Herald and Journal
Herald & Journal, November 2, 1998

Where have all the heroes gone?


Every boy has heroes while he's growing up.

Many come from the sports world, mainly baseball. Babe Ruth, Lou Gehrig, Joe DiMaggio, Stan Musial, Mickey Mantle, Hank Aaron, Harmon Killebrew, and Kirby Puckett come to mind. Maybe you had another baseball hero not mentioned here.

Now we have two new baseball heroes...Mark McGwire of the St. Louis Cardinals and and Sammy Sosa of the Chicago Cubs. Unless you were off in space somewhere, you know that the two were in a race to see how many home runs they could hit during a baseball season. It was exciting enough when they broke Babe Ruth's record of 60 home runs. It became more exciting when they broke Roger Maris's record of 61. It really got exciting when the two kept hitting home runs. Final score: McGwire 70, Sosa 66.

What makes their accomplishment more meaningful was the way they conducted themselves. Both are real gentlemen. They're classy guys. So now they both are bona fide heroes. Somebody a young kid can look up to. We need heroes badly these days.

Another source for heroes when I was growing up were the cowboys of the silver screen. Tom Mix, Ken Maynard, Bob Steele, Tex Ritter, Hopalong Cassidy, Jimmy Wakely, Randolph Scott, Tim Holt, and the most famous of all, Roy Rogers and Gene Autry. And don't forget the sidekicks ­ Smiley Burnette, Pat Buttram, Pat Brady, Gabby Hayes, and Andy Devine. They're all gone now. We lost Roy several months ago, and Gene about a month ago.

Lou Gehrig was my baseball hero, and Gene Autry my cowboy hero. He was the original singing cowboy. The earliest song of Gene's that I can remember is "That Silver Haired Daddy of Mine." I had that record and many others by Gene Autry. I thought he was the best singer in the land. Apparently, others thought so too, as his record sales were in the millions.

Gene Autry was also a successful businessman. One of his most successful business ventures was the baseball team, the California Angels. Another was KTLA TV station in Los Angeles, plus hotels and radio stations. The first time I heard the phrase, "He laughed all the way to the bank," was in reference to Gene Autry. Many were envious of his success.

We're approaching the Christmas season. You'll hear Gene's biggest hit of all, "Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer" many times. If I recall correctly, the record has been around for 50 years.

Well, are we out of heroes? Are they all dead? Who are our new heroes? Are Mark McGwire and Sammy Sosa the only heroes we have?

How did people trim their toenails before the invention of tools with sharp metal edges?

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