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Archive for the month “March, 2013”

The Power Of Love

1983 was a big year in my life!  It was the year I got married!  Literally days before that happend though we bought a house.  As a term of the sale the owner wanted to stay in the house a couple of weeks after we legally obtained ownership.  That agreement we made with him literally put us in a time bind.  When we found houses that we liked we would have my dad check them out.  My dad built three houses so he looked at things that we didn’t.  He wasn’t concerned with the color of carpet or the paint on the walls like we were.  He looked at the structure and other items we probably would have missed.  We found a house that we liked and had dad look it over.  Dad gave the house a passing grade as the things he looked for were in order! Though we liked the neighborhood and the outside, the things that caught our eye inside were completely out of order.   The walls were a very filthy yellowy color, not the nice white color they should have been.  There were dirty fingerprints all over the place.  It was an interior designers nightmare as the carpet was an ugly pukey green color and the kitchen walls were the ugliest pea green I had ever seen.  The countertops were also a very distasteful green and the stove was such a greasy mess it needed a major cleaning to make it close to usable.   The kitchen floor had a green unattractive pattern and color to it.  What was this obsession to green this person had?  Not only green but such an ugly pea green.  Along with it’s putrid color the carpet was also damaged.  The carpet in the bedroom was torn up near the door as a big dog was shut in and tried to tunnel his way out.  There was hair everywhere as the drains were filled beyond belief. We heard from the neighbors later that the house was treated like a frat house.  The owner and many of his friends made it their home.  The house was a host for many parties and the occupants were not concerned with how the place looked.

The foundation was solid but inside it was a mess!

The foundation was solid but inside it was a mess!

The owner was a chain smoker and if a smoker could smoke more than a chain smoker that would describe him.  He literally always had a cigarette in his mouth and the place reeked with smoke smell.  Not only him but the evidence suggests that everyone living there were heavy chain smokers.  Apparently the owner and friends smoked so much it got to be a pain to get rid of their cigarette butts.  They literally dropped them on the floor and kicked them under the stove, refrigerator or anywhere out of sight.  When the stove drawer was opened exposing the floor beneath hundreds of cigarette butts were found.

By the time the previous owner had moved out I had very little time to make a livable home out of the mess we bought.  I called my dear friend Gary and he was so willing to put things on hold in his own life and help!  My dillemma was that I was getting married on Saturday and we would be leaving on our honeymoon.  Beginning that Monday Gary and I decided that we would paint.  Painting three bedrooms and a living room was our mission and we only had four nights since the Friday night was the wedding dinner.  We both worked so it was around six pm before we could get started.  We worked long into the night each night.  Gary and I both loved sports and the fact that the National Championship of the NCAA basketball tournament was played on Monday night added to his sacrifice.  I happened to have a TV in the house already.  It was a second hand color TV that had the rabbit ears for it’s antenna.  CBS and NBC were the only channels it received and luckily the game was on CBS.  Houston was playing North Carolina State that year in the finals.  Houston was the overwhelming favorite to win and neither of us thought it would be much of a game.  Houston had two players that would eventually be NBA Hall of Famers and they were given the nickname Psi Slamma Jamma for their many dunks they had every game.  We took a quick break from our painting wondering how the game was going.  It was a couple of hours after tip off and we figured it was either close to over or over.  We stood there as the set warmed up and eventually we saw a picture.  Totally expecting a blowout in Houstons favor we were shocked to see the score was tied.  North Carolina State had the ball with forty seven seconds left and they started throwing it all over the court and almost had it stolen a couple of times.

Valvano & the net

Jim Valvano was the coach at North Carolina State.  At the beginning of the season he had a dream.  It was the dream of winning the National Championship.  Every year the National Champion cuts down the net as a celebration of their victory.  After one of his first practices that season Jim figured his team needed to live the dream he was living.  They needed to see and feel his vision.  He brought a pair of scissors and each player was hoisted up and cut down a strand of the net.  The last strand was cut down by Jim himself on the back of one of his taller players.  They hooted and hollered just like it had actually happened and ran off to the locker room in a jubilent triumphant celebration!

