(In which I fulfill a promise I made on my Tumblr earlier this month.)
In the late 80s and early 90s, I lived and worked in towns with long histories of minor-league and semi-pro baseball. I was still a serious baseball fan then, so we went to the park quite a bit. At that time, the game was the main attraction. Extra promotions, which were rare, hadn’t changed much in years. We saw Max Patkin, the Clown Prince of Baseball, and the artist formerly known as the San Diego Chicken, and fireworks on the Fourth of July. (One year, the fireworks accidentally started in the top of the ninth inning, and I’ll never forget the sight of the catcher standing in front of home plate, full regalia on, his mask pushed back on his head, looking up at the show.) It wasn’t until later that minor-league teams in all sports figured out that added attractions would bring out more fans than the game alone—and now we live in a world where the game is fairly far down the list of things that brings a family to the park.
One night, the local minor-league team brought the original Lone Ranger, Clayton Moore, to the park, and they wanted somebody from the radio station to introduce him. Honesty compels me to report that I was not especially impressed by this. It had been 35 years since The Lone Ranger ended its regular run on TV, and probably 20 or more since it disappeared from syndication and after that, consciousness. A whole generation had grown up with the Lone Ranger, at best, as a Jungian archetype—one of those things everybody just seems to know without knowing why they know it.
It was hard to imagine too many people under the age of 60 being all that impressed by him. But we were the team’s radio flagship station and they asked us to be there, so I went.
Now: I am standing out behind home plate as the stadium begins to fill up. It’s not going to be much bigger than a normal crowd, I can tell, which seems to confirm my opinion about the Lone Ranger’s drawing power in the 1990s.
At the appointed moment, I grab the mike and do the usual DJ schtick—my name, the call letters, welcome to the park, etc. I look toward the third-base dugout, where Moore is supposed to appear, and I say, “Ladies and gentlemen, please welcome Clayton Moore, the Lone Ranger.”
The PA blares the familiar theme, and out he comes—the suit, the hat, the mask, six-shooter on his hip—and I am suddenly no longer the jaded local DJ who wonders what all the fuss is about. All I can think is, “Ho-lee SHIT, it’s the Lone Ranger.”
I do not know if he walked like the 77-year-old man he was. All I saw was the greatest of all Western heroes striding toward me . . . and putting out his hand to shake mine.
Ho-lee SHIT, it’s the Lone Ranger.
Like other fans, I received an autographed photo of Moore as the Lone Ranger that night. I am pretty sure it hung in my office at the station until the day I left. In one of the dozens of boxes of stuff we’ve hauled from place to place in all the years since, it’s still there.
Did I mention I shook his hand?