. While traveling all up and down the Amalfi Coast, one evening after a sumptuous dinner we stopped to see Stromboli belch fiery lava while we listened to Pavarotti on the top deck of the boat. It just doesn’t get any better than that.

23) One of the greatest nights of my public life occurred at the Birthright dinner in 1996. I was given their prestigious Monsignor James Hartnett Award for service to the organization. It was more than an honor because I had known Monsignor for many years. He not only baptized my third child but introduced me to Stan Musial. What made it even more special was that the dinner occurred on my 56th birthday with 700 hundred of my closest friends in attendance. But if that was not enough for some reason I had hoped that Bob Costas would be there. Why I don’t know. I just prayed for it. To my knowledge he had never attended one of these dinners. Whom should I see leaning against a wall as I enter the reception area but BC himself. In talking to him I discern that he is totally unaware who the birthday boy is and I don’t tell him.  When my acceptance speech was over he rushed up to my tables and got down on one knee to apologise. I thought I had died and gone to heaven right then and there.

24) Massage therapy has been the elixir that has giver new joy to my older life.  While she is relatively new to my experience I had the good fortune of getting a series of massages from a young therapist in Florida quite by accident. (Does the name Wally Pipp mean anything?)  She had a kind and gentle aura that warmed the cockles of this old man’s heart. She is the kind of woman who should be ministering to old people because she had patience, understanding and a kind heart that made me feel very special in her presence. It is fitting that I saved my regular MT for last! Her magic hands have not only provided me with a boatload of inspiration–three articles, one play and a short story–but have been a foretouch of the world yet to come that has made everything else pale by comparison.

I am thankful for all these many memories!!!!


About author

After graduating from Holy Cross, Bill Borst earned an MA in Asian History from St. John's University and a Ph.D in American History from St. Louis University. (1972) A former New Yorker, he taught for many years in the St. Louis area, while also hosting a weekly radio show on WGNU from 1984-2006. He currently is a regular substitute for conservative Phyllis Schlafly on KSIV radio. (1320) He is the author of two books on social history, "Liberalism: Fatal Consequences," and "The Scorpion and the Frog: A Natural Conspiracy." He just retired as the Features editor of the Mindszenty Foundation Monthly Report. In his 11 years from 2003-2013 he wrote nearly 130 essays on Catholic culture and world affairs. Many in St. Louis also know him as the "Baseball Professor," because of a course that he offered at Maryville College from 1973-74. It was arguably the first fully-accredited baseball history course in the Midwest.The author of several short books on the old St. Louis Browns, he started the St. Louis Browns Historical Society in 1984. In 2009 his first two plays were produced on the local stage. "The Last Memory of an Ol' Brownie Fan," ran six performances at the Sound Stage in Crestwood and "A Perfect Choice" ran for two performances at the Rigali Center Theater in Shrewsberry. His third play, "A Moment of Grace," ran six performances at DeSmet High School in January of 2011with First Run Theater in January of 2011. He is currently working on a 4th play, "A Family Way," which is a comedy about a happy dysfunctional family. He can reached at bbprof@sbcglobal.net

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