Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Vote boss keeps everybody's hands clean

Harry Neufeld photographed by Deddeda Stemler.

By Tom Hawthorn
Special to The Globe and Mail
April 29, 2009


It is E-Day minus 14, a fortnight from the province's first election in four years. A lot of planning can be done in that time. A voters list of three million names is compiled. Some 1,700 voting locations have been selected, district returning officers hired and ballots printed.

Then, aches and pains become an outbreak that may yet become a pandemic. In Mexico, soccer games are played in stadiums empty of spectators. You're in charge of an exercise in which strangers by the tens of thousands gather in common spaces to share pencils before casting a ballot. What to do?

The folks at Elections BC met yesterday and decided to have hand sanitizer at every voting place.

"I'm happy we're not going to have to do more than that," said Harry Neufeld, the province's chief electoral officer.

So far, anyway.

Mr. Neufeld heads the best-run campaign in the election. Not only does he eschew partisan attacks, but he does not make promises he can't keep.

He is British Columbia's ballot boss, an independent officer of the legislature.

He turns 57 on June 4, or, on his calendar, the day after the writs are returned. That will mark 50 hectic days since the election was called. (In the elex biz, this is known as when the writs are dropped. Writs are formal documents. They're not so much dropped as issued by Mr. Neufeld. But if you talk about the dropping of writs it makes you sound like an electoral veteran.)

If election campaigning is a sport, then Mr. Neufeld is the referee. As in hockey, you read about the officials only when they screw up. So, the chief electoral officer remains a little-known character with awesome responsibilities.

He is an unembarrassed preacher of the beauty of one-person, one-vote democracy, a system defended in war and in recent years threatened by a combination of apathy and disgust at political machinations.

"We take so much for granted," he said.

He has travelled from Botswana to Zimbabwe to share with fledgling democracies Canada's success at conducting fair elections.

The globetrotting has taken him far from his roots. He was born in Brooks, Alta., which had the hospital closest to the family farm at Rosemary. His childhood duties included stacking hay and feeding sheep.

At the age of 9, he moved with his family to Winnipeg, where his father, a Mennonite minister, took on a role with the church. At 15, he moved to Niagara-on-the-Lake, Ont., returning after high school graduation to work on the family farm, by then being managed by an uncle.

"I broke a horse. I took care of a lot of range land. Did a lot of fencing. Drove around in a pickup truck. Had a straw hat. Cowboy boots. It was good fun."

The return to Alberta soil persuaded him to decline his acceptance at the University of Western Ontario and study English and political science at the University of Lethbridge, where even his first-year classes were smaller than what he had experienced in high school. He moved to Victoria to work on a master's degree.

After a year's study, he arranged a summer job as a waiter at a steak house, a job he dreaded but thought he could not avoid.

"I was broke. I had $32 in my bank account." As it turned out, the last paper he handed in was a 32-page examination of the evolution of the electoral franchise in British Columbia. While interviewing the deputy chief electoral officer, he had mentioned his interest in working for Elections BC. The call came just in time to save him from the restaurant.

He helped organize what is believed to be the first computerized voters list in time for the 1983 provincial election.

In 1989, the United Nations sent him to Namibia, which was to conduct an election before declaring independence after nearly three decades of war. He monitored a local computer expert handling voter registrations at Windhoek. He was witness to history, as a people colonized by the racist regime of South Africa took the first steps toward independence.

"The turnout for the election was staggering - 94 per cent," he recalled.

"Many of them were illiterate. They stood in line for days in order to get a ballot. It was inspiring."

He has also worked on and witnessed elections in Mexico, Russia, Guyana, Uganda, and South Africa.

Back home, he can quote the Election Act like a scholar cites Shakespeare.

For all his passion about the sanctity of the ballot, his election day will be free of a duty he expects the rest of us to exercise.

A peculiarity of his job can be found in Part 2, Section 5, Subsection 2 of the act under a boldfaced heading of impartiality: "The chief electoral officer is not entitled to vote in an election."

So, he will not be casting a ballot on May 12. But at least he has a good excuse.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Sex Party added to the fringe festival of bit players

By Tom Hawthorn
Special to The Globe and Mail
April 23, 2009


In an election campaign, it’s hard to beat the Sex Party when it comes to pressing the flesh.

