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Scoresheet: A party for Pesky, and a big day for Wheeler

by: TRIBUNE FILE PHOTO: L.E. BASKOW - A gathering to honor the late Johnny Pesky is set for Sept. 30 at St. Patrick's Church in Northwest Portland, where the former Boston Red Sox great spent his youth.Basically, it’s for grown-up kids — friends and fans of the late Johnny Pesky — to honor the Boston Red Sox legend in a very Portland, baseball way.

A couple of hundred or more people are expected to gather Sunday, Sept. 30 at St. Patrick’s Church in Northwest Portland. They will reminisce not only about Pesky, who grew up in the neighborhood and died Aug. 13 at age 92, but also about baseball.

St. Patrick’s is just a few blocks from where Pesky and scores of other kids once followed the biggest sport and team in the city, the Portland Beavers.

“I’m calling it ‘A Day at the old Vaughn Street,’ ” says Vince Pesky, 91, Johnny’s brother, who still lives down the street from St. Pat’s.

Longtime Portland TV personality/activist/attorney Jack Faust, 80, will emcee the tribute event, which takes place from 4 to 7 p.m.

Trail Blazers co-founder Harry Glickman, 88, is among those planning to speak.

“But it will be more of a party than a bunch of speeches,” Faust promises. “It’ll be more like a gathering of the old Slabtown, with a lot of memories.”

Vince Pesky and other organizers have arranged for hot dogs — “enough for 400 people,” he says — peanuts, popcorn, beer and even an old-fashioned stadium vendor to work the crowd, as was the case at Vaughn Street, the Northwest 24th and Vaughn home of the Beavers from 1901-56.

The suggested donation of $10 goes to a local food bank.

“We’ll show some slides and stuff,” says organizer Mark O’Donnell, 69, who spent part of his youth in Northwest Portland, “but mostly it’ll be like an evening at the ballpark, the way it used to be.”

All in the family

Trail Blazers play-by-play man Brian Wheeler modestly calls it “another interesting chapter in my wacky life story” — but it’s more like the stuff from a movie script.

In one phone call on Monday, the 50-year-old broadcaster, who always has known he was adopted, confirmed the identity of his birth mother, spoke to her — and found out that his adoptive father not only is alive but has been married to his birth mother for 50 years, and that they have two boys, making Wheeler both big brother and Uncle Brian.

“It was like waking up Christmas morning with more presents than you expected,” he says.

Wheeler sent away in May for his original birth certificate. “I knew only that I had a teenage mother,” he says. Then, armed with the bare information on the birth certificate, he hired an investigator, who located his birth mother in Rockford, Ill., about 90 miles from Chicago, where Brian was born.

Wheeler made the big call at 1:30 p.m. Monday from the parking lot at the Trail Blazers’ practice facility in Tualatin. He didn’t want to wait any longer. “Barbara,” he said calmly over the cell phone, “I believe you’re my birth mother ... “

And with that, and a few details that convinced her Wheeler was who he was claiming to be, they were off and running.

“It was a comfortable, cordial, hour-long conversation,” he says.

The male voice who had answered the phone was, indeed, Wheeler’s birth father. Wheeler had been led to believe that the man might be his birth father. That was confirmed when Wheeler asked, “Do you keep in touch much with my father?” and his birth mother chuckled and said, “I’m about to celebrate my 50th wedding anniversary with him.”

What are the odds, Wheeler asks, that he not only was about to find and speak to his birth parents, but that they would have gone on to marry, have two more children together and still be a couple 50 years later?

His birth mother is 68. His birth father is 74. His sister is 48. His other sister died unexpectedly in her sleep three years ago at age 46.

His birth mother was 16 when she got pregnant with Brian. “She was from a Catholic family, so abortion was never considered, but her mother told her she needed to finish school,” Wheeler says. His adoptive parents had the same doctor, and he brokered the exchange of baby Brian at the hospital.

Wheeler’s birth father went to the same high school in Chicago that Brian attended.

“She reassured me that they always loved me,” Wheeler says, “but, you know, I’ve never ever had one second of anger about the situation. She allowed me to have a life.”

And now, he hopes, they can share some of their lives. Wheeler hopes to see his birth parents in person, perhaps on a Blazer road trip this season. He says he’ll call them again soon, to talk and see about exchanging some photos. He’s only seen a small Facebook profile photo of his birth mother, and has yet to see pictures of his birth father or sister.

For the record, Wheeler says his birth parents don’t seem to know much about the NBA.

“But she did ask about the Cubs and White Sox — which team did I root for when I was in Chicago,” he says.

n Recommendation for Saturday: Head to Palatine Hill for the 1 p.m. Lewis & Clark College football game with Macalester. The atmosphere can’t be beat: small-college intimacy, enthusiastic supporters, a beautiful venue and good football.