The road to the championship game was filled with pot holes for that 1983 North Carolina State team.  Dereck Whittenburg their star player who they relied on for his scoring ability and leadership got hurt.  It happened in January when Dereck went up for a shot and landed on the foot of an opposing player.  The results of this unfortunate event was a broken bone in his foot.   At the time of his injury North Carolina State had a record of twelve wins and only one defeat.  They were ranked in the top twenty five teams in the nation.  After his injury the team struggled and they ended up in fourth place in their conference.  It was thought that they would need a tournament win in the upcoming conference tournament to get into the NCAA tournament.  Miracuously that is exactly what they did.  With Whittenburg coming back sooner than expected, State pulled off a couple of stunning upsets including Virginia (led by 7 ft 4 Ralph Sampson) in the title game.  It was their first win against Virginia after suffering two losses to them in the regular season.

If anyone doubted that they were a team of destiny, faith was renewed in their first round game of the NCAA Tournament against Pepperdine.  Trailing by six with twenty four seconds left in overtime NC State put on a miraculous rally and won the game 69-67.  A tactic that Coach Valvano liked to use was fouling at the end of games.  Luckily the other teams cooperated by missing free throws giving North Carolina State a chance.  With the added chances State became known as the cardiac kids for their thrilling wins.  Another thrilling win occurred in the next game as Thurl Bailey, their 6’11 skinny center tipped in a missed shot at the buzzer to lift State to a 71-70 win and a trip to the sweet sixteen.  “We had one of the greatest coaches and motivators who ever lived”, Bailey said, “and we had prepared for what ended up happening.”  “Destiny means a lot of things have to line up for you”, he continued, “and then you have to do your part too.”

Surprisingly “The Cardiac Kids” had a non cardiac game against Utah to reach the “elite eight”.  They won by 19 points in one of their best performances of the season!  Standing in their way for a trip to the final four was their nemisis Virginia.  When Othel Wilson of Virginia missed a last second shot at the buzzer”an airball”, State won another thriller 63-62 and were headed to the Final Four!  They won by seven points over Georgia and watched on the hotel TV as Houston dismantled Louisville in a game in which they lived up to their dunking name with 14 dunks!  The kids from North Carolina State looked at each other wondering how they could compete with this dunking machine of a team.  In the press conference before the big matchup Coach Valvano jokingly said that they would just hold the ball the whole game for the last shot.  Before the game Valvano told his team that there is no way we are going to hold the ball with millions of people watching. 

It was 1993 and a ten year reunion was held for the 1983 team.  All of the former players were there.  It was not known if coach Jim Valvano could come.  The reason for doubt was that the great coach was dying.  He had incurable bone cancer and he had trouble walking or mustering up much energy.  Suddenly there was a commotion in the crowd and through the crowd escorted on each side Valvano appeared.  He looked very frail as the bone cancer had taken it’s toll on his body, but he was there!  The players wondered if this might be the last time they would ever see him.  They were lined up and each one spent a minute with him as he gave them a big hug.  That was Valvano’s way.  He was all about giving hugs to people that he loved and this team was one he loved dearly.  As he met each one including Whittenburg with each dynamic hug he whispered something in their ear.  Last in the line was Thurl Bailey the 6 foot 11 inch center on the team. Thurl pulled out a chair and Valvano climbed wearily up on it.  As their heads were now around the same height coach Valvano was able to whisper in his ear the words that he had for all of the others “I love you.”  Remembering the moment twenty years later as if it were yesterday Thurl Bailey through tearful eyes said “he told me that he loved me!”

The Houston press was non stop.  North Carolina State was moving the ball and seemingly throwing it to all of the wrong places.  Two or three times it was almost stolen as their passes were hurried as it seemed Houston players were everywhere. The ball ended up in the hands of Thurl Bailey in the left corner.  Thurl had an open look but he hadn’t made a shot since the first half.  He looked for Whittenburg because Whittenburg was hot.  He found him near the half court line.  With Houstons athletic defense in persuit he threw a very dangerous across court pass in the direction of Whittenburg.  A defender from Houston tried in vain to reach it and actually deflected the ball after it had reached the jumping Whittenburg’s hands knocking it to the floor.  Whittenburg grabbed the ball and took a driible and  with only a few seconds left he launched the shot.  He was thirty five feet from the basket and everyone including Gary and I were holding our breath as it made it’s way for the basket.  Just as it appeared the ball was going to fall short of the mark a player in red Lorenzo Charles jumped up, caught the ball, and in one motion dunked it in the basket!

Lorenzo Charles completed the dream!

