Past Gives Meaning to the Present

Jack and Joe Hannah in concert. (Photo by author)
Jack and Joe Hannah in concert. (Photo by author)

Why should anybody care about a player, Steve Bilko, who has been dead since 1978 and a minor-league Los Angeles Angels team that played 58 years ago?

Brothers Joe and Jack Hannah along with Joe’s son, Lon, make up the Sons of the San Joaquin, honored eight times as the best traditional singing group by the Western Music Association. Jack has been selected best songwriter in the cowboy music category six times.

Jack was a promising pitcher in the Milwaukee Braves organization before he injured his throwing arm. Joe, a catcher for the 1956 Los Angeles Angels, played 13 seasons in the minors.

“You play the game to make the major leagues,” Joe says, summing up the feelings of everyone who has played pro baseball.

Joe and Jack never made it to the majors. But they have wonderful memories of their years in the minors.

Mildred Joyce White, 93, with a copy of The Bilko Athletic Club. (Photo by author)
Mildred Joyce White, 93, with a copy of The Bilko Athletic Club. (Photo by author)

Jack put it elegantly in a letter to Gaylon White, author of The Bilko Athletic Club: “What would life be if it weren’t for the remembrances? We have the future of which we know nothing, we have the present, which is so close and moving so swiftly by that we can’t make much of it, but the past is as clear as our memories will allow. It’s the memories of the past that convince me how important what I am doing is in the present.”


I read this quote to my mother when I gave her a copy of the book. Mom is 93. The past is much clearer in her mind than the present. She has only her memories of the past to give meaning to the present.


The Bilko Athletic Club is a book published by Rowman & Littlefield about the 1956 Los Angeles Angels, a team of castoffs and kids built around a bulky, beer-loving basher of home runs named Steve Bilko. The book features a delightful foreword by John Schulian, former sports columnist for the Chicago Sun-Times and Philadelphia Daily News and longtime contributor to Sports Illustrated and GQ.

The book can now be ordered by clicking on any of the website links below:

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