Everybody knows Doc Koselke, 71, at the Silver Horseshoe in Wanatah. He is a regular the saloon, and he is one of the most likeable cusses you’d ever want to meet. (Jeff Manes / Post-Tribune)
"…Sometimes you want to go where everybody knows your name,
And they’re always glad you came.
You wanna be where you can see, our troubles are all the same.
You wanna be where everybody knows your name…"
— from the theme song of the television sitcom "Cheers" (1982-1993)
Everybody knows Doc Koselke at the Silver Horseshoe in Wanatah. He is what is known as a regular at said saloon. Doc also is one of the most likeable cusses you’d ever want to meet.
Koselke, 71, is a truck driver and a widower with a Lacrosse mailing address in Cass Township.
He and his late wife Janet raised three children.
Tell me about life on the farm when you were a lad.
"Dad farmed about 450 acres all together. We had 25 dairy cows and 2,500 chickens."
Was the poultry raised for meat or eggs?
"Eggs. We sold eggs in Chicago and to restaurants in Valpo. Dealers used to come out from the city to buy eggs by the crate. That was back in the ’50s."
Do you remember your paternal grandfather?
"Very well. He farmed on both sides of Crooked Creek. Good dirt. My dad can remember when they straightened Crooked Creek. They dug it out because there was swamp on both sides. They drained it with a dredge on a floater."
How did you get the nickname Doc?
"When I was about 5 years old, I got a doctor’s bag for Christmas. It so happened that everybody in the house got sick but me. So, I started takin’ everybody’s temperature. I had a stethoscope around my neck. I handed out little boxes of sugar pills. My family members would ask me: ‘How am I doin’, Doc?’ I’d say" ‘Just take one of these and you’ll be fine.’ So, I was ‘Doc’ before I ever went to school."
Great story. Life after high school?
"I went to work for (Rural Electric Membership Corporation). I was with REMC for 16 years. Then, three of my brothers and I incorporated."
"Farming. I had been farming 400 acres on the side while working for REMC. Then, we bought an (grain) elevator in Wanatah, but it burned down. Then, we went broke farmin’."
What time frame are we talking?
"The ’80s. We were borrowin’ money — tryin’ to farm — for 24 percent (interest). Reagan was president. I horsed around for a couple of years with carpenter work. I did odd jobs, whatever I could find."
When did you become a truck driver?
"Yep. Local 135. One of my sons is a UPS driver. He’s Local 772 out of Chicago."
I hear you’re a big sports fan.
"I really do enjoy watching the White Sox. I’m not one of those Sox haters because I’m a Cub fan."
"My favorite Cub player of all-time was Glen Hobbie. He pitched from ’55 to ’61. Glen Hobbie was a notorious 20-gamer for the Cubs."
"Yep. He lost 20 games at least three or four times. I loved him. Glen Hobbie was the best pitcher they had."
Name a couple more of your favorite Cubs.
"I always like Shawon Dunston. I liked Hank Sauer, too. Sauer played for the Cubs in the early ’50s. I remember when dad would buy the Chicago Tribune. The Trib would have these big colored pictures of the players in their uniforms every spring. I just loved it. I’d cut them suckers out and keep ’em in a big ol’ scrapbook. I can still tell you the ’52 starting lineup for the Chicago Cubs. There was ‘Handsome’ Ransom Jackson at third, there was Roy Smalley at shortstop, there was…"
Doc, I believe you. Was the ’52 team pretty good?
"No, they sucked. After the ’45 team, they pretty much sucked for a long time."
Well, I must admit, the Cubs are stacked this year. Are they going all the way?
"I worry about their bats getting’ quiet when it counts. I ain’t worried about the pitchin’."
What position on the diamond did you play?
"Pitcher and shortstop. I had three brothers that all caught. We played our high school ball in the fall."
Were you a pretty good hurler back in the day, Doc?
"Let me tell you a little story."
I’m all ears.
"You see, my dad had five sons. The Lion’s Club had a father-son banquet. The guest speaker was Dizzy Trout."
An excellent pitcher who threw mostly for Detroit and was the father of southpaw Steve Trout who pitched for the Sox and the Cubs.
"That’s right. Anyway, Dad farmed out four of five of us because there were men in the community who didn’t have sons, but wanted to hear Trout speak.
"Dizzy pulls into town in a station wagon, but it stalls. He enters this very saloon and announces that he has car trouble and could use some help. My Dad happened to be sitting at the bar."
The apple doesn’t fall far from the tree, Doctor.
"I guess not. Dad guzzles his beer and then comes home and asks me: ‘Do you want to meet Dizzy Trout’? I says: ‘Hell, yes.’ So we head out to the Tic Toc (local truck stop no longer in existence) where Dizzy’s station wagon was parked."
"I was a junior in high school at the time. I says to Dizzy: ‘I throw a curve ball and a fastball. How do you throw a slider’? He’s says: ‘Well, that curve ball ain’t gonna get you too far. All it’s gonna do is get your elbow hurt.’ As a matter of fact, I was havin’ arm trouble at the time.
"Dizzy asked me if I knew how to throw a football. I told him I could. Then he told me you throw a slider just like you throw a football. Don’t come over the top, but throw it as hard as you throw a fastball."
Did you master the slider?
"It took a few days of throwin’ to my brothers, but I got it to break maybe a foot. That was enough. In my first start after talking to Dizzy Trout, I struck out 20 of 21 batters. In my second start, I threw a no-hitter against Rolling Prairie."
Yep, I’m glad to have met Doc Koselke at the Silver Horseshoe, where everybody knows his name.
Jeff Manes is a freelance columnist for the Post-Tribune.