Lorenzo Charles completed the dream!

Volvano living the dream!

Volvano living the dream!

The impossible dream was now complete! It came so quickly that Gary and I couldn’t believe our eyes!   How ironic that the great dunking machine team was did in by a dose of their own medicine!  Volvano ran onto the court looking for someone to hug.  Amazingly he couldn’t seem to find anyone.  When he finally found Whittenburg he happened to be hugging someone else.  Volvano laughed at the unusual situation in a speech years later.  Whittenburg completed the unfinished story in an interview in 2013.  “Where were you?’ the coach asked Whittenburg.  “I have been looking all over for you to give you a hug.”  “I’m going to give you a big hug right now”, Whittenburg stated to his coach as the two came together in a triumphant embrace.

Ironically both Jim Valvano and Lorenzo Charles are gone now.  Valvano lost his battle with bone cancer at the age of 47.  Before he left  he started “The V Foundation” to raise money for the fight against cancer.  The V Foundation has raised over 100 million dollars for research to find a cure!  Lorenzo Charles was also 47 when a bus he was driving crashed and overturned on a busy highway.  How short their lives were, but oh the memories they left us with.  Volvano having the dream and Charles completing it!

Gary and I had a dream too! Gary didn’t have to tell me he loved me because I knew by his actions those four nights that he did!  We were  fighting the clock like North Carolina State did, so we had to turn the TV off and start back on our own miracle.  1983 taught me a powerful lesson about miracles.  Miracles can happen if there is plenty of love in the mix.  Just as Whittenburg needed assistance from Charles for his shot, Gary and my family gave us assistance for our miracle also.  Though our miracle wasn’t publicized as North Carolina State’s was, through the loving help of Gary the inside of the house began to match the outside in appearance.  Miraculously as Thursday nights work ended so ended the need to paint.  The place had such a different amazing bright look to it!  I couldn’t take my eyes off of how clean and beautiful it looked!  Adding to Gary’s help was my mom and sister who came in and cleaned and my mother in law who hung curtains and helped us hang wall paper.  My friend Keith came over and repaired the damaged carpet and at last our little home miracle was complete!

It has been thirty years since that North Carolina State miracle.  Tomorrow will be Easter Sunday when we remember the greatest miracle of all.  Just as the miracle of thirty years ago with North Carolina State is remembered like it was yesterday for the players involved, the legacy of the resurrection lives on now for over two thousand years!  Our lives are like my house, nice looking on the outside but a mess inside.  Our house didn’t stay that way and it doesn’t have to stay that way in our lives either!  Miracles happen every day even though we don’t always hear about them.  They start because Jesus died and was resurrected. When we repent of our sins and accept him as our Savior our sins are forgiven and we join God’s team.  There are no guarantees as to how hard our road to victory will be.  Like the North Carolina State team our path is sure to have many pot holes. The beautiful part of the story is that we now have a loving coach who will be with us and lead us to the ultimate triumph!

It's the power of love

Whittenburg and his coach embracing after the miracle occured!

Because he lives my house can be in order!

Because he lives and loves us the inside of our house can be in order too! 

Taking A Flying Leap

When I was in Junior High one of my favorite shows was Big Time Wrestling.  Back in the late 60’s and early 70’s wrestling came on once a week on Saturday afternoons.  Like today wrestling had it’s characters and the hype of coming matches was much of the entertainment.  The show had a local flavor as BoBo Brazil, the Heavyweight champion, hailed from Benton Harbor, Michigan which is not that far from my town Kalamazoo.  There was always an appeal as a wrestler would talk about having Big Time Wrestling come to your local school as a fund raiser.  The  matches shown on TV were actually mismatches as you knew when the match started who the winner would be.  It was all about the star wrestler making an appearance and then promoting his upcoming match against a hated opponent.  Still at that young age I really thought that the matches were real.  After all wrestlers would actually bleed sometimes and the show was performed so precisely.  One of the wrestlers that I remember so well was named Flying Fred Curry.  His name was symbolic with the flying drop kicks that he performed in his matches.  Flying Fred would leave his feet and kick his legs out into his opponents head or chest area.  When he was at the peak of his leap his body was positioned as if he were lying down in the air.  After he made contact with his opponent he naturally fell down on the mat but was quick to jump up and deliver as many drop kicks as it took to finish his match.  Sometimes Flying Fred would do this maneuver seven or eight straight times!  Invariably his opponent would be staggering around like he was drunk and would be totally caught off guard by Flying Freds maneuvers!


