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Woody Paige: From Wimbledon to the Hill Climb, a July Fourth whirl

July 2, 2017 Updated: July 2, 2017 at 7:20 am
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photo - Fireworks explode over Coors Field to cap off the Independence Day celebration after the Los Angeles Dodgers' 9-0 victory over the Colorado Rockies in a baseball game in Denver on Friday, July 4, 2014. (AP Photo/David Zalubowski)
Fireworks explode over Coors Field to cap off the Independence Day celebration after the Los Angeles Dodgers' 9-0 victory over the Colorado Rockies in a baseball game in Denver on Friday, July 4, 2014. (AP Photo/David Zalubowski) 

Our July 4fathers declared the United States of America's independence 241 years ago.

On Tuesday, considering the current state of the States, all of us in the U.S. should read the momentous document again, or for the first time.

Thomas Jefferson proclaimed that Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness are inalienable rights.

Yes, indeed.

Ol' Tom failed to mention - according to the copy on the wall that my late father gave me when I was a kid - pursuing softball, golf, fishing, hiking, biking, Beer Pong, sitting for hours in traffic on Interstate 70 in the mountains, cranking the handle for homemade ice cream, and eating such traditional American foods as nachos, French fries and bratwurst.

I usually hang around sports on the Nation's Birthday, and spent one Fourth of July in the losers' locker room.

This is my Canterbury Tale:

Wimbledon Jimmy Connors
Jimmy Connors, leaps high as he beats title holder John McEnroe, to take the Wimbledon Men’s Singles Championship title in London on July 4, 1982. He won 3-6, 6-3, 6-7, 7-6, 6-4. (AP Photo/Bob Dear) 

On July 4, 1982, I covered perhaps the most confrontational, wild and fun men's final in Wimbledon history. Jimmy Connors and John McEnroe - Competitive Americans In King Arthur's Court - split the first two sets; McEnroe won the third in a tiebreaker 7-6, and Connors replied with an identical score in the fourth. Connors captured the fifth set 6-4 and the championship. Wow!

At dusk my wife and I took a 1½-hour train ride, stopped at a Kentucky Fried Chicken shop and checked into the second-story flat at the Canterbury Inn. I hung an American flag out the window overlooking the historic cobblestone lane and started waving fiery sparklers. A crowd gathered below in amazement and amusement. Finally, someone shouted: "Oh, you must be colonists." The British don't celebrate the Fourth of July. They lost.

Yet, we were beckoned down to the pub, shared a pint (several) with knights (in white satin), millers, a monk and a friar, and a wife of Bath, and had a jolly good time. Geoffrey Chaucer and Thomas Becket would have been pleased.

On July 4, 1993, I watched the Rockies play in their first home series against the Cubs. It was the team's inaugural Fireworks Night, with 60,000 revelers at Mile High Stadium. Rox shortstop Vinny Castilla hit a sacrifice fly as the Rockies won 3-1. Castilla was born on July 4, 1967, in Mexico.

Vinny, a Rockies star for nine seasons and a special assistant to the GM since retiring in 2007, will celebrate his 19th July Fourth with the organization Tuesday - and his 50th birthday.

In 1974, on my first July 4 in Colorado, I wrote a column about an event I'd dreamed about.

The Pikes Peak Hill Climb.

Woodrow Sr. and I used to go regularly to the stock car races outside Memphis and talk about someday traveling to the Indy 500, Daytona, Grand Prix events in Europe and the Hill Climb.

The famed Bobby Unser gave the Unser family another victory at Pikes Peak in '74, and I called my dad with a description of the strange sprint up the mountain, and told him I'd bring him out next year. But, before that, still in his 40s, dad succumbed to a lifelong battle with diabetes. He'd like that someday I saw all the big-time races in Indy, Daytona, the Springs and Monte Carlo.

On July 4, 1994, I was at the Rose Bowl for the World Cup quarterfinals when scrappy underdog Team USA lost to eventual champion Brazil, 1-nil.

On July 4, 1986, I watched Boulder's Davis Phinney whirl away at the start of the Tour de France, and two days later he would become only the second American to win a stage in the world's most important bike race.

I've been to 38 July 4th sports events in six countries. But nothing was quite like 6/4/05 at Coney Island when, in Nathan's 90th Hot Dog championship, Takeru Kobayashi devoured 49 wieners in 12 minutes.

Dodgers Rockies Baseball
Los Angeles Dodgers outfielders, from left, Scott Van Slyke, Yasiel Puig and Andre Ethier celebrate after their 9-0 victory over the Colorado Rockies in a baseball game in Denver on Friday, July 4, 2014. (AP Photo/David Zalubowski) 

On July 4, 2014, I accompanied my mom to the Rockies-Dodgers game. She wore her Rockies jersey and cap, and we ate hot dogs (one each). Clayton Kershaw allowed two hits over eight innings, and the Dodgers vanquished the Rox 9-0. "Don't be so hard on our boys. They tried," mama said.

On July 4, 2015, mom died.

She would be proud of her boys this season.

My parents, my sister and I enjoyed life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness, and our holiday picnics at Riverside Park. I miss them dearly.

Love your family and our nation on this Fourth of July.

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