In his hilarious…

Tim Klobuchar

In his hilarious book, “Seasons in Hell,” Mike Shropshire describes what it was like to cover the fantastically rotten Texas Rangers of the mid-1970s on a daily basis. Shropshire, working for the Fort Worth Star-Telegram, also traveled with the team and stayed at the same hotel as them.
His constant contact with the Rangers afforded him glimpses of the players’ personalities he might not have ordinarily seen. For instance, before the plane even left the runway on a flight from Cleveland to Baltimore in 1973, a player yelled, “Hey stewardess! Bring on the (expletive) booze.”
In light of behavior like this, perhaps both parties benefitted when sports teams and media ceased their travel companionship some time ago. The players are probably glad that no one outside their organization is privy to their occasional buffoonery, and journalists are probably relieved they have a much slimmer chance of seeing something they shouldn’t that might influence their coverage.
That said, I had no such problems this season on the few trips I took with the Gophers baseball team. The players were well-dressed and well-behaved on flights and at hotels and, at least outwardly, expressed no reservations at having a member of the media in such close proximity.
Actually, the two road trips (to Penn State and Ohio State) on which I accompanied the team helped my coverage in the long run. I was able to talk to some of the players at length because of plane seating or hotel room placement, which I believe helped the comfort level on both sides by removing the formality that often exists between writer and player.
The first time I traveled with the team, though, a rather involved discussion with a player almost influenced my coverage of a crucial series. Not because of what we were talking about, but because we almost didn’t make it to the series.
Minnesota players Ben Griffin and Mike Arlt, radio announcer Paul Barnes and I were sitting in the terminal of the Detroit airport during a layover between Minneapolis and Harrisburg, Pa. From Harrisburg we were to take a two-hour bus ride to the exact geographic middle of nowhere, State College, where the Gophers would play Penn State.
I was talking to Griffin, and Barnes was having a similar bull session with Arlt, when we noticed that the terminal was sans Gophers. We walked to the Northwest agent at the counter and inquired about our flight. He told us, “That flight has left.”
As if the prospect of missing the series and being stuck in the largest urban target practice area in North America weren’t enough, the agent then proceeded to make us feel worse by asking, “Didn’t you hear all those announcements? I announced that flight at least three or four times.” His tact was on par with our auditory skill.
My thoughts over the next few minutes alternated between wondering how we could have been so stupid, and whether the duty-free shop sold flak jackets. The agent interrupted me with the announcement that the plane was coming back to get us. Fortunately, the pilot was still taxiing on the runway when he learned of our plight.
I was relieved as never before, and also embarrassed beyond belief. I walked hurriedly through the plane with my head down, looking up only to find my seat. I felt like the captain of the chess team reporting for his first day of detention.
Naturally, I absorbed a fair amount of ribbing the rest of the trip. As a result of the whole episode, I have a bit of a different take on the Texas player whose clownish antics embarrassed himself and the team. I could sympathize with him.