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Over the past nine months, I've had the honor of knowing a Major League baseball player. A pitcher for the St. Louis Cardinals and the Detroit Tigers. The story behind our encounter turned out to be cosmically timed.

My son played freshman baseball for North Kansas City High School last year. I helped the team set up a website and as such was doing some research on the history of the baseball program. The school dates back to the mid 1910's, but their baseball program only began in the early 1940's. I knew that Northtown had won district titles in the 1960's and that my brother played on some good teams in the early 1990's, but really had no idea what the history was. I stumbled across a website that listed two graduates of North Kansas City had made it to the Major Leagues. The first name I recognized immediately - Bill Kelso. Anyone who's ever been to North Kansas City has likely stopped into Kelso's pizza bar for a slice or a beer. He played for the Angels in the 1960's and while he has passed away, his Angels jersey hangs over the bar.

The second name was familiar, but for a different reason. Joe Presko Sr. Most Northlanders are likely familiar with the name Presko but only as a construction company or a real estate agent. The article stated he was born in 1928 but there was no date of death. Odd. I checked another baseball resource. It stated he was 89 years old. I set out on a search to find Mr. Presko. Turns out I didn't need to look far.

In the same home he'd lived most of his adult life, Joe Presko Sr. enjoyed opening the mail every day where baseball fans would send him his baseball cards in which he would then sign and return. He always had a supply of chocolate baseballs and Tootsie Rolls on the kitchen table where he and his high school sweetheart Kathleen had been married for over 70 years and entertained their children and grandchildren and 17 great-grandchildren.

Searching through the yearbooks from the mid-1940's the baseball team's season was never over early enough to be included in the annual, which meant there was very little school history known about Joe Presko, Sr. Luckily, I met a niece who loaned me binders and binders of news clippings and box scores of his days in the big leagues. What was missing, however, was any relationship with the high school after he graduated in 1946.

That would change in October, when he was inducted at the age of 90 into the North Kansas City High School Hall of Fame. I had the honor of reading his introduction in front of hundreds of students who gave him an extended standing ovation. He was presented with a Hornets baseball hat. The first Hornets hat he wore in over 70 years.

It was only months after the research began and, it turns out, it was right in the nick of time. Mr. Presko was laid to rest on Saturday. At his funeral, hundreds turned out. He was an American Legion coach to hundreds of kids including David Cone as well as the patriarch of a Northland dynasty.

But at his core, he was a ballplayer. A scrappy pitcher often nicknamed “Little Joe” because of his diminutive stature and his feisty curveball. And when he was laid to rest, on the table next to his coffin laid two baseball hats - one from the St. Louis Cardinals, and one from the North Kansas City Hornets. The one he received just in the nick of time.

(Catch The Landmark’s Chris Kamler on Twitter as @TheFakeNed)



Thanks for joining the rest of us. Please, come in. Barack brought some calorie free cheese dip in the back, and Peyton brought the veggie tray. Everyone here has contributed something to the party. The McConnells brought some Swedish meatballs, even and John Legend is going to sing here in a little bit. Yes. Just make yourselves at home.

As you know, we get together like this every month to celebrate our perfection. There aren't that many of us around, and we have to make sure we recognize those who truly belong in our club.

We also spend this time every meeting casting aspersions on those who didn't quite make it. As you can see from the program we've handed you, the list is pretty long of those who we will roast tonight. You see, we feel especially entitled to explain who isn't perfect because, well, frankly, we are perfect. In every way.

Our glass houses don't even have so much as a Windex smudge on them. So coming up first is where we start throwing our rocks. Let's look at the world of sports and already it's been a busy year. You know who isn't invited to our party? The referees who worked the New Orleans Saints NFC Championship game. You know, those guys who didn't call pass interference? Sorry, fellas, your party invite has been lost in the mail.

Dee Ford also isn't on the invite list because of... you know... We lined your invitation up in the neutral zone.

Celebrating our perfection is a right that we hold very seriously so that's why we've decided to uninvite Elon Musk because he's starting to creep us out. Our other decision was to uninvite Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez - the young Congresswoman - from our parties because she made that music video when she was in college. The nerve.
In fact, we've decided to launch a new investigation into the old yearbooks of just about everyone who is currently a member of the perfection club. It's turned up some really interesting stuff so far. You may still get to be a Governor or a Supreme Court Justice - but you can't be in our Perfection Club.

We get it. Perfection isn't easy. And that's why there aren't that many of us left at the party. We have limited our membership to the Republican party, YouTube commenters, and everyone with a Twitter account. We are the only ones allowed to comment on those who aren't as perfect as us.

Just remember to make the rest of our meetings because we still have some membership decisions to make. The New England Patriot fan base has been asking for entry for a while, and it's getting harder to tell them no. I mean... just look at them and all their success. Derek Jeter certainly has been a strong proponent for their entry.

Now, if you'll excuse me, Kevin Kietzman and Joe Buck are fighting over the crab dip. This happens every month. Enjoy the perfect party.

(Catch Chris Kamler on Twitter as @TheFakeNed and find him on Facebook, Snapchat, Instagram and YouTube)





For earlier columns, click here