|Joe Schloss, the venerable North Park civic and sports icon, stands in front of his sporting goods store at University and Ray Streets in this North Park News photo from 1997.|
By Thomas Shess
A few days before Thanksgiving North Park icon Joe Schloss passed away from a brief illness. Many of us teared up immediately after hearing the news. I had just returned to San Diego after playing in a senior mens baseball tournament in Ft. Myers, Florida and I remembered the line “there’s no crying in baseball” echoing the now famous phrase spoken by actor Tom Hanks in the film “A league of their own.” Sorry, Tom Hanks, but I cried when I heard that Joe died the day before. So did legions of Joe's family, friends and fans that knew and loved him.
That day started the countless Joe memories:
--Joe, the terrific husband.
--Joe, the best dad.
--Joe, the best North Park Little League baseball coach and life mentor.
--Joe, the resilient owner of a store in North Park for more than 40 years.
--Joe, the community activist, including being part of the organizing staff for the North Park Toyland Parade and a proud member of the Lion’s Club.
--And, best of all Joe Schloss as a friend for life and beyond.
Recalling a recent November visit to AB Appliance and Sporting Goods (the name was shortened to AB Sporting Goods in later years), I noticed Joe was seated inside his shop (University & Ray) in front of the store’s TV set. He was dozing but perked up immediately. “Tommy, what’s up?”
“Got to pick up some stuff. I’m in a senior mens baseball team that’s headed to Florida to play in a tournament.”
He thought for a moment then said “that would be the Roy Hobbs World Series.”
“Yep. It’s my first time there.” There was not one fact that escaped him.
“Good for you. Glad you’re still playing ball—you’re no spring chicken.”
“Yes, I am Joe. You’re my idol. I wanna be ageless just like you.” He was 88 when he died a few days before Thanksgiving.
“So what do you need?”
I proceeded to pick out a baseball undershirt, a pair of batting gloves, bat tape and navy blue baseball socks. My shopping included checking out the newest wooden bats that I’ve been buying from AB Sporting Goods since pony league, summer recreation leagues as a teen, over-the-line and as I got older playing in San Diego’s numerous adult baseball leagues.
“What are you swinging these days?” he asked.
“A 32-inch bat but the handle is too thick on the one I got.”
“See anything there?”
“How soon do you need it?”
“I’m flying out tomorrow.”
“I can order it and have it ready when you get back.”
I can’t recall what I said but I knew that there would be many bats for sale at the tournament. There always is. If I didn’t find anything in Florida I knew Joe or his co-shop innkeeper, his son, Greg Schloss, would take care of getting me a new bat for next season.
Joe and I chatted some more. He always asked, “how’s your lefty grandson is he still on the varsity team?” (meaning did he graduate yet).
“Cole’s got another season,“ I said. It made me feel terrific that Joe remembered--not only my grandson’s name—but also asking how he was doing on the mound. “He’ll be one of the starting pitchers (for Concord de la Salle High School in the Bay Area).
“Good for him. Will we see him at Christmas?”
“Of course. As soon as he arrives in North Park he starts bugging me to come visit the store.”
“Tell him I said hello and good luck in the tournament.” He shook my hand and I left not figuring that would be the last time I saw my idol.
That’s OK, Joe. We’ll still come by to visit. Cole’s been hinting for a new pair of cleats to put under the tree and I want to order that bat.
And, Coach, you’ll be happy to know we kicked some butt in the Roy Hobbs tourney. We won the darn thing in the bottom of the ninth. Storybook, huh?
TRIBUTE TO JOE SCHLOSS BY CHANNEL 8:http://www.cbs8.com/clip/12035758/vintage-himmel-a-little-league-legend