The declaration by the group that they will be contesting seats in the May 12 provincial election gives rise to two questions.

What is a Sex Party?

And why wasn’t I invited?

The party stands for better sex education in schools, as well as a repeal of laws prohibiting sex work and public nudity. The party demands sex shops be treated as ordinary retail businesses, which is not a surprise considering party leader John Ince, a lawyer and author, owns such a store in Vancouver’s Kitsilano neighbourhood.

The media comes in for criticism in the party’s manifesto for such prudish behaviour as presenting sexual terms with a letter followed by dashes, a policy even some columnists think is f------ nonsense. (Foolish. Foolish nonsense.) It also calls on media outlets to assign journalists to a sex beat. Just think of the overtime, not to mention road trips.

Finally, the party insists Valentine’s Day be an official holiday, while Victoria Day, which honours a notoriously prissy monarch, should be renamed Eros Day.

No word yet whether the provincial capital should be renamed Eros, British Columbia. That might improve the tourist trade, but it’s not likely to fool the rest of the province.

However serious the party’s goals, its presence on the campaign trail adds a certain inevitable levity to the proceedings. Every entendre is doubled.

In a statement posted on the party’s website, candidate Dietrich Pajonk writes: “I don’t look like Brad Pitt.” (Who says there is no honesty among politicians?) “What I can tell you is that in spite of my shortcomings, I manage to have a pretty darn fulfilling sex life.” That seems to strike the proper note of self-deprecation, narcissism, and exhibitionism common to those of his ilk, which is to say politicians.

Scarlett Lake, 56, is a former exotic dancer and escort who plans to file paperwork before Friday’s deadline to be the Sex Party’s standard bearer in Vancouver-West End. She is a self-described madam as proprietor of a business in which she matches customers to escorts.

“Your average party and politician is reluctant to touch anything of a sexual nature,” she said. “It can be such a hot-button area.”

At least the Sex Party’s candidates do not worry much about being exposed by compromising photographs.

An NDP candidate stepped aside on Sunday after his Liberal opponent drew attention to photographs on his Facebook page that were “racy” (Times Colonist), “raunch” (Winnipeg Sun), “dodgy” (the Province), “offensive and demeaning” (his Liberal rival), “inappropriate” (the candidate himself in a judgment echoed by party leader Carole James). The Globe was alone among the print media in reporting the candidate displayed “bulging underwear.” That was shocking, as underwear normally billows, or balloons, and cotton is not known to become tumescent.

Premier Gordon Campbell said the photos called into question the candidate’s judgment, a subject about which he has an expertise. Six years ago, a Hawaii judge levied a $913 US fine on the premier after he was charged as a drunk driver for blowing nearly twice the legal limit.

While the vast majority of votes cast next month will go to representatives of the NDP, Liberal and Green parties, Elections BC has registered another 29 parties who are qualified to have their name on the ballot.

There are Communists and Conservatives. There’s a Western party and a Western Canada Concept, a Democratic Futures and a Democratic Reform, a Nation Alliance party and a Progressive Nationalist party. There’s a Herb party and a Planting Seeds party and a Marijuana party which will go up in smoke after voting day.

There is Espavo Sozo’s Platinum Party and James Filippelli’s Your Political Party. Gordon Watson heads a group called Party of Citizens Who Have Decided to Think for Themselves and Be Their Own Politicians. They are also known as the POCWHDTTFTABTOP, which is probably why they rarely get a second reference in news stories.

There are Libertarians who want to eliminate government and hard-core Marxist-Leninists for whom North Korea is a dangerously liberal.

There are Western separatists and American annexationists.

There is a Patroit party and a Work Less party, whose irresistible slogan is “Workers of the world relax.”

No wonder Maclean’s magazine once described British Columbia as “the banana-peel belt of Canadian politics.”

Our second premier, born as plain old Bill Smith, came to Victoria after chasing gold in the California hills. When the settlement of Mud Springs gave itself a makeover by changing its name to Eldorado, Mr. Smith had an inspiration of his own, renaming himself Amor de Cosmos.

We have since had a premier whose home address was a Biblical theme park, a roadside attraction complete with windmill. Like one or two others to hold the province’s top office, he became unwillingly familiar with the interior of a criminal courtroom.

