(In Response to the "Making life-long friend on the baseball diamond " Post on Eddie Batke)
Uncle Eddie Batke to me was also special. Between my 5th and 10th birthday a few memories. He was only about 5 years older than I so he was more of a "beach kids" mentor than an uncle. I played baseball with his permission and encouragement at his sandlot location near the Engler home and Lake Michigan on many occasions. In the winter he would loan me his ice skates (you wouldn't believe how primitive they were - I think I still have them) and we would go down to Lake Michigan to walk the ice hills, find smooth patches, and skate. The smooth ice patches were about 3 feet thick and the ice crystal clear. The ice hills were something else. They were always rough, jagged, and at the edges where we encountered lake spray, slippery and dangerous on rough and windy days. I still shiver just a bit as I consider the possibilities for tragedy on those ventures. It was not unlike Uncle Eddie to bring his 22 rifle along for extra adventure.
On several occasions during my visits to Grandma Batke's house on Vine Street and for entertainment during the other three seasons of the year we would walk the rails near 714 Vine and away from the train station in St. Joe. Imagine me at age 7 or 8 standing on the bridge over the train tracks near Vine street while a freight train with two or three smoking engines went beneath that bridge pulling 60-70 freight cars. I would get chewed at grandma Batke's house afterwards by parents for being covered with smoke and soot from the train, and he for taking me on this kind of a jaunt. I remember Brother Bob involved in some of all of this, but he was too small for baseball and often not allowed to go along for the ice hill trips.
This type of excitement, if known by parents, would certainly not have been permitted. Uncle Eddie was officially guilty in all this but it was my own mischief that usually got these kinds of things going as well.
I was too small to remember Bob Rennick's face, but his tribute to Eddie Batke was right on. I do remember some of the ball players on that sandlot -- Strohscheins and Licks, perhaps Bob Rennick was one of the faces I saw but did not know. Others were classmates at Trinity Lutheran School in the earlier grades. Only after many years of being away from St. Joe and occasional trips back home did I occasionally see Uncle Eddie as a mechanic at a Benton Harbor gas station on duty by himself. I remember the drinking. After that time, two or three encounters with him and his wife made me realize he successfully and by the grace of God made me proud of his change to a new found faith. His wife was the prime instrument in his change, and I did not see Eddie after he moved to live with her. I heard and appreciated greatly the rumors of his happiness and felt the distress while away from home at the news of his death.
Don Fredrick, July 10, 2010