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One great tale of Warren Spahn spawns even more

For many years, I’ve known the basic outline of why Warren Spahn made his home in Oklahoma — essentially, his wife was from here.

That topic pops up every January with the arrival of the Spahn Award Gala, which was Wednesday night in Oklahoma City. Our man Mike Baldwin was there to write about Los Angeles Dodgers ace Clayton Kershaw receiving the award for being baseball’s best left-handed pitcher for the third time in four years. You can read Mike’s coverage by clicking here.

But this year, we happened into a story that colors in the lines of why Spahn decided to live here.

Here’s the story behind getting the story.

My boss, sports editor Mike Sherman, is friends with a guy named Adam Griffith, and a month or so ago, Adam just happened to mention in passing that his grandpa was best friends with Spahn. Mike was instantly interested. Adam went on to say that his grandma was also best friends with Spahn’s wife, LoRene, and that his grandma had encouraged LoRene to keep the land that ultimately became the Spahn ranch near Hartshorne.

Last week, I went to talk with Adam and his mom, Linda.

It was a great time. Not only did I get to hear stories of their family and the Spahns, but I also got to see some of the letters that Linda’s dad, Roy “Red” Reimann, sent back to her mom, Brooksie, during the war. Red was an amazing artist, and he decorated many of the letters and envelopes with drawings of all kinds.

It was really remarkable to stand at the kitchen table and have Linda flip through a scrapbook with all those letters. Like a time capsule.

I loved all of Linda and Adam’s stories, and so, it was a great honor for me to share how the Spahns and the Reimanns became intertwined and how the Spahns ended up living in Oklahoma. If you missed that column, you can read it by clicking here.

Several who read it reached out to me with stories of Warren Spahn. I heard from a reader in Lawton who said he grew up, like Warren, on the East Coast, and he remembers seeing Spahn pitch with the Bradford (Pa.) Bees. The Bees played in the PONY League, the lowest level of minor-league baseball, and were Spahn’s first professional team. That was 1940.

How often do you hear from someone who saw Warren Spahn pitch as a low-minor leaguer, well before he became a Hall of Famer and the winningest left-hander in baseball?

So cool.

I also heard from a native of Milwaukee who was so fired up about a story about Spahn — Warren is a huge hero there having pitched for many years in Milwaukee — that he shared the piece with all of his Wisconsin friends. He even thought I should contact the Milwaukee newspaper and see if they would run the story.

I’ve put that on my to-do list.

Then came this gem via Facebook. (Don’t you love social media?) Loyal reader Marty Ladd sent me a message before 7 a.m. Wednesday. I have to admit that I haven’t had my coffee at that point most mornings, much less read the paper and messaged a writer. But Marty had a fantastic story of his own to share. Here it is:

“Loved your column this morning on Warren Spahn. I was a young salesman at a local clothing store in OKC and became friends with my customer, Roy ‘Red’ Reimann, one of the nicest people I’d ever met. I went to his home in Britton several times to see his amazing model train set. I think he was more proud of it than his baseball memorabilia. And through him, I got to meet one of my heroes growing up, Warren Spahn. I even got to chauffeur him around during a celebrity golf tournament, and like Roy, he was just a great guy. He even invited my wife and me to sit with them at the banquet held for the tournament. Thanks for starting my day with great memories from the past. I always enjoy your writing, but this column was certainly special to me. Keep up the great work!”

Such fun stuff. As much as I loved sharing the story of the Spahns and the Reimanns, I loved hearing these other stories every bit as much.

Jenni Carlson

Jenni Carlson, a sports columnist at The Oklahoman since 1999, came by her love of sports honestly. She grew up in a sports-loving family in Kansas. Her dad coached baseball and did color commentary on the radio for the high school football... Read more ›