Here's the Scoop: October 5, 2011

A chip off the old block
I don’t always pay attention when famous people pass away, but I became quite melancholy with the recent news that Arch West had died.

If the name doesn’t ring a bell, this should help: he was the inventor of Doritos. I knew that would help.

Mr. West, his obituary noted, was a marketing executive at Frito-Lay when he came up with the idea for using tortilla chips as a tasty snack food. Naturally, company bigwigs thought it was a crummy notion. Taste-testing among the public proved the decision-makers wrong. Doritos were born. Many snack-food lovers owe gratitude to Mr. West.

I have a longtime love affair with junk food, but Doritos have always been near the top of my list. In fact, I feel very lucky that the nacho cheese variety of Doritos was introduced during my formative teenage years. Junk food is often a part of the high school curriculum and I certainly “crammed” my share of nacho chips. Actually, way more than my share.

One of my fondest memories of these fine chips occurred during my freshman year of varsity baseball. My cocky teen attitude made me feel that I should be pitching every game, racking up huge strikeout numbers and preparing to sign a handsome bonus with some lucky major league team.

My coach’s evaluation didn’t have me on the same fast-track to baseball fame and fortune. As a result, the highlight of road trips for some of us subs was hitting the grocery store before boarding the bus and stocking up on quantities of junk food sufficient to carry us through seven innings as uniformed spectators.

A long history
Such was the case one fine spring day when we rode the bus 25 miles to compete against a league foe. The host team jumped in front early and proceeded to pound our squad. I was certainly a team player, but took plenty of consolation in the huge bag of nacho cheese Doritos and a few Choco-Lite candy bars that also made the trip with me.

Then, it happened. The coach — whose wisdom I had questioned for letting a talented flamethrower like myself sit on the bench — summoned me to start warming up.

At first, I thought I may have misunderstood the order. It was a bit hard to hear with all the crunching going on inside my mouth. Upon closer listening, it turned out that the coach had seen the light.

“Brian!” he called again, “start warming up.”

I responded the best I could, “Wwwhhuuuttt?” as tiny shards of brightly-colored chips sprayed out of my mouth like a mini-Fourth of July display.

Fortunately, the coach was (obviously) in desperation mode and didn’t pay a lot of attention to my speaking with food in — and out — of my mouth at the same time. He wanted me to pitch and pitch I would. This was going to be the start of something great.

And it was great — for the first batter I faced. He hit one long and deep. The term “high hard one” turned out to be a far better description of the ball leaving the bat, rather than this pitcher’s hand.

Thankfully, no one was using aluminum bats back then or some sort of home run travel record may have been shattered. Luckily, I recovered to retire the side and the damage was limited.
The coach had only words of encouragement for his young pitcher and I was thankful.

“Orange you glad I didn’t throw him my knuckleball?” I asked the coach, as I wiped some excess nacho cheese residue on my uniform pants.

He laughed, “Yes, because he certainly turned your fastball into much more than a chip-shot.”
— Brian Sweeney