                                                           Flying Fred Curry

It was a Saturday afternoon and I was glued to my wrestling show when I received a disruptive phone call.  I had to drag myself away from the action only to find that it was Lloyd, a friend down the road.  Lloyd was a friend, but he was very opinionated and very dominating.  He never backed down from an argument and had his own agenda in mind.  When I think about it now it is probably the kind of attributes leaders of today are recruited for.  Anyway Lloyd had the idea that we should take care of Richmonds field before we played the next game. Richmonds field was a big piece of land located behind Richmond’s house.  It was very large and we had no problem playing our football or baseball games there.  Lloyd was going to bring his mower over and we were all supposed to work on the field.  Of course that was his plan.  In my mind as far as I was concerned, his plan had to wait.  I was in the middle of my wrestling show and nothing was going to stop me from seeing the upcoming matches, interviews, and coming attractions!  Lloyd called right at the beginning of my show and of course he wanted everyone there promptly.  After I watched the entire broadcast including Flying Fred doing his thing with his dropkicks, I left for the field.

When I arrived, an hour late in Lloyd’s mind, he started ranting “Lazy Lou”, “Lazy Lou” and he did this rant over and over and over again in a very loud voice. It was very embarrassing to me to be accused of being lazy in front of my friends.   I don’t know what the other kids were thinking but I was upset.  Lloyd was a big kid both in height and weight.  I was always one of the littlest kids in the games.  Yet the more he ranted the more I became angry.  On and on and on he went.  Finally I could take no more!  I was maybe twenty yards from him when I started my charge.  Lloyd was standing by where home plate was and I could see the surprised look on his face.  At full speed I launched myself in the air just like Flying Fred!  In fact I think that Flying Fred would have been proud of the form in which I imitated his kick.  Finding myself in that parallel to the ground position I was about to make contact with Lloyd’s chest when the unexpected happened.  Instead of being frozen in his surprise like Flying Freds opponents, Lloyd grabbed on to my legs and pulled.  My head came crashing into the hard ground and I was knocked out.


                                    It always worked on TV!

When I came to a minute or two later everyone was gathered around me.  Lloyd, probably fearful that I was seriously hurt and that he instigated my actions, didn’t say anything more about my not helping with the field.  I don’t remember if we played a game or two that day but I think we probably did.  I know I never mentioned the incident to my parents.  I was feeling fine and probably put it in the back of my mind.

The story I just told was a time when I literally took a flying leap. Many people do not know it but they are taking a flying leap too.  The difference in my flying leap and theirs is that their leap may be dangerous to their soul.  This thought came to mind when I heard a speaker talk the other day.  He was supposed to talk about the sustainability of our planet.  His message was supposed to be on how we can’t keep doing some of the things we are doing and expect the planet to sustain us.  He got to his topic in a round about way however.  He started talking about the beginning of the earth and the planets according to how he believed. He said that about one hundred million years ago there was a big bang and everything was formed.  He said it like it was a fact everyone should know without the theory word in there at all. 

I have to shake my head at this theory that someone put out there and people believe.  It’s like my belief years ago that wrestling on TV was real.  As I vaulted myself feet first into the air I was fully committed to what I believed and the consequences that followed.  I found out the hard way that everything you see or hear isn’t true.  I found out that when you believe in something very strongly and it turns out to be wrong, you can get seriously hurt.   Before you buy into the wild theories about how the earth came into existance, remember that you will also be fully committed to your belief sooner or later.  You don’t want to find out at the moment of truth (like I did) that everything you put your hopes on was a lie.  In the end you could find yourself hitting the hard ground of reality.

The Old Piano

It seemed so all alone

It seemed so all alone

Many years ago my ex pastor had a dilemma.  There was an old piano in the back room of the church.  It was away from the action and the only activity it received was kids banging on it, making it sound as though it were a toy.  The piano had not been tuned in years if ever.  Pastor’s dilemma was should he attempt to have the piano tuned so it could be useful, or just write it off as worthless and get rid of it?   After thinking it over for awhile he called a piano tuner to repair it if possible.  This happened in the middle of the week and the next Sunday he shared the story with us.  I felt in my spirit that God wanted me to write a poem about this moving story!  You see as pastor was listening to the piano tuner adjusting the keys of that old piano his spirit was broken and tears flowed.  Suddenly it wasn’t about the old piano at all.