As for the fringe festival of bit players, don’t laugh at their ambitions.

After the Second World War, a warring collection of conspiracy theorists, anti-Semitic holdovers, and funny-money theorists contested the 1949 provincial election. The two splinter groups combined to claim less than two per cent of the vote.

Just three years later, Social Credit formed government. W.A.C. Bennett, a Kelowna hardware merchant who took over the party before dismissing most of the more unpalatable elements, then sat in the premier’s chair for two decades.

Today, the B.C. Legislature. Tomorrow, the world.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Struggling to give kids a sporting chance

By Tom Hawthorn
Special to The Globe and Mail
April 15, 2009


Some children are born with pocket aces. Others face longer odds.

Few students at elementary schools in Vancouver's poorer neighbourhoods grow up with computers in their bedroom, or get to experience horizon-expanding holidays in resorts.

They do not enjoy the services of private math tutors, or private sports instruction.

A pair of former Olympic runners – Doug Clement (1952, 1956) and Valerie Jerome (1960) – felt east-side students could benefit from an introduction to their sport. In running, those young lives might find a sense of direction, even if it was mostly loops around an oval cinder track.

The Olympians knew how beneficial sport was to their lives. He grew up around Main and East 25th Avenue, the son of an electrical engineer. She grew up in North Vancouver, the daughter of a railway porter. On the track, they found a purpose as well as a community.

Two years ago, they helped launch a program in which coaches visited inner-city schools twice a week for four months. The coaching was conducted by Tatjana and Besnik Mece, both of whom had been national-team members in their native Albania, he as a steeplechaser, she as a pentathlete and high jumper. Both hold university degrees in human kinetics.

Their philosophy: Some children don't know they have a talent until given an opportunity.

The training sessions culminated in a track meet held during the annual Harry Jerome International Track Classic.

The little kids ran in the very lanes in which the world's greatest runners competed.

“We thought bringing young children right up beside the professional Olympic athletes might be stimulating for them,” Mr. Clement said.

A year ago, Gary Reed visited Hastings Elementary School, where he offered running tips to about 100 eager students. Mr. Reed is familiar with growing up poor, as he spent a peripatetic childhood as his single mother moved often in search of work.

The Hastings students adopted the 800-metre runner as other classes might take on a pet hamster. They created a long, scroll-like banner to encourage him at the Beijing Olympics.

Mr. Clement and Ms. Jerome were delighted.

The program was a success. Underprivileged children got world-class instruction, as well as an inexpensive introduction to the world of sports.

In the first year, they had six schools.

In the second year, they had eight schools.

In this the third year, they were hoping to expand. It is an election year.

Gangs and drugs are in the news. The Winter Olympics are around the corner. Who wouldn't want to back an initiative promoting fitness and opportunity for inner-city children?

Organizers checked in with sponsors last week to confirm commitments.

Ms. Jerome was devastated by the response.

A law firm backed out, saying it could no longer contribute while laying off lawyers.

Other sponsors also backed out with reluctance and apologies.

With a modest budget of $52,000, the program so far has but a lone corporate backer for the coming year.

In a time of belt-tightening, those with little are about to get even less.

“We pay in the long run when we don't find something else for these children,” Ms. Jerome said. “We neglect them at our peril.”

Her brother, the great Olympic runner Harry Jerome, a world-record holder in the 100-metre dash, overcame humble beginnings and racial prejudice to become a world-class sprinter. After retiring from the track, he was hired by the federal government to promote sports and fitness among the young. In B.C., he launched a program in which school children got to experience different sports.

“His biggest passion in life was sports for kids,” his sister said of a brother who died suddenly at age 42 in 1982. “He desperately wanted those children to have the same opportunity he did.”

You never know from what soil an Olympian will spring.

Back in 1979, as desperate migrants from Vietnam sought refuge, a United Church group in the village of Hazelton in the B.C. Interior agreed to help settle a mother, a father, two children and an uncle. A girl was born to the family within the year. In high school, she became a wrestler thanks to a coach who was himself an immigrant from the United States.

The slight, muscular athlete developed into a fierce competitor and, at the Beijing Olympics, Carol Huynh won a gold medal while wearing the singlet of her birthplace and her parents' adopted home. The daughter of Vietnamese boat people, who as a group were not universally welcomed to this land, made the most of her opportunity.

