Portland Beavers

Mount St. Helens: 40 years ago to the day and not much has changed

Mount St. Helens: 40 years ago to the day and not much has changed

It was shaping up to be an eventful Sunday in Portland on May 18, 1980. I just had no idea, early that morning, how eventful it would be.

I was covering the Portland Beavers for the Oregon Journal in those days and had an afternoon game to write about, in what was then Civic Stadium.

But that wasn’t what I was looking forward to on that Sunday afternoon. My son, Will, turned six on May 18 and his birthday party was scheduled to take place in the left-field bleachers at the ballpark. I was excited about seeing all those six-year-olds scrambling around the roomy bleachers having a good time.

But you know by now, that day turned dark. Literally. And of course, that game was postponed because Mount St. Helens -- which had been ominously angry since late March -- finally exploded. And I mean REALLY exploded.

It sent a plume of ash 15 miles high. The top 1,300 feet of the mountain was blown away -- gone. A lethal flow of searing hot ash and gas flowed down what was left of the mountain.

Ash turned day into night all over the Pacific Northwest and managed to hit 11 states. The direct death toll took days to figure, but the final number was set at 57.

And the aftermath was pandemic like. The ashfall was everywhere -- and dangerous. Some of the ash contained glass shards and pumice, making masks mandatory for those outside in the midst of it.

It was all over roads and cars and I recall how careful you had to be about getting it off your car because of the scratches it would cause.

Portland wasn’t the hardest hit area, though. We were lucky. Winds carried most of the ash in a northeasterly direction, with Yakima and Spokane hard hit.

And there was a psychological toll, too. Nobody was quite sure what would happen next. Would Mt. Hood blow? Or of more concern to Portlanders, what about Mt. Tabor? Would there be some sort of chain reaction there, causing it to erupt?

Or did you not know that Portland is one of only six cities in the country with an extinct volcano within its city limits?

For a while, the Pacific Northwest lived with tragedy of lives and property destroyed and even longer with the worry of another eruption, either at Mount St. Helens or somewhere else.

It eventually went away, though, just as the ash did.

The Beavers took a few days off before resuming their schedule. The birthday party eventually happened, too, at home a few days later.

The 6-year-old has turned into a 46-year-old, to be celebrating tonight with Mexican food, a brownie sundae and his family, socially distancing far away, in Kentucky.

Again, though, with no baseball game to watch. And I think we both are a bit sad about that, just as we were 40 years ago.

My Jerry Krause story -- when it came time for money, the man vanished

My Jerry Krause story -- when it came time for money, the man vanished

All of a sudden, Jerry Krause is a famous man again.

The former general manager of the Chicago Bulls was a big part of the first two episodes of “The Last Dance” Sunday night -- playing his role as team punching bag.

It was incredible how it turned out for Krause, who died in 2017. He drafted, signed or traded for every player on those championship Chicago teams except the most important one -- Michael Jordan -- and he seemingly couldn’t wait to tear that team up and prove to the world he was smart enough to do it all again.

But the fact was, the only other person on the planet who bought that idea was the team’s owner, Jerry Reinsdorf -- who probably liked the idea that he could shrink his team’s payroll by starting to rebuild.

Krause was derided by everyone in Chicago, most of whom took their cue from the Bulls’ players, who called Krause "Crumbs," because he always seemed to have a few on the front of his shirt.

Chicago Tribune columnist Bernie Lincicome wrote this after Krause was named the NBA’s executive of the year:

"While it is true that Krause and [team mascot] Benny the Bull have never been seen together, I discount all rumors that they are the same creature. For one thing, Benny has another suit."

A lot of people don’t know this, but Krause once briefly served as general manager of the Triple-A Portland Beavers. I was a clubhouse boy for the team at that time and my younger brother, fresh out of Little League, was a bat boy, for which he was paid the princely sum of a dollar a game.

But Krause was never around to come across with the money. My brother would drop by the office, located deep in the cold and dark bowels of what was then Civic Stadium, looking for a check or for Krause himself.

The man was never around.

Finally, one day I happened to be standing outside as my brother entered for another fruitless attempt to get the twenty bucks or so that the Beavers owed him.

And I saw Krause exiting from the backdoor of the office, looking over his shoulder to see if anyone saw him.

Fortunately, Krause was either let go or quit that job soon after that. I don't think he even made it to mid-season.

"They paid me $8,700 for that job," said Krause later, "and I just about went out of my mind. I wanted to get back to scouting."

Certainly, there was an overall sigh of relief from ballpark personnel when he left.

Later, when he showed up as the GM of the Bulls, I was shocked. But when players began to display public disgust at not being able to get more money out of that team, I wasn’t surprised.

I wanted to tell them, when you want to ask him for your money, he won't be there.