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Patrick Reusse has been covering sports in the Twin Cities since 1968.

The Long Snapper's Truck, a short story by P. James Reusse

The Sports Writer was subject to graphic dreams in the late ‘60s and into the ‘70s, when he was a drinking man. The one that returned most frequently had him driving a vehicle, but with no ability to move his legs in order to travel at a proper speed or to apply the brakes.

Often, he was on a mountain side and barging through a railing, when he would awake. Always, the Sports Writer would awake before the final outcome.

It was sort of the male version of Thelma and Louise … suspended in mid-air, never to deal with the actuality of what seemed for the world to be a gruesome fate.

These near-death experiences that came late in the night might have been tied to the Sports Writer’s habit of consuming a sizable quantity of Tanqueray, followed by midnight pizza.

The Sports Writer did come upon a morning cure for these nights of gin, pizza and restless sleep:

A 20-ounce Coke, four Excedrin and a big gulp of Kaopectate. Try that for breakfast for 10-12 years, and you are guaranteed to have a cast-iron stomach.

The Sports Writer quit drinking in 1981. The actual sobriety date is April 27, 1981, if you want to congratulate him. Yes, it is one day at a time, but the Sports Writer is fully confident that he’s going to make it sober to a 35th anniversary.

The editor of his department back then knew of the Sports Writer’s mild degree of passion for hockey, and later would accuse his employee of having entered alcoholism treatment in order to avoid writing non-stop columns on what would be a run to the Stanley Cup finals for the North Stars.

That was a humorous observation, but not the reason. The Sports Writer went to St. Mary’s rehabilitation facility because he needed it.

Even with the alcohol out of the way, there still was the late-night pizza problem. The Thelma and Louise dream would rear itself, although not as frequently.

Then came a day in the later ‘80s, when these factors came together in the most graphic and memorable dream of the Sports Writer’s life:

*His youngest son had enlisted in the Marine Corps (an example followed by the older son, who remains a lifer in the Corps).

*The Sports Writer had written a column critical of Tommy Kramer. The main point was coach Jerry Burns should put aside his loyalty to Kramer and fully commit to Wade Wilson as his starter. Wilson had spent most of his career as a strong-armed backup to Kramer.

*Away from sports, this was a time when it seemed that there was somebody in your driveway constantly with a truck loaded with firewood, and trying to sell it you. If there was any sign of life in the house, these guys were stopping.

Another piece of this dream’s storyline was that the Sports Writer turned 18 in 1963. The police action in Vietnam was starting to gain momentum. Most of us lads (not all) were not anxious to have anything to do with the place.

So in the Sports Writer’s dream, the danger associated with being in the military was Vietnam, not the reality of the ‘80s and the chaos that was about to ensue for the USA in the Middle East.

In reality, the Sports Writer was sleeping in his home in Golden Valley. In this dream, he was sleeping on a couch in a house in the Prior Lake countryside where the two sons were raised.

The Sports Writer was awoken by the sound of a vehicle in the driveway. On getting to his feet, he discovered that he had a bloody tooth. Where this came from is anyone’s guess, since the Sports Writer had no history of loose and lost teeth.

No matter.

It was essential in the dream to do something about the bloody tooth. The Sports Writer went to the refrigerator, found some ice cubes, put them in a towel to apply to his mouth, and then went to the door to repulse the overture of the firewood salesman with a rapid, “Not interested,’’ and a wave.

When the Sports Writer opened the door, he saw that the firewood seller was a small Vietnamese man wearing a Tommy Kramer No. 9 jersey. Huddled at the side of the truck were a woman and a young boy, as though torn from a photo of Life magazine taken during the Vietnam War.

“No thank you,’’ the Sports Writer said, in a voice muffled by ice cubes and a towel pressed against his mouth. “I don’t need any firewood.’’

At which point, the little man in the Tommy Kramer jersey suddenly produced a .22-caliber rifle and shot the Sports Writer in the right shoulder – the same shoulder in which Kramer had suffered separations.

At that point, the Sports Writer was jolted awake. After a few minutes of dissecting the full details of the dream, the connections were clear:

 Kramer had extracted his revenge for a negative column through the marksmanship of a Vietnamese gent firing a bullet into the same area that Kramer had suffered agony, with the shooter representing the dangers a son (and then two) going into the military might face … and the firewood, well, that was 90 percent of the strangers pulling into your driveway in the later ‘80s.

The bloody tooth? To repeat: No idea.

*

THREE DECADES LATER

The Sports Writer has not had the Thelma and Louise dream in years. The details of the Tommy Kramer dream have been retold on the airwaves of a local AM radio station on several occasions, always to the amusement of the Sports Writer’s long-time colleague, Sooch.

There has been no alcohol and midnight pizza is a rarity. If there are dreams, they are neither vivid nor memorable.

Until last night in Southwest Florida.

The Sports Writer had nodded off reading a Daniel Silva novel, “The Heist,’’ with Gabriel Allon – master Israeli operative and restorer of great paintings – once again facing long odds against the evil-doers.

Around 3:30 a.m., the Sports Writer woke up and read a few more chapters, and went back to sleep at perhaps at 5:30.

And then it came: a dream as strange as the small man extracting Tommy Kramer’s revenge.

It was a gathering of some kind in a remote area. There were vehicles parked on a hillside. It wasn’t a party; it was a place that people had to be.

The Sports Writer did not have a vehicle. And he did not want to be at this place any longer.

So, he started looking through the vehicles to see if anyone had left their keys. There was a large, well-worn truck, muddy from the drive into this remote area.

In this dream, the Sports Writer knew this truck. He had seen it in the parking lot of the radio station where he worked. He knew it was a truck belonging to Mike Morris, the legendary Vikings’ long snapper who was now doing radio work at the same station.