In Vancouver's concrete and gravel schoolyards, future Harry and Valerie Jeromes might go ignored for want of a coach. Unless more sponsors are found, those school kids will be deprived of an opportunity in a world in which there are already too few.

2009 CTVglobemedia Publishing Inc. All Rights Reserved.

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

The ups and downs of Victoria's little Blue Bridge

By Tom Hawthorn
Special to The Globe and Mail
April 8, 2009


The Johnson Street Bridge needs to be repaired or replaced. Here's hoping the city decides to go with the chewing-gum and duct-tape solution.

The Blue Bridge, as it is known, is well into retirement age at 85, but shows no sign of quitting. It still works. But not any more than it has to.

As a symbol for the city, this lift bridge is hard to beat. Bridge goes up, bridge goes down. Bridge mostly doesn't move at all.

Each workday, about 30,000 vehicles cross the span linking downtown to the Vic West neighbourhood and Esquimalt and the naval base beyond. Others cross on bicycles, three-wheel scooters, four-wheel skateboards, and the odd unicycle. Even more make the short journey on foot.

Every morning, the Malahat pulls out from a terminal at the northeast end of the bridge for the 225-kilometre journey to Courtenay, returning in time for supper. Yellow bumpers at Store Street are the end of the line for what had been the historical Esquimalt and Nanaimo Railway.

You can tell what the bridge means to the local citizenry by how we use it as a reference point.

We have a Blue Bridge Cabinetry business, a Blue Bridge Repertory Theatre company, a song titled Old Blue Bridge by The Bills. (It's bluegrass, natch.) When a local writers group released an anthology, the book was titled Beyond the Blue Bridge.

Last year, a brewpub released Blue Bridge Double IPA. "Bridges link people, they bring them together," Spinnakers publican Paul Hadfield said in a release at the time, "and that's exactly what the Johnson Street or Blue Bridge does here in Victoria."

Three years ago, protesters dressed as the Hulk, Batman and Spider-Man scaled it to unfurl banners demanding better custody arrangements for divorced fathers. A decade ago, the bridge provided a backdrop for the Alicia Silverstone comedy vehicle Excess Baggage.

The bridge is popular with tourists, whose portraits can be found on Flickr and other websites. One of those features a rusty door painted a garish blue.

The door opens into a shack on the southwest end of the bridge. This is the office of Gary Mullins, 57, whose job title with the city is senior bridge operator.

For the past 13 years, he has been guide and gatekeeper. The bridge is closed to marine use during the morning and evening rush hour, but otherwise can be lifted 20 hours a day, seven days a week, 362 days a year.

Mr. Mullins can be reached at VAH20 on Channel 12 of the marine radio.

"I can put a tug and barge through in five minutes," he says proudly. "One long streetlight."

The bridge-keeper maintains a logbook in which is recorded the time of each bridge lift and the name of each vessel. Four cameras, including one underneath the decking, aid in keeping a lookout.

"We can't have an accident on the bridge," he insists, "because it'll be a bad one."

Not that there haven't been close calls. A sailboat once tried to piggyback on another ship's lift, but neglected to check in. The bridge was being lowered until a television crew, on hand for a story, shouted a warning. The operator had a vision of the mast piercing the decking like an olive on a stick in a martini.

Another time, a tug neglected to pull in a retractable mast and got briefly hung up at the edge of the bridge. While the tug stopped, the trailing barge continued, bumping up against the tug's rear until the span was cleared.

The bridge opened in 1924 at a cost of $918,000. The steel superstructure was built in Walkerville, Ont. The original wooden deck was replaced by an open-grid steel deck in the mid-1960s, providing a less slippery surface as well as one in which water was not absorbed. The bridge had difficulty lifting in winter because of the added weight of rainwater.

An ingenious design allows the railway section and the highway section to be lifted by hollow concrete counterweights. The two large racks are driven by a pair of 75-horsepower electric motors.

Only a handful of similar bascule bridges remain in Canada, including one on Cherry Street in Toronto and another known as the Green Monster in Kingston. The Jackknife Bascule Bridge across the Kaministiquia River at Thunder Bay was demolished five years ago.

The Blue Bridge remains a landmark. The city describes its colour as Juan de Fuca blue, though the hue is less pacific than industrial.

