Sunday, September 4, 2011

Uncle Lou and Eddie Kranepool

by Tom

You can file this story as something “remotely related to beer”. This is more a “slice of life” story than anything else. It’s my life, but, at the very least, maybe it’ll remind you of a similar moment in your life and make you feel nostalgic for a moment.
In the late 1960s our family often travelled down to Flushing, Queens to visit my Uncle Lou and his family. Uncle Lou was a Brooklyn guy, like my dad, and the only thing that somewhat softened the blow of losing the Dodgers to LA some years earlier was that he now, living in Queens, had the Mets. And Eddie Kranepool. Not Ed Kranepool, Eddie Kranepool… he was our guy, he was the Mets, and no formality was necessary. He was Eddie to Uncle Lou, Ralph Kiner, Lindsey Nelson, and Bob Murphy and that was good enough for me. I won’t bore you with stats, but it was safe to say that Eddie was never going to get a plaque in Cooperstown, but he was THE face of the Mets for many fans in those days and even into the 70s and he had some decent years interspersed with some, well, not so decent years. He was also a New York guy, from the Bronx, but hey – you might run into him on the subway and be able to tell him why that guy WAS OUT at first.
So Mom and Dad and my sisters and I would pack into my parents black 1964 Checker (a great source of embarrassment for my older sisters) and head down to Flushing on a Saturday afternoon. Uncle Lou would be in the kitchen, smoking filterless Lucky’s, drinking Piel’s Real Draft from a can and watching the Mets and Eddie Kranepool. The most amazing thing to me, at six or seven years old, was that I could sit at his kitchen table and raise my eyes from the flickering black and white General Electric portable with its rabbit ears extended, look out the kitchen door and see the top of Shea Stadium ! Since I’d not actually been to a game at that time I was amazed that the game I was watching on TV was being played so close to where we sat.
He loved his Mets and he liked that young kid Eddie Kranepool. He also liked his Piels Real Draft, which was understandable since Piels was a still Brooklyn beer in those waning days of the great local breweries. Years later I kind of wondered why he wasn’t a Rheingold man. Rheingold was the official beer of the NY Mets, one of the best selling beers in the northeast and a Brooklyn beer to boot. But Uncle Lou was a bartender so he must’ve had his reasons.
By the end of the 1970s, most of the local and regional breweries were gone, including Piels and Rheingold and by 1979 Ed Kranepool had retired. The brands were bought up by other brewers and, I assume, the recipes changed, so I could never get a taste of the Piels that Uncle Lou drank. I did try what they sell now. The truth is that if it’s served very cold, it tastes like just about every other pale lager you’ll find occupying 90% of the shelf space in supermarket. Hot day, cold beer, life is good. Rising temperatures, however, begin to reveal strange flavors that don’t belong in beer, like a vague metallic aftertaste mixed with sour corn. The same can be said for the 2011 version of Rheingold.

Sometime in the mid-1990s my wife went shopping at a Shop-rite supermarket in New Windsor, NY. When she arrived home she told me that there was “some guy sitting at a table who used to play for the Mets” giving out autographed pictures and she took one. That’s right, it was Ed Kranepool. Whenever I happen to look at that picture, though, I only think of those hot, non-airconditioned Saturday afternoons in Queens, watching the Mets with Uncle Lou while he smoked his Luckies and drank his Piels from a can with the two triangular holes popped out of the top, and how we talked about baseball, the Mets and Eddie Kranepool.

1 comment:

  1. I have great memories of the Mets of the 1970s. I think I even had a bat autographed by Kranepool. I have been a Met fan ever since. Any other die hards out there?