As rivulets of water streamed across the parking lot of Hagerstown’s Municipal Stadium Saturday night, fans streamed into the ballpark to receive their Boots Poffenberger bobble head, handed to them by members of Boots’ family. I had been invited to attend and sign copies of Boots Poffenberger: Hurler, Hero, Hell-Raiser, which I did, and I had a great time doing so. I met a couple of Boots’ relatives, reconnected with a friend who also happened to be one of Boots’ old drinking buddies, and even met a gentleman–younger than I am–from Detroit who knew all about Boots. It seems that his legend is still very much alive in the Motor City.
I also got to talk to my friend Laco Anderson, who I interviewed extensively for the book. Laco was one of the kids that Boots would gather up when home on leave from the Marine Corps, and play baseball with them all day, “until it was time to go to Murray’s Tavern in the evenings,” according to Laco. Laco’s daughter, Donna Weimer, was there as well, and she, along with Pam Gouker, formed the first grade teaching team at Fountain Rock Elementary school where both Becky and Sarah attended. Now, of course, Donna and her dad can watch Sarah on WDVM, the local television station at which she is a reporter, and Becky teaches first and second grades.
The most striking thing that I learned about Boots Poffenberger when I was researching the book was how beloved he was and how, in spite of his eccentricities (or irresponsibilities, depending on your perspective) people gravitated towards him. He became the focal point around which new friendships and connections were formed and he continues to perform this role even 18 years after his death.
Thanks to the Washington County Convention and Visitor’s Bureau for sponsoring the bobble head and to the Hagerstown Suns in putting on the event. Oh, and as for the game? After feverishly working on the field for over an hour, the game had to be postponed because of wet grounds. Any fans who headed to a tavern to spend the time that they otherwise would have spent at the ballpark, were no doubt saluted by Boots with a frosty mug raised on high Somewhere Out There where there are no rainouts.