Not everyone is impressed by the bridge, which might be replaced in the years to come. The Frommer's tourist guide describes it as a "misshapen lump of steel and concrete," noting that it is "something designer Joseph Strauss would likely wish forgotten."

Mr. Strauss died in 1938, a year after the opening of his greatest work. The bronze plaque adorning his crypt in the Great Mausoleum at Forest Lawn Memorial Park in Glendale, Calif., depicts the Golden Gate. No mention of Victoria's little Blue Bridge.

Mr. Mullins once made a pilgrimage to San Francisco to check out that other of Strauss's handiwork. He walked across the magnificent span as a battleship passed beneath.

"Looked like a toy," he said.

He was asked about the largest vessel to navigate the Blue Bridge.

The ferry boat Queen of Saanich once came through on the way to a shipyard for repairs.

"That was a tight fit," Mr. Mullins said. "The clearance was maybe 10 inches on either side. He went dead slow."

Thursday, April 2, 2009

A photographer's mission of peace completed

Joan Athey peers at a photograph of John and Yoko by her late friend Gerry Deiter. Photograph by Deddeda Stemler.

By Tom Hawthorn
Special to The Globe and Mail
April 2, 2009


The bed-in of John Lennon and Yoko Ono was a happening. A parade of hippies, reporters, well-wishers, vagabonds, cameramen, teenyboppers and assorted hangers-on traipsed through Room 1742 of the Queen Elizabeth Hotel in Montreal. Hare Krishna devotees chanted mantras while keeping rhythm with drums and finger cymbals.

So many personages crowded in that the room came to resemble a living rendition of the Sgt. Pepper's album cover. Among the famous were Nat Hentoff, Timothy Leary, Tommy Smothers, Murray the K, Dick Gregory and an obnoxious Al Capp, the illustrator of the Li'l Abner cartoon strip who tried unsuccessfully to provoke an angry response from the famous Beatle. In the end, an impromptu song - the ragged chorus sung by whoever happened to be in the room at the time - was recorded. It remains a global peace anthem to this day.

The bed-in was a Sixties moment that lasted eight days. Gerry Deiter was there for it all, from sunrise to sunset and beyond.

With the Vietnam War raging, with Bobby Kennedy and Martin Luther King Jr. martyred, the photographer thought the bed-in was an inspiration, an appropriate response in the midst of madness. "It seemed to me," he wrote much later, "they were doing the right thing at precisely the right time."

The fashion photographer was living in Montreal in the spring of 1969 when Life magazine called with the assignment. Mr. Lennon had been barred from the United States; he was setting up shop in a Montreal hotel room; please join writer Charles Child, as we're planning a big spread for next week's issue.

Mr. Deiter took hundreds of photographs in the crowded, claustrophobic room. In many of them, he captured an image of a pair of hand-drawn signs placed on the windows over the bed.

One read:

The other read:

The signs undoubtedly made more sense 40 years ago.

The photographer sat on the edge of the bed. He laughed with John, whispered to Yoko.

He sang along when "Give Peace a Chance" was recorded. Years later, he would swear he could hear his voice singing high tenor harmony.

The photographs never got published. The magazine bumped the bed-in spread for other breaking news. The writer eventually sold his interview to a fledgling Playboy challenger called Penthouse. Mr. Deiter put his slides and negatives away for safekeeping. He showed them to no one.

He changed in those eight days. Fashion seemed a piffle. He converted a telephone van into a mobile van and moved west, where he came to photograph the Greenpeace campaign to halt underground nuclear testing.

By 2001, he was living on a boat, photographing the disappearing fishing and forestry industries by summer, tying up in Victoria's Inner Harbour by winter. The terrorist attacks that year convinced him the world needed to know more about peace and about eight addled days in a Montreal hotel room.

Some of his photographs were shown at a coffee shop and at a gallery. The Royal BC Museum held a showing. Mr. Deiter spoke about peace and his friendship with Mr. Lennon and Ms. Ono. In December, 2005, he collapsed and died on a downtown street the day after taking part in a series of public events marking the 25th anniversary of Mr. Lennon's murder.

His wide circle of friends, including Table 18 at Swans Brewpub, where a weekly court was held on Monday nights, was struck by the cruelty of his passing and by its unfairness. The photographer's mission had been left incomplete, as he did not get a chance to share his images after having kept them hidden for so long.