The keys all clunked together
with each one out of line

The Old Piano

by Lewis Hamilton
From the book “The Gardener and My Garden” c1997

The old piano sat by the wall
it seemed so all alone
No one wanted to play it
such a disturbing tone

The keys all clunked together
with each one out of line
I knew i had to do something,
we were running out of time

I called a piano tuner
to come by when he could
Maybe if he worked real hard
it would sound more like it should

Still in my mind I doubted
I had my point of view
Maybe I should just go out
and buy one that was new

The piano man knocked on the door
and started working soon
He asked me how long it had been
since the piano was last tuned

Is it even worth your time?
Such an enormous task
Not wanting to discourage him
I decided not to ask

Patiently he took each key
and tuned them one by one
After a while I noticed
an improvement in the run

It started to sound better,
he delighted in each change
Soon that lonely old piano
was playing with some range

Gradually the sound improved
as he worked so hard and long
At last he was attempting
to play a little song

Adjustments were only minor now,
sounding oh, so good
And I was thinking to myself
it sounded better than it should

For it was an old piano
that seemed so all alone
But now it had a delightful sound
with a pleasant in-key tone

As I heard that pretty piano sound
with all the notes just right,
the Lord told me I was like
that piano in his sight

I may look like I did before
but my heart is now in key
Lord, thank you for amazing grace
and not giving up on me.

But God demonstrates his own
love for us in this: While we were
still sinners, Christ died for us.

Romans 5:8

Grandfather Finds A Home

Standing tall by the side of the road next to a TV he looked so out of place.  I almost had to do a double take as I drove by.  I pulled over, parked my car and knocked on the door.  I had to find out why grandfather was just standing there.  After a little while a lady appeared.  I asked her why I was seeing this sight on the road?  She said that she was tired of dealing with things that didn’t work.  An idea was brewing in my head.  Maybe if this grandfather was in a different setting with a little tender loving care he could be useful again!

Grandfather in this case wasn’t a person but a beautiful clock.  Grandfather clocks used to be called long case clocks.  That all changed in 1876 when a song came out about grandfather’s long case clock by American Henry Clay Work.  Henry was visiting England and he was at a place called Piercebridge, North Yorkshire at a hotel called the George Inn.  While he was there he saw a long case clock in the hallway.  The clock was not running and it was explained to Henry that the clock had not worked since it’s grandfatherly owner had died.  With the idea of that clock in his head, when he  got back to America he  wrote a song called “My Grandfathers Clock.”  The song was told in the grandsons view about his grandfather and his clock.  In the song the clock was purchased when grandfather was born and died along with him when he was 90.  The song became so popular that the long case clocks became known as grandfather clocks.

Joyce Lefebure of Cedar Rapids has a clock especially made for the outside in her yard.  The clock I saw was not built for this purpose.
Joyce Lefebure of Cedar Rapids, IA  has a
Grandfather Clock in her front yard especially
made for the outside. The clock I saw from the
road was an indoor clock.

My dad was retired at the time and I went to his house on a mission for assistance.  Dad was happy to help and we set off on the road to where grandfather was standing.  I feared that someone else had discovered him and taken him away.  Fortunately as we got closer to the house I saw him still standing tall there! We didn’t have a truck or anything made to carry a clock almost seven feet tall.  We ended up putting him in the back of the trunk in such a way that about half  was overhanging out the back.  I drove carefully and made it home.  We were able to carry grandfather into the living room and set him up.

It was a few days later as I was looking through the shopper paper we used to get.  In it there was an ad that caught my eye.  A man that fixed grandfather clocks was advertising his services.  I quickly gave him a call and he came out that week.  I didn’t know anything about grandfather clocks and was wondering the value of this one.  The man informed me that my clock was a hand made clock.  Apparently someone had decided to build a clock and in a labor of love they did.  I would not find a brand name on this clock where I could access a value.  Although my clock had a monetary value when working, it’s sentimental value should have been enormous!  After all this clock was hand crafted, probably a gift for someone deeply loved!

