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No watery grave for this man’s Ruthian blast

Jerry Schmidt launches a baseball over the Spokane River in October as part of a Babe Ruth homage, while his fellow revelers look on.
Jerry Schmidt launches a baseball over the Spokane River in October as part of a Babe Ruth homage, while his fellow revelers look on.

Let’s follow up on a few topics from previous columns:

Our own sultans of swat – Back around World Series time, I wrote about a group of guys who make a practice of commemorating Babe Ruth’s home run at Natatorium Park in 1924. Every year, they march down to that now-abandoned site on the Spokane River and smack baseballs over the river.

Actually, they attempt to smack baseballs over the river.

In the previous two years, nobody had launched one all the way over. This year, they succeeded.

“We did finally get a Ruthian blast and Jerry Schmidt cleared the Spokane River,” said instigator Dave Jackson.

Schmidt is already somewhat of a Spokane sports legend, since he’s one of the founders of Hoopfest and Spike & Dig (he’s also a social worker). Now, he’ll be forever tied with the legendary Babe.

“One of the guys retrieved the ball the next day and it will be mounted on an engraved traveling trophy,” said Jackson.

For the first time, this group of baseball-loving friends performed their homage to the Babe in front of actual spectators. Because of the publicity, “at least 50 people were there to watch the frivolities.”

The legacy of Frances Scott – In October, I wrote about the late Frances Scott, Spokane’s first black woman attorney and an English teacher for 30 years at Rogers High School.

I tried to do her legacy justice, but as it turned out, only her students can do that job properly. I received dozens of e-mails from people whose lives she had touched. I want to apologize now for not getting around to replying to all of these wonderful e-mails, and I want to share a little bit of what they said.

Dwight Hume, a ’65 Rogers graduate, wrote that Scott “stood out above all of the other memories” he has of high school.

“She was a woman of resolve, compassion, patience and love for the underprivileged,” Hume wrote. “Her sense of humor was the medium that packaged this all together.”

The most touching tribute came from Tricia McRae, now of Kirkland, Wash.

“She was often the only African-American person many Spokane young people, in the ’60s, would know,” wrote McRae. “… During those decades of civil rights reform, I would often ask myself, ‘What would Mrs. Scott expect of me?’ ”

Rick and Teresa Lukens, still at large – After I wrote about the firing of this longtime KXLY husband-and-wife team, I was inundated with dozens of e-mails and letters expressing support and sympathy for them (along with one angry letter berating me for using the “bully pulpit for supporting personal friends”).

I checked in with the Lukenses this week. Since their firing in July, they have made a TV commercial for ZEROREZ, a local cleaning company, and have served as emcees for a number of local events.

Yet they’re still looking for full-time work, preferably using their broadcasting skills.

“I’m hoping to get into some type of video production locally,” said Rick Lukens. “Shooting, editing – something creative.”

Teresa Lukens is on the lookout for similar work, although they are “open to anything.”

Neither they nor I want to leave the impression that they are more deserving of sympathy than the thousands of other unemployed people in the region. As Rick Lukens himself noted, maybe even less.

Reach Jim Kershner at or (509) 459-5493.