"He did not ever want to exploit those photographs," said Joan Athey, a friend. "If he had ever put them on the market, or tried to sell them, he would have lost an important part of his personality."

Mr. Deiter had spoken to her of two wishes: to have the photos published in a book, and to have them displayed in an exhibit to support Ms. Ono's campaign for peace.

Ms. Athey purchased the archive from the photographer's son in 2007. She had only seen a handful of the more than 500 images he took. She was struck by the intimacy her friend had with his main subjects, who are barefoot and in pyjamas.

She was struck by a thought about how he worked: "He was like a shadow."

"There were never less than a dozen people in the space. The room was small. He would never be snapping frivolously. He waited for those moments. He would wait. Wait. Wait."

Later this month, "Give Peace a Chance," a book featuring Mr. Deiter's photos, will be released by John Wiley & Sons. It is being translated into French and German.

In May, 40 of the photographs will be displayed at the Beatles Story attraction at the Albert Dock in Mr. Lennon's hometown of Liverpool.

In June, the photos and text from the book will be displayed at the Bethel Woods Museum at Bethel, N.Y., as part of the 40th anniversary celebrations of the Woodstock rock festival.

And, today, some of Mr. Deiter's images will be shown to the public as part of an exhibit titled, Imagine: The Peace Ballad of John & Yoko, at The Montreal Museum of Fine Arts.

Ms. Athey is in Montreal for the opening. On Monday, she had an audience with a 76-year-old artist and widow who has returned to the city of her bed-in to continue her work for peace.

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

K Chorlton, 1928-2009

K Chorlton from the David Eskenazi Collection.

By Tom Hawthorn
Special to The Globe and Mail
April 1, 2009


The ball player showed speed, a steady bat, and good if occasionally suspect fielding. But what many fans first noticed was his name, K, which K Chorlton insisted be spelled without a period.

The 11th letter is not a big kahuna in the alphabet, though it does serve as shorthand for kilometres, or kindergarten, or the element potassium, or a unit of 1,024 bytes. In baseball, K signifies strikeout, which makes it an excellent nickname for a pitcher.

K Chorlton was an outfielder.

Outfielders do not care to strikeout. As it turns out, the moniker carried with it no baseball meaning. The odd nickname resulted from a family story.

In 1949, Chorlton turned professional with the Vancouver Capilanos. The team was managed by Bob Brown, a penny-pincher by nature and circumstance. An American who played football for Notre Dame, Brown had volunteered as a cavalryman for the Spanish-American War, listing cowpuncher as his occupation on the enlistment form.

The Capilanos played out of Athletic Park at Sixth and Hemlock, a wooden bandbox Brown built by his own hand in 1913, carrying sticks of dynamite which he used to remove stumps. Chorlton’s career in Vancouver spanned the move to spanking new Capilano (now Nat Bailey) Stadium midway through the 1951 season. (The old park was torn down to make way for a ramp at the south end of the Granville Street Bridge.)

With his terrific speed, Chorlton often batted leadoff for Vancouver. He became a fan favourite.

“One of the prettiest local sights on a summer’s evening is that of Chorlton scudding around the base paths out at the ball park,” Eric Whitehead wrote in the Province. “Graceful as a young gazelle and about as speedy, Chorlton would rate a quick boost up the ladder if he could only develop the elusive knack of getting on the base paths more often.”

K patrolled centre-field in Vancouver for parts of four seasons. In 1950, he played for the Victoria Athletics, recording a sterling .333 average in 249 at-bats. He found Royal Athletic Park a comfortable home, knocking 10 doubles, six triples, and four home runs.

K Chorlton first gained notice as a brilliant athlete at Roosevelt High in his Seattle birthplace. He led the basketball Roughriders to a state championship in his junior year of 1946 and the baseball team to a city title the same year. He also played for the football team, but his chiropractor father refused to allow him to be tackled, so he handled punting duties. The kicking assignment didn’t prevent him from scoring touchdowns on consecutive weeks following a bad snap and a fake punt. When the Teddies track team challenged the baseball nine, K won both the 100- and 200-yard dashes. In 2004, the Seattle Times named him the top Rider athlete of all time and he was inducted into the school’s sports hall of fame the following year.

