Friday, May 08, 2015

Hall of Fame Turning Into Something Else

It is 1:46 AM in San Diego as I write these words in a blog post which has now been read by over 30,000 people.

I am known for starting with the time. It is, like Casey at the Bat is linked to me, becoming my signature.

And I am OK with it.

I started looking for something I could personally do to honor my school, Walt Whitman High in South Huntington, New York some time around  9/11.

3,000 miles away in paradise, AKA San Diego, California, I don't miss the rain, snow and numbing cold. We are now well into May and the next rainy day will likely be in November.

When I share that knowledge with New York friends, they look at me like I just admitted I was a child molester.

So when I came out here in 1982, I stuck like velcro. No way, I was ever going back.

Yes, I missed the food, the Mallomars, Chinese and baked clams, but this was weather like I had never seen.

There was little culture here and no Gaslamp District downtown which is now the jewel of our city.

Hey, we only recently got Thomas English Muffins.

Then came September 11 and we were all New Yorkers, wherever we were. More than ever, I wanted to share my high school where I had spent a very important and fun four years.

It was much harder than I ever thought.

The award on my ego wall reads.





I returned home to San Diego, pleased that I had connected the alumni with all those who would walk the same halls as those who went before them.

And then a funny thing happened along the way.

Social Media entered our lives and we would never be the same. 10 years ago I launched on Facnbook something new called a group page. More specifically, Walt Whitman High School Hall of Fame and thought little about it. I had done what I set out to do. Allow our alumni, especially the alpha Alumni to leave their legacy.

The Facebook page would attract attention to the new hall of Fame, nothing more.

That first year in 2008, ten hall of Famers were selected.

I am an actor with a niche audience and when I returned from a gig, I brought up our new page.

Wow, 24 graduates had joined. At first I was disappointed with that number, but in time, I realized that considering our group was not for everyone, we were for the most part requiring a Whitman Wildcat degree or at least a Whitman pedigree (family member, spouse, attends before moving away), it wasn't all that bad.

What was odd was that none, like in zero of the honored Hall of Famers wanted anything to do with this page.

And it got worse.

We honor with a new HOF class every two years. In 2010, our page had grown to 300 alumni. Maybe one Hall of Famer came on the page from time to time to say hello. Although other Whitman sites had similar problems  posts, I would like to think my skills as a writer would bring in more than 300 members. Still, 300 was better than 24. I went back on the road to do a Casey night of baseball comedy. Want to see for yourself? See me on Fox Sports by going to You Tube and searching Steve Tarde Casey at the Bat.

I also wrote book in 2010, a memoir about my dad, my life and baseball, called Gift to My Dad (Amazon).

I was in a tough business, some say the toughest business, but it had become my passion--along with honoring my school.

Things were looking good and the HOF called me and asked if they could honor me with the award I noted here.

Another dozen or so Hall of Famers entered the HOF that October during Homecoming..

I sprinted back to my Laptop and our numbers had climbed to 500. That was more like it!

Numbers sputtered and in 2013 I got sick. One day I was a picture of health and then I picked up a kidney infection and lost 65 pounds.

I had a cyst in my right kidney and it clamped onto it and then it became infected.

I was suddenly fighting for my life not Facebook numbers.

I returned home from the hospital in late winter to a long period of rest and recovery. Over time, I had chosen a handful of administrators to keep our page alive.

It was only the founder who was dying.

We are blessed at birth with two hard working kidneys, but we can manage with one.

Slowly, I became stronger. Day by day Week by week.

One day I flipped on the Facebook screen. It was only 700, but I was expecting worse. I had survived and so had our little group.

I began posting again that day.

In 2014 our 4th class of graduated were inducted.

A girl from the class of 1974 called me and told me an emotional story of how her 94 year old dad had gone to Whitman, taught in the district  and his last wish in life was to go into the HOF.

The District reminded the family that he was too late for the incoming HOF class of 2014 but he could apply in 2 years.

I thought that was dumb.

The man was in his 90's. Still playing and performing the saxophone. Let him in!

They held their guns. He will have to wait until 2016. But we compromised.They did honor him at the 2014 event.

That was a sweet story and I write about it and linked it to my long running blog.

We shot like a bullet over a thousand members.

Today, take a look at us. We are over 2,000. Most alumni sites, believe me I have looked get one or two pots a week if they are lucky.

Today, we get over 100 a day! Can you imagine.

We have a disc jockey, from the Class of 1972 who takes music requests and spins records all day long.

We are much more than an alumni page. We have become the Forever Reunion page.

And this month, a lady from the class of 1978 came into my life like a genie bringing gifts.

We now market Whitman gear to hundreds of our graduates.

Hall of Famers?

I never heard from them again.

But that was our original purpose and for now, we honor it.

But we have become the Wildcat Alumni group of Classes from 1957 to today and this has become, along with Casey at the Bat, the joy of my life. If you have been linked to this page from a Whitman prompt, come look at us now!

You will forever remain..

Hail to thee Walt Whitman,

the best of schools we know

We Promise to be true to thee

Wherever we may go

Go forth and prosper!

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