The Sports Writer – desperate for transportation -- made his move. He climbed into the seat, turned the key for the big machine to come to life, and then drove away in Mike Morris’ truck.

Hours later, the Sports Writer was home, and heard a police siren, and could tell it was headed directly for his house. And that’s when the Sports Writer realized that Mike Morris’ truck was in the driveway.

He had stolen the truck, and now he was going to be arrested for the crime.

Then, the Sports Writer woke up. It was dawn in Southwest Florida and he spent a few minutes trying to interpret the dream … to connect the dots that were much less clear than the Tommy Kramer, small man with a .22, firewood dream.

It is now a half-day since the the Sports Writer awoke from the dream in which he stole Mike Morris’ truck, and all he can come up with is that it might have something to do with Blair Walsh’s missed field goal.

Reusse: Here's to a baseball revival with outstanding black athletes

FORT MYERS, FLA. -- Baseball does not have a talent shortage now or for the foreseeable future. That was demonstrated by the number of 25-and-under players that dominated the game in 2015.

The game has been saved over the last two decades by the bonanza of players from the Dominican Republic. Venezuela also has contributed mightily, along with Puerto Rico and defectors from Cuba.

The hope here is that no matter who winds up being sworn in as president next January, the path toward reconciliation with Cuba will continue. And if those gates to Cuba do open completely, the stream of players from the Caribbean will only increase in numbers.

As an eternal fan of the Grand Old Game, I do find it disturbing to watch ballgames at all levels with so few African-Americans.

There are a dozen sociological theories as to why black Americans have turned away from baseball. There’s nothing I can do about any of those things, and I have no interest in going into a sanctimonious harangue on the subject.

I just miss the large number of tremendous African-American ballplayers on whom I became accustomed as a young fan in the ‘50s, and as a sports writer by the mid-‘60s.

I have contended for 50 years that the greatest baseball team ever assembled was the one the National League brought to Met Stadium for the 1965 All-Star Game.

In May 2014, I had the thrilling moment of spending 90 minutes with Willie Mays, along with Star Tribune photographer Jerry Holt. We were in the suite named for the Say Hey Kid in AT&T Park in San Francisco.

I offered my theory on the ’65 All-Star team to Mr. Mays, and he let that thought linger for a moment and then said: “How do rate that team above any of the All-Star teams we had in the National League for seven or eight years? We had the same players.’’

Good point, Willie.

The difference for me must be having been there in 1965 to take in the NL’s 6-5 victory over the American League. The loudest cheers were for Harmon Killebrew’s home run and Tony Oliva’s double, but the awe was for the National Leaguers.

No DH, of course, so the eight starters at a position included Mays, Henry Aaron, Willie Stargell, Dick Allen (1 through 4), Ernie Banks (6) and Maury Wills (8). The two non-African-Americans in the lineup were catcher Joe Torre and second baseman Pete Rose.

Meantime, the American League had one African-American in its lineup – Detroit’s Willie Horton. That is a powerful snapshot as to why the Nationals beat the Americans relentlessly in the All-Star Game for two decades.

The National Leagues also had Frank Robinson and Billy Williams come off the bench. Bob Gibson pitched two scoreless innings at the end to hold onto the one-run victory. Bob Veale, a lefty from Pittsburgh, also was on the roster.

That was 10 African-Americans among the 25 players, with seven Hall of Famers: Mays, Aaron, Stargell, Banks, Robinson, Williams and Gibson. The first two on the list might be merely the two greatest players of all-time.

So, baseball has gotten by as the loss of wonderful African-American players has been offset to a large degree by larger numbers of wonderful players in Caribbean countries.

Maybe I’m naïve – and the participation surveys probably make that definite – but I have some hope that a better percentage of the best African-American male athletes will go back to giving baseball a chance.

Imagine a game that had Miguels from Cabrera to Sano, Joses from Bautista to Berrios, to go with today’s athletic equivalents of Mays, Aaron, Robinson, Banks and Gibson.

I had a chance to interview center fielder Byron Buxton at TwinsFest and had forgotten all about the fact that he had a football scholarship to Georgia.

When Buxton used the astounding speed and other abilities, along with a well-chronicled dedication, to become the second overall selection in the 2012 draft, the dollars meant he had no choice but to go to baseball.

Yet to Buxton, the first choice always was baseball, he said … the game he loved most from the time he started playing sports.

I’m always excited to hear that from a young African-American who also had the option of football or basketball.

Buxton is going to be the game changer for the 2016 Twins. Sano is going to hit 30 home runs and drive in over 100 from the No. 3 hole (presumably), and that will be just the start. Miguel’s bat is real, folks.

As for Buxton, the best thing that happened was for the kid to get a taste last season and find out what it takes to deal with big-league pitching. He started to get an idea in those last days of the season, and if he’s healthy this time, watch out by June or so.

“I’d guess Byron is going to start off hitting ninth, and after 150 or 200 at-bats, he’ll be at the top,’’ pitcher Glen Perkins said the other day.  “And while he’s in that process, he will still be saving games in center field.’’

I interviewed another Twins prospect, and young African-American outfielder, Adam Brett Walker, for a column later this week.

You see Walker’s home runs and strikeouts, and you figure he’s a muscled-up plodder, but he’s actually 6-foot-4 (plus), powerfully built and athletic.

Walker also had options in football (his father’s sport) and basketball (he has a forward’s frame). But he always wanted to play baseball.

And if ever figures out the strike zone, well, the power we are assured is amazing.

Byron Buxton. Adam Brett Walker.

I see young black Americans who love baseball. I see hope.

  

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