What's in a name?
Tigers second baseman, Charlie Gehringer, on the dugout steps - 1934
Today I wrote a story that started...
My father named me Charlie Gehringer DeWagner and for fifteen years I hated him.
I don't know why I wrote that. When you grow up in the shadows of Detroit, and your afternoons are full of the soothing sounds of Ernie Harwell's soft southern lilt, you hear stories about the greatest Tiger second baseman of all-time, Charlie Gehringer.
This close to the assembly line hum of Detroit, our Ontario nights were interrupted with the sound of factory whistles and the crash and clang of freight cars unloading raw steel to be heated and bent into car springs for General Motors. Still, above the gentle din of men making the same kind of living that their fathers did, you could hear the double play call from George Kell and Al Kaline as Sweet Lou, Tram and the Tigers sweated through another late night on the west coast. Like Harwell, they too told stories of the great Charlie Gehringer, so frequently that even as a child I was familiar with the soft-spoken Mechanical Man that was Fowlerville, Michigan's pride and irrepressible joy, Charlie Gehringer was an entire state's unflappable hero, boys and men both.
Tonight I asked June if we ever needed to name a boy if we could call him Charlie Gehringer DeWagner, named not after the man and legendary Tiger, but after a character in a story...a character that seemingly fell from the sky like soft summer rain. She giggled and said, "yes. I like that name." So now you've heard the story, as hopelessly brief as the explanation has been, and you won't have to ask us why, when we've someday named our child Charlie, we ever chose such a strange and awkwardly framed name. It all started with a story, not a ballplayer, at least not necessarily, but with words on a page, just like any decent life should...a simple statement followed by a vast blank page full of possibility. It'd be hard to live an uneventful life with the name Charlie Gehringer DeWagner, very hard, indeed.