My mind drifted back to the repair person.  He was working away with a delicate touch slowly tuning the clock with his expert hands.  It was all about the balancing of the weights he told me.   Being such a novice I couldn’t really comprehend all that he was doing.  He worked quickly turning something here and there and listening ever so closely as it ran.  In no time he had  my clock clicking away in perfect rhythm.  He set the chimes  so they rang nicely on the quarter hours!  The fee was very reasonable and he left me with a real treasure.

Years passed as grandfather did his job in grand style.  Then one day we must have wound him a little too tight because grandfather stopped ticking.  I tried to make him work time and again in the days ahead and he worked for maybe a ten minutes span before stopping again.  I couldn’t find the name of the repairman who started him up years ago so he stood without a purpose for awhile.  The side of the road was not an option for my beautiful clock.  Even though he wasn’t able to fulfill his purpose I still thought he gave the room a special unique look!  I still had hopes that his reliable constant ticking would return.  My sister came over one day and noticing grandfather was not working mentioned that her friends son repairs grandfather clocks.  We had him come over and in no time grandfather was ticking in a nice rhythm again!  Once again it was an easy fix for the expert as he balanced the weights properly and used some oil to lubricate the parts.   Since that day the only times he has stopped running were when I had forgotten to wind him.  He needs to be wound once a week but that little exercise is so worthwhile!

There have been times when storms came by and all of the clocks in the house quit running.  All the clocks that is except for dependable grandfather who doesn’t need electricity!  He just desires a little care once a week and after that he performs his job quietly and efficiently.  Some of the lyrics from the original song describe my grandfather clock.

My grandfather said that of those he could hire,
Not a servant so faithful he found;
For it wasted no time, and had but one desire —
At the close of each week to be wound.

Grandfather and Me

Grandfather and Me

Grandfather was uniquely created and individually worked on.  He was not the product of an assembly line. He came to be because his creator loved making him and loved the usefulness he would fulfill!   That is exactly how and why Gods hands created us.  He made us unique in our own way! He made us to serve a purpose in this big world he put us in.  What joy it would be to be called a faithful servant, the  kind the grandfather labeled his clock as!

There are times when we feel that the purpose God created us for has become lost in the shuffle. We may feel hopelessly out of place as circumstances change and we don’t feel needed anymore.  Sometimes we feel like we are the clock on the side of the road, totally out of sorts and totally useless.  Other times we may feel like the clock, seemingly in the right place but functionless none the less.  A quick call to our God and creator can change everything!  As with my clock it is probably just a matter of balancing things as he lovingly will tune our lives for his glory.  Our life story is like a book he has written and it has many chapters.  We are down here living out the story.  God can and will open and close chapters in our life book as he maximizes our usefulness.  Just because one chapter is ending doesn’t mean our book ends.  Usually a new chapter very different than the old is just beginning and in the new chapter grandfather isn’t standing by the side of the road anymore!

Click below to hear “My Grandfather’s Clock”


Jose Can You See?

Ernie Harwell, the great longtime Detroit Tiger’s radio announcer didn’t know that when he was asked to pick the three singers for the 1968 World Series at Tiger Stadium, one of his selections would almost cost him his job.  Ernie had written some recorded songs in his spare time and General Manager Jim Campbell entrusted him with the search for singers.  Jim Campbell was a very conservative don’t rock the boat type of General Manager.  One of the performers that Ernie picked was Marvin Gaye and Gaye was specifically told to keep his singing as straight as possible to how everyone else had sang the song.  Margaret Whiting was also picked and she did a traditional version.  The third person Ernie picked was somewhat by default.  He wanted Eddie Arnold to do the anthem before game 5 but Eddie had another engagement and couldn’t make it.  Ernie was told by a friend in the record business in Hollywood about Jose Feliciano.  “I saw this guy and I think you will really love his rendition!”  Feliciano had a big hit at the time, his rendition of The Doors “Light My Fire.”  He was a young Puerto Rican man and he was blind.

Ernie Harwell

Ernie Harwell filled the job openings and kept his main job!

Feliciano was born in Lares, Puerto Rico, on September 10, 1945.  He was permanently blind at birth as a result of congenital glaucoma.  His family was very poor as his father, a farmer could barely support them.  He was exposed to music at a young age and always loved it!  When he was five, his family moved to Spanish Harlem, New York City.  He started in music playing the accordion until a family friend gave him a guitar.  With that guitar in hand he practiced sometimes as much as 14 hours a day as he listened to 1950’s rock n roll.  He developed his own style and at age 17 he quit school to play in clubs with his first professional performance in Detroit.  In 1963 he played in clubs around the USA and Canada, most notably at Greenwich Village New York and British Columbia.   In 1964 he came out with his first single “Everybody Do The Click” which became the #2 hit in the Philippines and in 1965 he recorded his first album.