The Pioneers have reinvigorated their football program in recent years, and coach Chris Sulages has put together a competitive team. QB Keith Welch is an exciting run-pass threat, and the squad has some depth. The Pios are 2-0 and are coming off their startling 7-2 record 2011 season. Macalester comes from St. Paul, Minn., at 3-0 for the first time since 1984.

The entire renaissance of athletics at Lewis & Clark, and their place on campus, is impressive. Credit goes to the trustees, to school President Barry Glassner (a regular figure at the football games), to athletic director Clark Yeager and his staff, to the proud alumni, to the student body, and certainly to the coaches and student-athletes.

Tickets to Lewis & Clark football games are $10 general admission, $4 students and free for L&C students and ages 12 and younger.

If you can’t make it this Saturday, the Pioneers also will be home for three tough Northwest Conference games: Oct. 6 against Pacific Lutheran, Oct. 20 versus perennial national power Linfield and Oct. 27 against Pacific (homecoming).

n Pomona-Pitzer, which lost 31-13 at Lewis & Clark last week, has two former Lincoln High receivers, Alex McPhee and Guy Scherzer. McPhee, a freshman who has grown up playing Australian Rules Football, also is the team’s punter.

n At Yale, freshman QB Eric Williams — son of former University of Portland athletic director Larry Williams — opened his career with a 98-yard TD pass that was the longest play from scrimmage in Bulldogs’ history. He threw for 250 yards as Yale beat Georgetown 30-21. His brother, linebacker Scott Williams, also is on the team. So are 6-4 Henry Furman, ex-Lincoln QB, who caught two passes as a wideout; ex-Lincoln O-lineman Luke Hartwig; and starting tight end Michael Leunen (ex-Westview), a 6-7, 230-pounder voted “most intelligent” by his teammates.

n Concordia’s women’s soccer team held on to its No. 1 NAIA ranking after draws in two games against ranked teams at a tournament in Alabama.

n Concordia University senior setter Lindsay Mangan set a career-high with 57 assists in the Cavaliers’ 3-2 win over Warner Pacific last week.

n Portland State senior goalkeeper Lainey Hulsizer and sophomore Daniela Solis will help lead the Vikings into conference play this weekend. Solis, a forward from Sherwood, is back after a stint with Mexico at the under-20 World Cup. She has scored two of PSU’s last four goals, including the double-overtime winner in a 2-1 victory over Boise State.

n Emily Fellows from Jesuit High, has nine goals and one assist for 6-0-0 Linfield, which is ranked 25th among NCAA Division III teams. A junior forward, Fellows totaled 26 goals in earning Northwest Conference offensive player of the year honors in 2010 and had seven goals in six games in 2011 before suffering a season-ending bone bruise.

n Pooh Jeter, a former Portland Pilot point guard who has played in the NBA, is headed to the Shandong Flaming Bulls of the Chinese Basketball Association. Last season, he averaged 11.5 points and 2.9 assists with Joventut Badalona in Spain.

n Former Portland Pilot midfielder Keelin Winters is playing for Turbine Potsdam, the defending German Bundesliga champion and a favorite to win the European Champions League. Winters, 23, says her goals include making the U.S. team for the 2015 Women’s World Cup in Canada and the 2016 Olympics in Rio de Janeiro.

Happy birthday

Sept. 20, 1950 — 

Dave Twardzik (age 62)

Sept. 22, 1942 — 

David Stern (age 70)

Sept. 25, 1965 — 

Scottie Pippen (age 47)

Tweets of the week

Down town P town walking for a cure today #forgrandma

Mac Carruth “@mactruthcarruth

Congrats to my brother

David on qualifying for upcoming US Sr Am!! Low qualifier from Oregon. He’s gonna win it all! He’s New Jersey bound.

Peter Jacobsen “@JakeTrout

(Editor’s note: The U.S. Senior Amateur is Sept. 29-Oct. 4 in West Caldwell, N.J. Last weekend, David Jacobsen won the Oregon Mid-Amateur by four shots at the Glaze Meadow Course at Black Butte Ranch.)

This day in Oregon sports

Sept. 24, 1970 — The Trail Blazers play their first exhibition game. They lose to the San Francisco Warriors 119-118 at Mark Morris High in Longview, Wash.

Sept. 25, 1990 — The Oregon Dome Team announces plans to pre-sell seats for $1,000 each to raise money for a potential 1991 ballot measure seeking support for a $175 million-$200 million stadium that could be the home of an NFL team. The Metropolitan Service District commits $100,000 to a committee that will study the idea. The Dome Team, led by Portland banker Roger Breezley and attorney Ted Runstein, hopes to sell 20,000 seats, generating $20 million. (In August 1991, the Dome Team ends the effort, saying it had received $600,000 in seat pledges and was unable to find a stadium site in Salem or the Portland area. The 28-team NFL pushes ahead with expansion plans, though, and St. Louis, Memphis, Jacksonville, Baltimore and Charlotte are the leading candidates.)

Sept. 24, 2003 — An NHL exhibition game draws 7,883 fans to the Rose Garden. San Jose beats Phoenix 3-0.

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