A vacation with sports implications.
It wasn’t intended that way, but a week on the road in different directions put me in touch with parts of the region that, in some way, put their stamp on my mental envelope.
By the way, that’s a pretty small envelope.
First, it was east to Gettysburg, via a slightly southern route into a portion of Maryland.
If West Virginia has a panhandle, Maryland has a Popsicle stick, with the thinnest piece near Hancock that makes the narrow 51-mile Panama Canal isthmus seem two time zones wide.
While touring Gettysburg, I was surprised to discover that Gen. Abner Doubleday was one of the Union military leaders during the three-day Civil War battle in July 1863.
Could this be the same Doubleday who is credited with being the traditional inventor of baseball?
Could this be the man whose name the New York-Penn League team from Auburn, N.Y. uses as a nickname?
After digesting the bloody details of the Civil War’s pivotal encounter, it’s hard to imagine how anybody could not appreciate Pennsylvanians.
Although many Union states had men serving, the Keystoners were defending their backyard and they did it bravely.
A Fox along
On the return trip via Route 30 — the Lincoln Highway, my wife and I drove through some little burg by the name of St. Thomas, Pa.
Again to my surprise, there was a sign proudly proclaiming it as the hometown of former Chicago White Sox infielder Nellie Fox.
Until 1997, Fox had the post-career distinction of being one of three players within 14 votes of induction into the National Baseball Hall of Fame without being elected.
Later, without warning, I turned onto a road that led to Blue Knob, the second-highest point in Pa. and the state’s highest skiing area.
Of course, there was no snow, only motionless chair lifts and tall grass, but a beautiful view.
Not far away, in Cresson, we stopped where my wife went to college.
I discovered that her all-girls school was only a stone’s throw away from an all-boys school.
Now I understand why it took her three years to graduate from a two-year institution.
About 25 miles down the road, in Ebensburg, we stopped at a DQ.
I spotted two young ladies in the parking lot and approached them to ask for directions.
Turns out that they were canvassing businesses trying to sell Pirates tickets.
I ended up buying four for $40, two of which must be used in August.
Smooth move on my part because Pittsburgh fans were expected to walk out after the third inning of Saturday’s game at PNC Park to show their displeasure with the team’s ownership and management.
Now I wish the team’s “We Will” slogan on the ticket voucher read “We Will Refund Your $40.”
Later in the week, we went to Cleveland to watch the Grand Prix qualifying session at Burke Lakefront Airport.
I wasn’t sure which driver was in which car, but they sure went fast.
Before our eyes and without me knowing it, Sebastien Bourdais took the pole in near-record time.
Later, the drivers were under a tent, signing autographs and I got within 10 feet of the bespectacled Frenchman.
However, my wife was more interested in some other, better-looking jet jockey.
The day’s final event was a popular drag racing session for locals down a 1⁄8th-mile stretch of runway.
The souped-up cars ranged from grocery-getters to Hummers.
Back home, a ride by Oakland Field on Blaine Ave. was another surprise.
The field, dedicated to the people in 1939, is in tip-top shape.
Whoever’s responsible is doing a good job.
There’s high school football in the air, seven-on-seven style.
On June 29, Lisbon and Struthers held a passing scrimmage at Wildcat Stadium, the crumbling east bleachers of which will be razed soon.
One of the quarterbacks for Dallas Saunders’ Wildcats was Jordan Morrell.
For Lisbon, 6-foot-2 Arlan Bailey performed under the watchful eye of Jim Tsilimos.
Finally, today is my 35th wedding anniversary, but the only cake might be a flying one.
You see, a few weeks ago, my wife, using the no-space-in-our-house argument, put one of my 15-inch Jensen speakers at the curb for trash collection.
To make matters worse, the cabinet was custom-made not long after we got married.
I don’t think there’s a confessional big enough for that sin.
It could get ugly.
XJohn Bassetti is a sports reporter for The Vindicator. Write to him at email@example.com.