Wayne's Brick

Wayne Minshew was one of the first writers to send me a keepsake story. I remember reading the title of his story—"The Brick."

A brick? Now that's quite an unusual keepsake, I thought. But Wayne was a quite unusual character. 

Project Keepsake brought me and Wayne together. We formed a friendship—a friendship that flourished over time. I've never felt more like a bonafide writer than I did when I met fellow writers, Wayne Minshew and Coleen Brooks, in town for lunch and a writing critique session. 

 Wayne Minshew with his keepsake—a brick.

Wayne Minshew with his keepsake—a brick.

I will miss that. You see, Wayne died two weeks ago. I am heartbroken. His family is heartbroken. Our community is heartbroken.

I wrote a tribute to him on my other blog at  http://ambernagle.com/2015/04/so-long-shew/ 

Wayne was a baseball man through and through. He played baseball for the University of Georgia. After achieving a journalism degree, he played professional baseball in the St. Louis Cardinals organization, was a sports writer for the Atlanta Journal Constitution, and worked as the director of public relations and promotions for the Atlanta Braves. His career was celebrated in a chapter of the 2013 book, Keepers of the Game: When the Baseball Beat was the Best Job on the Paper. He was the father of two and a grandfather to four and a dear friend to thousands.

I did not get to attend my friend's memorial service, but I've heard that it was a service Wayne would have been proud of. At the end, the congregation of family and friends raised their voices and belted out, "Take Me Out to the Ballgame." How appropriate!

Today, I present to you Wayne's keepsake story in its entirety. Again, a brick is an unusual keepsake, but it held so many memories for Wayne. Enjoy!

 

The knock on the door was loud and insistent.

“Yeah, what is it?” I said, irritated. I was, after all, involved in a mission of importance: M*A*S*H, and Col. Henry Blake had just been told he was going home.

“I got a package for you,” said the voice at the door. He paused, then added, “Sir.” It sounded sarcastic.

I opened the door to greet a messenger from UPS.

“Sign here,” he said, and I did.

The package was heavy. 

“What could it be?” I asked the messenger, who shrugged. “Beats me,” he said.

It carried the weight, say, of a bowling ball. But I don’t bowl.

“You might open it,” said the UPS guy.

I pondered his suggestion, considered it sound and tore into the package, which produced a brick—a brick?

Puzzled, I examined the package further and found a note. It was from Claude Felton, who heads-up sports communication at The University of Georgia.

“I was passing by where the field house used to be,” he wrote. “They imploded it to make room for a new building, and it’s several piles of bricks now. You were the first person I thought of, so I got one for you.”

When I was a student-athlete at UGA, I lived in the field house, along with several other baseball players. We lived in the attic. Our furnishings included a bed apiece and a refrigerator. We had somebody in once a week to change the dust.

We were known, if not campus-wide, then certainly within our own confines as Bird, Flap, Hard Man, Hose Nose, Fats, Rocky and Smokey. We lived for baseball, occasionally studied, finally graduated and went separate ways to separate careers.

Now and then, we run into each other and swap memories that we recall as if they happened yesterday instead of five decades ago.

It was the best time of our lives—our glory days.

Since the building housed locker rooms for several sports teams, we had the choice of twenty-five or thirty showers, an abundance of soap and towels, a training room and a smug feeling of privacy set apart from, say, a mundane dormitory.

Also, we—the baseball team—had the only winning team on the UGA campus, adding to our smugness.

The field house was watched over by a watchman we called Hawkshaw, who carried white lightning in a bottle. “It helps me fight off cold winter nights,” he told us.

The brick rests on a special table inside my apartment. I had it engraved and added felt tips so it won’t damage the table’s glass top. It seems cold and impersonal just to look at it, but it contains more memories and causes more reflections than almost anything I own.

I sometimes touch the brick and think back to those heady, glorious times at UGA. They remain the happiest days of my life.

—Wayne Minshew from Project Keepsake

Rest in peace, Wayne. Thank you for your friendship, your ever-so-upbeat encouragement, your time, and your willingness to help me in all of my writing endeavors. Your passing has left a big hole, but we will carry on, continue writing, share our stories, and encourage other writers to join in—just as you taught us to do.