I can’t say any specific St. Paddy’s Day festivities were overly remarkable, but hanging out at a Mill Avenue bar in Tempe – just blocks from Arizona State University – always provided a lot of scenery.
Honestly, I was more excited about spending Valentine’s Day eve in Mesa-area Super Walmarts. That … was … entertaining.
If I wanted to be green on St. Patrick’s Day, I could have eaten corned beef cooked by a Ho. There was just something about feasting on corned beef prepared in the HoHoKam Park press dining room that didn’t sit well with me.
My favorite “almost St. Patrick’s Day” celebration didn’t take place in the Mesa metropolitan area.
Back in the day – or in this case, 1992 – the Cubs and their Phoenix-area Cactus League brethren went on overnight excursions to Yuma and Palm Springs. The San Diego Padres spent half the spring in the Valley of the Sun and half in lovely Yuma, Arizona. The California – yes, California – Angels spent half the time in the Phoenix area before heading off to Palm Springs.
Yuma was an interesting place, right there on the United States/Mexico border. As legend has it, there was a little stretch where – if you were heading east and you rolled down your car window – your fingertips would be in Mexico.
At least back then, Yuma was a horseshoe. Pull into town heading west … make a left turn … then make another left turn – and pull out of town heading back east. One chain restaurant after another after another, and then you were gone.
When teams traveled to Yuma, they were guaranteed to play games – since rain was never part of the forecast. As it was roughly a four-hour trip from Mesa, extra games were scheduled to make it worth your while. We’d get there to play a “B” game so the minor leaguers could get some action in … then play a regularly scheduled night game … then play an afternoon game the next day. Three games in 24 hours, then continue on your merry way to Palm Springs.
It was beyond a night-and-day difference, as Palm Springs was the “get away from Hollywood” glamour home for many in the entertainment industry. Hey look – there’s a Bob Hope golf course! Gene Autry, the Angels’ owner, was almost guaranteed to be at a spring game. And if you didn’t see him, a boulevard with his name on it ran adjacent to the ballpark.
So here we were in Palm Springs in 1992, a few days after St. Patrick’s Day, and a group of the “peripherals” – trainers, strength coach, low-level PR guy – happened to walk into a bar where several players had already set up shop for the evening. Not a good thing for a lightweight like me.
And on this night, the Miss Palm Springs competition was taking place at this bar. There was plenty of alcohol flowing, and the players were taking care of the support staff. Again, not a good thing for a lightweight.
Several players made it their mission to make sure I had a good time.
I make it a point not to sell out players unless the story merits it to avoid name-dropping, but I’m selling out Paul Assenmacher here. Paul, being left-handed, thought it would be a good idea for Chuck to do multiple Jagermeister shots. I can barely handle multiple Miller Lites.
The rest of the night was … I guess … a blur, maybe? I have no idea, other than hair will grow on your tongue if you drink enough Jager shots.
Please don’t ask me who won Miss Palm Springs. I know I missed the swimsuit portion of the competition, as the bar was moving on me. I’m guessing the winner was blonde and tan.
Please, don’t ask me how I got back to the hotel. I really have no idea.
What I do know is that I was quite green the next morning. I did learn a lesson about Gene Autry Boulevard – in that the hotel and ballpark were a couple miles apart, and I needed every step of the boulevard and every breath of fresh air possible for my brain cells to recover.
I just remember thinking that if I didn’t make it to the yard, my epitaph would have included the words “Wasserstrom, Assenmacher and Jagermeister.” Not exactly an Irish-sounding pub.