LOCAL LADY LEAVES LIT LEGACY
By Maggie Finch
Squallpocket Honker Lifestyles Editor
Sheila S. Grossinger was never one to go quietly. The 86-year-old former psychologist and Maine native, bedridden with acute dementia for nearly twenty years at the Squallpocket Acres Nursing Home, passed away Wednesday but left behind a most rare gift for her family.
“It’s a literary find, is what it is,” says Carlton “Buzz” Grossinger, one of her two surviving sons.
While cleaning Ms. Grossinger’s Squallpocket room after she departed, a young orderly named Fred Washington found an ornate, leather-bound book wedged under the mattress and fished it out. Inside were over 300 handwritten pages, documenting a fictitious cross-country “time travel journey” in which Ms. Grossinger and a host of others followed the 1977 baseball season. Needless to say, Washington quickly drove it over to a grateful Carlton at the local trailer park where the local stereo salesman lives with his wife and son.
“Sheila was a model resident,” says Seamus M. Headley, Director of Operations for the nursing home, “Chirpy, polite, participated in the group activities the best she could. Who would have thought she had so much imagination inside her?”
Ms. Grossinger, who spent most of her teenage years in McKeesport, Pennsylvania, was not only a noted “dream psychologist” in her time, but a diehard Pittsburgh Pirates fan. According to Headley, her dementia was diagnosed in 1992, following an especially traumatic Pirate playoff loss to Atlanta, and from then on required special care.
Ms. Grossinger’s love of baseball apparently ran in the family. Her natural father, Vincenzo Spanelli, was an avid Phillies fan, and even served as the club’s batboy for part of 1924. When Spanelli lost his life at Salerno during World War II’s Italian campaign, his daughter took up the sport in a big way.
“You could tell she was into it,” says Amy Gulliver, Squallpocket’s chief nurse, “She wouldn’t say much when games were on in the common room, but she would just stare at that screen like it was the King James Bible.”
“I bet with her on games all the time,” says Sherman Wayman, another elderly resident, “and I always lost. Hope to hell she didn’t put that in her journal thing.”
Carlton Grossinger says he has no immediate plans to try and have the journal published, but wouldn’t rule it out. Ms. Grossinger’s other surviving son, Lester Grossinger of Davenport, IA, was in Las Vegas attending the John Lennon and the Fab Experience concert, and could not be reached for comment.
“We’ll certainly miss her around here,” Headley continues, “but more than anything, we’re glad she was able to finish out her ‘season’ before she left us, and has left her two boys something to cherish.” Carlton, who admits to having only a passing interest in the sport, says he might even take up a dice simulation game to replay 1977 for himself sometime soon.
“It’s hard to explain why,” he tells me, “but I feel like I need to keep this going.”
* * *
I truly hope you’ve enjoyed my 11-month journey through the kooky, never-dull baseball year of 1977. It’s never easy making up a story as you go along, but the daily game-playing kept my mind anchored, and the team’s rising and sinking fortunes helped propel the various plot turns.
Next? Hmm…I did have a new season lined up to document, but that one has been shelved for a year for reasons beyond my control. I have an idea for a shorter, more historical blog that might happen over the summer, but I’m going to be using a lot of my recovered free time to work on a new book project, so we shall see.
I plan to attend a couple of fun events this year: Strat-O-Matic’s 50th Anniversary party in New York in February, and the SABR convention this July in Long Beach, just a sweet half hour drive from my house.
I’ll continue to quip and link on Twitter with my Funkyball77 handle, though that will morph into something else when I start a new site. Anyway, that’s the place you can regularly find me.
Once again, I’d like to thank all 16 of my wordwise absentee managers for their contributions, pennant concerns and occasional shout-outs. It’s been a blast having you all aboard the Funky Zipline.
And per usual, a hearty thanks and love to my wife Carmen for enduring my mania. Though I’m afraid to tell her there’s only a few more months to go of “Winter Jeff.”
—J.P., Culver City, CA