By 1968 Jose had moved to Los Angeles and had a big hit “Light My Fire” which he did in a Latin style.  By the summer of 1968 it had reached #3 on the US pop charts with over a million copies sold in the US market!Feliciano

Harwell contacted Feliciano and Jose was thrilled to be picked to do the song!  Jose loved America and the wonderful opportunity he had here.  He came here a poor boy and was seeing the success and rewards that only in America he could have!  He was determined to put everything he felt for a country that he loved into his song!  He would sing it with soul and feeling because that is how he expressed himself!  The only problem that he had was his schedule.  He was playing late the night before but that was OK!  He was so thankful for the opportunity and for what this great country did for him that he took the red eye flight and arrived early that morning!  Ernie met him, his wife, and his seeing eyed dog at the airport and drove them to the stadium.  He visited the Tiger clubhouse and sang little songs to the Tiger players.  He was playing the Light My Fire song and adding his own Tiger words like “Cmon Kaline light my fire. Gotta take the Tigers higher.”  The players loved him and the time passed quickly.

Feliciano was a young man who loved this country!

Feliciano was a young man who loved this country!

Before he knew it game time was near and he was being led out to the outfield with his dog to sing the National Anthem.  He strummed his guitar beautifully as he sang the song with feeling and soul,  but it was different than what people were used to.  Although Jose was just putting himself into the music many fans complained.  From coast to coast complaints came in that he was being disrespectful of the flag and the song!  The controversy came directly to Harwell who was asked time and again why he chose Jose.  Harwell defended Jose saying that it was a different rendition but it was done with the utmost respect for our country.  However we were going through different times that year.  We were in a war and people were very sensitive to anything that seemed out of line.

Ernie got reprimanded by Campbell but didn’t lose his job.  Jose on the other hand went through a down time in his career for a couple of years.  He had a hard time getting his records played. Over the years Harwell and Feliciano stayed in touch.  Ernie actually introduced Jose to his wife he married in 1982.  They are still together today!  When Ernie revealed that he was suffering from terminal cancer in the Fall of 2009 Jose and his wife Susan sent him a beautiful boquete of flowers!  Ernie in turn wanted to right a wrong that had happened so many years ago.

In September of 2009 after Ernie had learned of his terminal illness he had a meeting with owner Mike Ilitch and team president Dave Dombrowski at his house in Troy.  Ernie was at peace with himself and the fact that he was secure in where he would spend eternity.  The one thing on his mind though was the circumstance years ago.  Jose Feliciano should have been appreciated for his rendition of the national anthem instead of the boos he heard.  He made a suggestion almost in jest to have Jose Feliciano come back and sing the national anthem again.  To the Tigers credit that is exactly what they did.  It was just after Ernie’s death and they were paying tribute to him before the game.  As a tribute to his lost friend Jose came!  Just as he was excited the first time to sing about a country that he loved, this time he was excited because he was also singing it in memory of a friend he had grown to love.  He sang the same song in the same unorthodox way with so much feeling! It was almost a duplicate copy of his first rendition forty two years earlier, yet this time he got a standing ovation!  What made the difference in the way his 2010 rendition was received?  It was our realization all of these years later of the true intent of a young blind singer so many years ago.  He wasn’t disrespecting our country or the flag!  He was giving them his ultimate respect as he put his heart and soul into the song!   Jose Feliciano was blind and yet it was the ones who had their sight  in 1968 that had the affliction.  Being blinded to the truth is far worse than being physically blind.  The standing ovation forty two years later showed that the truth has been embraced and we are not living in darkness anymore.

Jose was asked to sing the Anthem before the opening NLCS game!  How things have changed!

Jose was asked to sing the Anthem before the opening NLCS game in 2012! Fireworks exploded as he sang about the bombs bursting in air and jets flew overhead as the song ended to a huge applause!  How things have changed!

Click below to see a video nobody would have dreamed we would see forty five years ago!

Who would have predicted this video?

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