One thing I have learned is that good friends have other good friends. This is a series of stories about “friends of my friends”. The post below is the story for February 9, 2015.
My goal in 2015 is to learn or get re-acquainted with 365 people and doing a daily post on the “the friend of a friend” is helping me get closer to my goal.
I have a friend in Lumberton, NC that is a former NCAA National Champion and Major League baseball pitcher by the name of Alan Fowlkes. Alan played two years for both the San Francisco Giants and California Angels in the mid 1980’s. He grew up in California and we have had some great times together since he moved to Lumberton.
Alan is also included in the NCAA Record books for what he accomplished at Cal-Pomona which at the time was NCAA Division II member. In 1980, Fowlkes set NCAA records with 206 innings pitched (he’s the only pitcher in any division to pitch more than 186 innings), 19 complete games, 24 starts and 21 wins. In today’s era of everybody being a specialist Alan’s record may never be touched.
I found an article on what Alan accomplished for his team the Cal-Pomona Broncos in the 1980 NCAA Division II Championships.
While he accomplished his goal with the 21 wins, Fowlkes best accomplishment may be what he did in the 1980 NCAA Regional. In a best-of-five championship against Cal St. Northridge, Fowlkes dealt a complete game in Game 1. The Broncos lost games two and three and were on the brink of elimination going into the fourth game.
Two days after pitching a complete game in Game 1, Fowlkes took the ball for game 4 to try to tie the series.
“I pitched six innings and we got a big lead so Coach Scolinos moved me to first base, just in case,” said Fowlkes. “It was the only time in college that I ever played in the field.”
Fowlkes was not needed again in Game 4, but much to the dismay of Cal St. Northridge, Scolinos sent Fowlkes to the bullpen to warm up before the start of Game 5.
“I think we played Northridge nine times that season and I beat them in five of those games,” said Fowlkes. “When I started warming up in the bullpen, you could just see their team drop their heads.”
Fowlkes pitched another complete game and Cal Poly Pomona won 15-1. “I think I struck out the side in the ninth,” remembers Fowlkes.
After the regional, Fowlkes dealt two complete games, got two wins and was named to the all-tournament team at the NCAA Division II Finals. To cap it off, Cal Poly Pomona won the national championship with four consecutive wins in the finals.
This past fall we took a trip with him to watch Auburn University play a football game. Alan wife graduated from Auburn and we had a great time tailgating and socializing with all the War Eagle fans. Alan had everything very organized and it was a trip I will never forget. Alan loves to cook and his homemade salsa is legendary around our community.
Alan grew up in California and I love to hear his stories about what that experience was like. He is from a region of California where agriculture was a big part of the economy and I think that is where his passion for the salsa comes from.
Alan found out a couple of days ago that his cousin and one of his best friends had passed away. He shared some stories on that cousin/friend Gary Paul Cox. Sounds like the two of them were true wiz kids.
The Friend-ALAN FOWLKES-Topps Baseball Card-1983 and our group at Auburn Alan back row far right.
The Friend of the Friend-GARY PAUL COX-front row on left-Alan back row on far right
Alan Fowlkes memories of Cousin and Friend Gary Cox
It’s been over 32 hours since I learned of the passing of my cousin, friend, and often time’s partner in crime Gary Paul Cox. Yet I am still reeling at this news and the fact that he is gone way too soon.
We were close during our early years but really got going as teenagers. We wore out many plastic whiffle ball bats and balls while pretending to be some of our baseball heroes of that time. Johnny Bench, Pete Rose and my favorite Phillies players Mike Schmidt and Greg Luzinzki aka The Bull. But Gary was a big Dodgers fan and was fond of playing the likes of Steve Garvey and Ron Cey against me. Little did we know at the time that Ron Cey would hit the first major league home run I would give up and that Steve Garvey would call time out and get the ball to me after my first major league hit against Bob Welch. Small world huh?
But baseball wasn’t the only thing we found to occupy our time. We played endless games of ping-pong and had tournaments that would last all day in 115 degree weather.
And thanks to our good friend and Gary’s neighbor Tom Ralls we took up the game of golf and oh the adventures we had. The early days required Tom to drag us along to the course with him as we weren’t old enough to drive ourselves yet. So Tom taught us the basics of the game and we found a variety of ways to torment him along the way both on the course and off (like chipping golf balls over Gary’s fence at Tom’s house for instance).
One great memory was the time one of my errant shots trickled into one of the ponds at the IV Country Club course in Holtville, CA. Gary volunteered to remove his shoes and step into the edge of the pond for the retrieval. While he was in water I held on to him and he used a 2 iron to try to retrieve it. He was struggling to reach it and somehow I lost my grip (oops) and he slid into the pond. He retrieved the ball and tossed it on the bank and I noticed another ball and convinced him that since he was already wet to retrieve it as well. Then there was another and another and before long Gary was up to his waist out in the middle of the pond feeling around with his feet and then gripping the balls in his toes to retrieve them and toss them onto the bank around the pond. So we filled up all the pockets on our golf bags and when they were full we just dropped them into the center of the bags. Finally we (or should I say Gary had enough) and we finished our round and headed home with over two hundred golf balls we had retrieved from the pond.
And yes, if anyone is still wondering after all these years the tie rods on that golf cart broke because we attempted to drive it up the steps to the 16th tee. No, it was not a good idea actually but it seemed like it was at the time!!!
And perhaps greatest of all was our method of picking up golf balls from a golf cart. We were getting adept at picking up those second shots we hit with the cart going full speed. Since it was becoming second nature I decided to add an interesting twist. As Gary bent down to pick up the ball I jerked the wheel as hard as I could to the left and ZOOM out of the cart he shot like a rocket. I was headed toward the left rough and as I looked back he was stumbling along at break neck speed. He was headed down the fairway arms flailing, feet stumbling, and laughing like a maniac. He eventually gained control after about 25 yards and came to a stop without ever falling to the ground. It was without a doubt the greatest save I have ever seen on a golf course and there wasn’t even a club involved. Gary was truly a wizard.
Finally I will never forget our summer job after my freshman year in college as crop dust flaggers. Gary’s dad worked for a crop dusting service and got us the work. When business was good we often worked up to 48 hours or more sleeping only when the crop dusting aircraft had to fuel up.
One particularly long shift we hadn’t slept in what seemed like forever. It was about 3 a.m. and we were flying down Forrester Road just outside of Brawley, CA to get to the next field scheduled to be dusted. Gary drove across all four lanes of highway 86 at about 85 mph. This feat was accomplished in an old pickup truck with three on the column. We got assigned to drive this old beast for our job-it was not intended to perform dangerous driving stunts but again the wizard was at the wheel.
We were so tired we didn’t even realize what we had done until we were about a half mile down the road and suddenly looked at each other with one of those OMG what the hell did we just do looks and then both began laughing uncontrollably. We were laughing so hard he had to pull off the road until we could gather ourselves and continue on to the next field.
There were other adventures too numerous to mention.
Gary was like Gandalf the wizard in the Hobbit. I am going to miss my cousin and friend.