As a senior, Chorlton was selected to play in the second annual sandlot all-star game sponsored by Hearst newspapers at the Polo Grounds in Manhattan, where he met the legendary Joe DiMaggio. The New York Yankees outfielder was recovering from a knee injury.

Chorlton recounted the meeting during a newspaper interview five years ago.

“I admire you so much,” the teenager told the star.

“I wish I had your legs,” DiMaggio replied.

Chorlton’s United States all-star team defeated a New York team by 13-2. Chorlton hit a double, while teammate Bill (Moose) Skowron hit an inside-the-park homer. Skowron went on to enjoy a long career in the majors, mostly with the Yankees. One of his team’s coaches was Honus Wagner, while Babe Ruth was on hand as honourary chairman of the event.

Chorlton was scouted by baseball’s Boston Braves, Detroit Tigers, Brooklyn Dodgers, New York Giants and Washington Senators. Instead, the 6-foot-3, 185-pounder accepted a scholarship from the University of Washington, where he played baseball and basketball for the Huskies. He was later named to the university’s All-Century Team in baseball.

He signed with the Seattle Rainiers of the Pacific Coast League for $10,000 in 1949. The Rainiers assigned him to Vancouver.

The Coast League was a Triple-A circuit, one notch below the majors. The clubs paid competitive salaries and more than one athlete preferred to remain on the coast before the majors expanded westward.

The Rainiers called up Chorlton several times. His speed made him valuable, but he never managed to get enough hits. His fate was sealed one game when he dropped a routine flyball. This so incensed his manager, Rogers Hornsby, a Baseball Hall of Famer not known for kindness, that he added to Chorlton’s embarrassment by yanking him from the playing field immediately after the play.

Chorlton did not take the insult well. He swore and argued with the manager in the dugout. Big mistake. Hornsby did not brook insubordination and he knew how to carry a grudge. Whatever long shot Chorlton had at winning a roster spot on a big league club was lost.

(The deliberate humiliation of a young player angered Seattle newspaper columnist Emmett Watson, who lambasted the manager in the next day’s paper. Afterwards, he was asked if his story angered the misanthropic Hornsby. “I don’t really know,” Watson said. “He treats me so bad when he’s in a good mood, I couldn’t tell the difference.”)

Chorlton spent his final two seasons in Vancouver, where he endured a sore arm and suffered a broken ankle. He retired after the 1954 campaign, which was his best ever in pro ball. He hit .349 for the Capilanos, while smacking 16 homers, a career high.

Chorlton became a salesman and later a sales executive for a company selling fuel additives. He remained active in the Washington Athletic Club, where his Rainiers jersey is on display to this day.

After the death of his wife, Diane, he discovered romance again with Gloria Ehrig, whose surname, baseball fans will note, is but one letter removed from that of Lou Gehrig, one of the most famous ballplayers of all time. (Ms. Ehrig was the widow of Jack Ehrig, an advertising man who conjured the image of cow’s with white moo-staches from drinking milk.)

K’s was not the only odd name in the Chorlton family. His father, James, who had played baseball briefly with the Tacoma Tigers, married a woman named Ffolliott. They gave her name to their daughter, who, as Fluff LeCoque,worked as a dancer for Liberace’s show on the Las Vegas trip in 1947. She was later crowned Miss Thunderbird as a symbol of the Thunderbird Hotel before becoming manager of the show “Jubilee!” during its quarter-century run at Bally’s. Two years ago, the New York Times described her as being “at 83 still intimidatingly elegant: perfect lipstick, unassailable brown curls and more grace in high heels than many women a quarter her age.”

As it turns out, his parents named him K after a cousin, who was christened Kermit, a name he despised. Kermit, an FBI agent, began using a solo initial, a tag passed on to his young relative.

Over the years, newspapers referred to K as Jim Chorlton (mistaking him for his older brother), or Frank Chorlton. They always seemed to print the K with a period.

His given name was Byron, apt perhaps for a poet, less so for a ball player.

K Chorlton was born on Oct. 26, 1928, at Seattle. He died of pneumonia on March 17 at Bellevue, Wash. He was 80. He leaves four children, 10 grandchildren, and a sister. He was predeceased by his wife, Diane, and by a brother, James.