About Me

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Tacoma, Washington, United States

Thursday, November 3, 2016

Husky Baseball and Bar Fights

Con Frieze, sophomore baseball manager, UW Seattle, 1944
"I continued to wear my campaign ribbons, the red Good Conduct ribbon above the others, on campus and on leave at home, but when I went on liberty in downtown Seattle I would quietly remove them and carry them in my pocket..."

Although during my two years at the UW I continued to go to Vancouver on weekends and between semester leaves, I did participate in some extra-curricular activities at the university.  Early in 1944 Colin Dykeman, who was one of the replacements for Cason and Cramer in our Beta House quarters told me that Tubby Graves, the UW coach of both baseball and track, was looking for milers.  Since the Navy encouraged us to participate in school sports and I had done a lot of cross-country trotting and running in the Ozarks, I decided to try out for the track team.
I went to Hec-Edmundson pavilion one afternoon, met with Graves, and drew a pair of track shoes.  Graves watched me do some laps in the pavilion (it was raining that afternoon so we could not use the track in Husky Stadium).  Afterward =, the coach shook his head and said, “Frieze, I don’t think you are exactly a threat to break the four-minute mile.  You just don’t have the stride of a miler and you carry your hand too high.  By the way—you play baseball?  We can use some players on the Husky squad.”
Graves was obviously not impressed with my track ability and I knew I might as well be honest because he would be watching me on the ball field.  “Well, coached I played a little sandlot ball back in the Ozarks—second base and some outfield—but, no, don’t reckon I’m any great shakes at it.”
“Well, we do need a sophomore baseball manager for the Huskies.  Soph manager mostly takes care of gear, hits some fungos at practice, and shags balls.  Glad to have you if you want to be a Husky.”
I took Graves up on it (I liked and respected him) and for the 1944 baseball season I issued uniforms, hit fungos in practice, and sat in the dugout during all Husky games helping Graves keep players records.  We had a great season, partly due to the fact that all colleges had a dearth of athletes since so many were in the services.  I still have the warm Navy blue sweater that was awarded me at the end of the season with the Soph Manager emblem in gold on it. [I think it should have been a PURPLE sweater—after all it was the UW.]
We had some pretty fair baseball players thanks to the V-12 and ROTC programs at the UW and Graves was one best baseball coaches in the country.  (Graves Field, the baseball diamond north of Hec-Ed pavilion, was named for him.)  We had a winning season against other service teams that included some drafted pro-baseball players.
In July of 1944, having completed four years in the Navy, at one of the V-12 general assemblies Captain Barr called me forward and presented to me the red ribbon of a Good Conduct Medal and informed me that I could now add a has mark on my lower left sleeve denoting my four years of service.  I was now marked as one of the “old men” of the V-12 unit.
I enjoyed the deference accorded “Pappy” Frieze by my V-12 classmates but those ribbons and the hashmark brought on my first good fist fight since Honolulu.  (We were required by Navy Regulations to wear any decorations we had been awarded on our dress uniforms.)  I was on liberty in downtown Seattle one evening and went to the head in some joint.  There were two tipsy Marine privates in the washroom.  One of them looked at the apprentice seaman’s stripe on my cuffs then at the campaign bars and has mark.
“Well,” said one Marine scornfully, “what hock shop did you buy those in, sailor-boy?!”
I saw red.  I let go a right that decked the Marine against the wall.  With one eye on his buddy, I grabbed him by his olive-green shirt front and hauled him back to his feet.  I slammed him against the wall before he knew what was happening and growled something like, ‘Look, you half-assed gyrene boot—I earned those ribbons at Pearl and in the South Pacific while you were still a pimply, snot-nosed kid in high school!  I got bust from first class for beating up on better men than you!  Now you get the hell out of a man’s way!”
The other Marine, caught by surprise by my violent reaction, came at me.  I let go of the first and back handed the second hard enough that he fell back against one of the wash basins, blood welling from a cut lip.  I stood with my fists on my hips, outwardly mean and defiant but inwardly hoping that a Navy man would come through the door.  “Who’s next?!”
The young Marine privates, probably just out of boot camp, had enough.  With a mumbled, “Sorry, Mac” from one they stumbled out the door leaving me vastly relieved and a bit proud of myself.
[Although they inherited my father’s temper, I taught my boys to use words, not fists, to settle arguments, but both of the older ones ending up having to deck a boy each when we moved to Gig Harbor.  That close-knit student community was trying to figure out those Casey boys.  They got suspended, but I didn’t punish them.  Their Papa understood.]
I continued to wear my campaign ribbons, the red Good Conduct ribbon above the others, on campus and on leave at home, but when I went on liberty in downtown Seattle I would quietly remove them and carry them in my pocket for the sake of no more incidences like that.