Vic Roznovsky and memories

Raise your hand if you remember Vic Roznovsky?

Unless this gets to Vic’s hometown of Shiner, Texas, that would be none of you.

Vic had a small Major League career as a backup catcher for the Baltimore Orioles in the 1960s. It coincided with summers when I played dice baseball with my brother and nephew. This was before video games, when kids had to use what was at hand to entertain themselves. For us, that was two dice, our baseball cards, and the kitchen table if my mom didn’t chase us away.

We used teams of cards to “run the bases” while the dice dictated the action. Our lineups were mostly stars: Harmon Killebrew, Bob Gibson, Willie Stargell. Scattered in were players who had funny names or looked funny on their baseball card. Vic, bless his soul, checked both those boxes.

A while ago, Scott Surprenant used Vic Roznovsky to fill a square for Immaculate Grid. That’s an online game where you identify ballplayers who fit categories. Scott somehow knew of Vic, and one day he fit a spot. It was a great play. The rarer the player, the better the score. Few are rarer than Vic.

A group of us share our answers from the day before. When I saw Scott had used Roznovsky, I called to tell him about my connection to that name. Then an odd thing happened. As I was talking to Scott about our boys’ game, I began to feel sad.

The only people who could know about the special status of Vic Roznovsky (and Paul Popovich and Ivan Murrel) to three boys in 1967 are me and two others who are gone. My brother Dean died in 1974 and my nephew Scott in 2019.

My nephew spent parts of summers at our farm. During those, he joined Dean and I as steadfast playmates, the way kids landlocked on a farm back then were. There were chores to do, but also time to take adventures to the creek, conquer the rock pile, and play dice baseball.

My parents are gone now. They would know of the times I spent with Dean and Scott. The Vic Roznovsky moment reinforced that I was the lone holder of memories from those long-ago summers.

By nice coincidence, I ran into Fred Braulick a few days later. He reminded me that I taught dice baseball to him when we were fourth grade buddies. I smiled as we recalled:

2’s a triple, 3’s a double, 4’s a single, 5’s a sacrifice, 6 is an out, 7’s a double play, 8’s an out, 9’s a strikeout, 10’s a walk, 11’s a single, and 12’s a homerun. Fred made me feel not so alone with a memory.

I suppose that’s the natural way it is for memories. They can be shared for years. But then the participants disappear, till one remains who holds that story or event alone in their mind. And when that person leaves, it is gone. Maybe it gets written down or recorded. It might exist on paper or even video. But that’s different than in someone’s thoughts. It is the difference between an organic thing and inorganic thing.

In 2022, I lost good friend Dean Brinkman. Dean had lots of friends; I was blessed to be one. When he left us suddenly and tragically, I was left with the things that we shared. It was stories and events. But it was more reactions, ways of glancing at each other, knowing what the other was thinking. A quick phrase could mean a hundred different things. Since Dean had limitless energy, time spent with him was always planting new notions like that.

It is that way with friends. Small triggers can release a cascade of shared thoughts and feelings that accompany them. I don’t know how many times since Dean left, that I heard or saw something that made me think for a fraction of a second, “I’ve got to tell Dean this.” Then, “Oh. Yeah.” It can take a while for reality to be real.

I remember that with my dad when he died. He was still active on the farm up to his passing at the age of 90. Everything I did in my farming career was rooted from him, first as a boy hanging out in the barn. Later, me helping him, and later still, him helping me.

There wasn’t a day when we weren’t aware of what the other was doing. Along with that came the likelihood we knew what each other was thinking. When he was gone, there was a while I had brief thoughts of wanting to tell him something. Then, “Oh. Yeah.”

In every relationship, one will go first. The remainder will be left to store the memories that were created in that relationship. Memories are like pie; you can eat it alone, but it’s more fun to share.

I mentioned the natural order of things, and most of us will lose our parents. For our early years on Earth, there is no one else who spends more time with us. In a way, it’s an unbalanced relationship. There are years children won’t remember and the parents will recall vividly.

We know those years that are a blank in our memory bank are critical to our development. All the silly words and faces we make with our baby and toddler are essential brain growing time. Perhaps it’s good our memory vault is limited as parents. We remember funny lines our two-year old said, and we block out the diapers and cleaning up baby puke.

Again, the right and good order is for our parents to die when we are grown. Sometimes, the order is upended, and the child dies before the parents. There is a special sadness when the parents are left with a giant pool of memories of someone who’s future was cut short.

I think, too, about Pam and me, and that one of us will go first. Talk about a stockpile of memories to be left alone with. It is something half of us who are married will face. Some, for a long time. Others, like my parents who died six months apart, a short time.

Someday each of us will be gone. We’ll leave behind all those we interacted with and their memories of us. There will come a time when all those people will be gone, too.

Then, we will be a name on records and articles and of course a tombstone. Maybe our ancestors will tell stories that remain. But true memory of us will be gone from the Earth. It will be the turn of others to make memories with each other.

All this, from Vic Roznovsky.

— Randy Krzmarzick farms on the home place west of Sleepy Eye, where he lives with his wife, Pam.


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