Second checker! Muppet Mike Toohey leaves the village at age 51
Second checker! Each and every time I saw Mike Toohey over the last 35 years, I’d say, “Second checker,” and he would laugh and say, “I hate bagging. I’m just no good at it.” Michael was a mainstay at Lewes IGA, now Lloyd’s Market, a mega muppet here at Sesame Street by the Sea. There was no bigger personality in the niche marketplace. Mike passed away in his sleep Friday at the age of 51. I told my wife Susan, who stood in a state of happiness in the sunlight of her daytime kitchen, “Mike Toohey passed away.” Her entire face changed. The air was out of the balloon. She became the sad-eyed lady of the lowlands. “I loved Michael Toohey,” she said. All I could say back was, “You and everyone else.” Mike was Cape Gazette Athlete of the Week on Oct. 4, 1996. His bio read, “Mike’s athletic background is bungee jumping along both sides of Route 1 several years ago. ‘Anyone who has bungeed wants to take it one more step,’ Toohey said. Last Sunday afternoon, Mike paid $175 to Parachutes Are Fun in Laurel, watched a 10-minute video, then stepped out of an airplane 13,000 feet above the watermelon patch. ‘It just felt like I was floating,’ Mike said. ‘I was tethered to the instructor because you need a license to skydive by yourself. Now I think I’m hooked. There’s nothing like free falling.’ Except, perhaps, yelling, ‘Second checker, please!’ Mike told me at the store after his jump, ‘I don’t mind being up in the air, it's just airplanes that I don’t like.’” Kevin Toohey, Mike’s sidekick and brother, was Athlete of the Week on Dec. 11, 1996, for his two interceptions in the Turkey Bowl Thanksgiving Day football game in Lewes. Michael and Kevin, two crazy sports guys, played darts and softball. They would turn any local happy hour into laughter, even for those drinking club soda.
Stating the obvious - College coaches and scouts, sometimes known as bird dogs, haven’t gone to high school games to mine for talent in over a decade. The travel culture and social networks have made the process of discovery an entirely different world. Excluding some obvious Division I football and basketball talents, good talents have to make themselves easily discoverable. And grades are important, because no program of minor sports wants to spend time working on academic projects. And down the road, it all translates into a marketable degree, which is only as marketable as the person who earned it and how they present themselves in real time in real life.
Cops and runners - My longtime friend Donald Robinson, now closing out a 40-year career in law enforcement, will be retiring in 2020. Donald is the broad-shouldered Afro-American smart guy. Two weeks ago at a Saturday morning race he was working in Dewey, he said to me, “I really like the running crowd. They are always so courteous and respectful, and I admire each of them with their own personal reasons to get out there and do what they do.” I told Donald, “The flip side of what they do makes me sad for all the people who don’t take care of themselves or are too depressed or unmotivated to get out of bed in the morning and work on improving themselves.” Donald responded, “Absolutely.”
Playmate of the Week - I once ran a feature in my sports column called, In Search of the Green Hoochie, where I wrote just one paragraph about fishing, admitting I knew nothing, but by the look of many empty coolers, there were lots of anglers who knew very little as well. I decided the mates on offshore boats were under-appreciated, colorful characters, so I decided to feature a Playmate of the Week, which lasted one week because it brought jealousies to the surface, so the winner decided to dive for deep water. The week one winner Horace caught more grief than fish, so I retired the trophy.
Snippets - Football players get yelled at by coaches, so why not baseball players? In particular, any high-priced relief pitcher coming into a game from the bullpen who can’t find the strike zone and starts giving hard-earned runs back like an anchor man on a mile relay who gets walked down in the first half-lap. The Phillies dropped five in a row – they were leading in every game – before finally winning the getaway game in Atlanta 5-4 on a walk-off tag at the plate by under-appreciated backup catcher Andrew Knapp. Alec Bohm hit his first major league home run, which landed in a pool beyond the centerfield wall. A stadium worker looking like a Canary Creek crabber then fished out two balls, sending them both to Alec for his memorabilia room. Back in the ’80s, Eric Davis of the Reds hit a home run into the left-field bleachers at Veterans Stadium. A fan held up the baseball and was on television all across America. That fan was Cape’s own Eddie Gaines, a 100-yard rusher in 1987. The better story was Eddie brought the ball to the game and just pulled it out of his pocket to get on television. Go on now, git!