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Feb 23

Baseball—it’s a game; it’s not Quantum physics, or is it? First published May 13, 2010, in The Examiner, an Eastern Jackson County, Mo., daily newspaper.

Baseball–it’s a game; it’s not Quantum physics, or is it?

RoyalsKK 

“Baseball? It’s just a game—as simple as a ball and a bat. Yet, as complex as the American spirit it symbolizes. It’s a sport, a business, and sometimes even a religion.” –Ernie Harwell, The Game for All America, 1955.

There is something certain and steady about the game of baseball. It’s not Quantum physics, or is it?

Poet and author Sharon Olds wrote in “This Sporting Life” in 1987, “Baseball is reassuring. It makes me feel as if the world is not going to blow up”.

I know what she means. Baseball helps us forget our troubles, but why is that?

Maybe it is the reassurance of the stats that make us love it so much, and as we know, diehard fans love baseball stats, good or bad.

Stats are a sure thing. We can rely on them.

Baseball, according to baseball owner and mastermind Bill Veeck, is almost the only orderly thing in a very unorderly world, and yes, indeed, it could be the stats.

Veeck explains, “If you get three strikes, think about it, even the best lawyer in the world can’t get you off.”

Or when the numbers in your own life are not adding up so well, we would do well to remember the old adage, “Things could be worse. What if your errors were counted and published every day like those of a baseball player.”

Now, that puts life in perspective.

There is an opposite to bad baseball stats, however, as Ted Williams once quipped, “Baseball is the only field of endeavor where a man can succeed three times out of ten and be considered a good performer.”

I like those odds.

In 1970, Mickey Mantle said this about baseball stats: “During my 18 years I came to bat almost 10,000 times. I struck out about 1,700 times and walked maybe 1,800 times. You figure a ballplayer will average about 500 at bats a season. That means I played seven years without ever hitting the ball.”

And Norm Cash, legendary Detroit Tiger power hitter and first baseman after his 1,081st strikeout, noted the same thing happened to him: “Pro-rated at 500 at-bats a year, that means that for two years out of the fourteen I played, I never even touched the ball.”

Perhaps it is, in fact, the rhythm of baseball. The repetition, steadiness and the absolute sureness it provides during the summer months that make us love it so much.

After all, it is our national summer pastime, and we watch game after game after game, never tiring of it.

Baseball is always there, and so are its stats.

I am wondering. Is baseball indeed a mystery, something that we cannot comprehend, unlike the stat sheet in front of us?

Even though stats are the lifeblood of baseball, could baseball really be more likely about relativity, or molecular attraction, or theory or timing?

Whatever baseball is, it has a lot to do with the fundamental nature of the universe, the grand scheme of things; or if you will, the idea that things are much different than the world we see.

“More than any other American sport, baseball creates the magnetic, addictive illusion that it can almost be understood,” –Thomas Boswell, Inside Sports.

Quantum physics?

Dec 31

Traditions follow us into the New Year. Do you have your lasagna ready to eat on New Year’s Day? Tradition says it will bring good luck to those who do. From my archived columns and first published in the Examiner on Dec. 31, 2005.

lasagna2

There is an old Sicilian tradition that says good luck will come to those who eat lasagna on New Year’s Day!

Laughing at that are you?

Better take heed. The folklore surrounding that custom also says that macaroni or any other noodle consumed on New Year’s Day will bring you bad luck.

In my family in my growing up years, we got a jump on the New Year’s Day lasagna custom.

On Christmas Day, we would feast on lasagna and boiled or deep-fried shrimp.  Looking back, I can only attribute that observance to the fact that my mother spent a lot of time in Italy and my dad spent a lot of time in San Diego.

Proof positive– my brother, en route from Colorado to Missouri for the holidays, called to ask, “Should I bring the shrimp? You are having lasagna aren’t you?”

Some might find that odd, but, to me, it was as normal as any time-honored tradition could possibly be.

In Missouri, most folks stick to the custom of serving turkey or ham with all the fixin’s for both Thanksgiving and Christmas.

I used to become embarrassed when a friend would ask, “So what are you cooking for the holidays?”

“Oh, the usual,” I would say to avoid saying, “lasagna and shrimp.”

Then, along comes New Year’s Eve, when we tend to join the common norm and serve our best horsd’oevres and the bubbly, just like everyone else.

Since we have already had lasagna for Christmas, I figure we are set for New Year’s Day.

Good luck is most assuredly “in the bag” or in the lasagna as the case may be.

Incidentally, there are other New Year’s Day practices that bear some mention, although they may not be quite as unique as the “lasagna brings good luck” one.

A quick internet search found these curious yet extraordinary customs practiced by folks around the globe. All are guaranteed to bring good luck and good fortune:

  • In England, the first guest or visitor of the New Year should be male and should bring gifts. All visitors who arrive too early and empty-handed, and presumably, all females, must wait on the guy bearing gifts before they can enter. That doesn’t exactly get a party off to a great start!
  • In Spain, when the clock strikes midnight, one must eat 12 grapes, one with each toll. Each grape brings good luck for each month of the year ahead.  Wow…you would have to be really good at eating grapes fast! Think about it.
  • Meanwhile, in Peru, those folks are eating grapes, too, on each strike of the clock, precisely at midnight. However, in Peru, one must consume a 13th grape, to seal the deal—now, good luck will be yours!
  • In Wales, at the first strike of the clock at midnight on New Year’s Eve, one must run to the back door and open and close it. This sends all the bad luck of the current year out the door where it is locked out forever. Then, one must run quickly to the front door in order to open that just as the clock strikes 12.  This practice welcomes in the good luck of the New Year.
  • In the United States, folks traditionally share a kiss that symbolizes purification and welcomes in the good fortune of the New Year.

Consider this:

What would it be like if one tried to practice all these customs at once?

The clock is starting to toll midnight. With the first strike, quick eat a grape. Then, run to the back door, open and close it, while eating a grape on each strike of the clock. Run to the front door and let in the new good luck of the New Year, all fresh and clean, but be careful, all-the-while, to not let in a female guest who does not bear gifts. Now, everyone kiss.

Wait, hold the phone.

We forgot about the 13th grape.

This could be a game show.

Lasagna on New Year’s Day seems a whole lot easier.

Dec 07

The Christmas grandma forgot to cook. First printed in December of 2006 in The Examiner, an eastern Jackson County daily newspaper.

With apologies to author Clement Clark Moore who was thought to have penned  ’The Night Before Christmas’ in 1823. Here’s my take on this delightful Christmas classic poem…

twas-the-night-before-christmas-little-golden-book-cover

‘Twas the day before Christmas, when all through the house, the grandkids were running and chasing a mouse.

The stockings, hung by the chimney with care, were falling into the fire before I could get there.

Only one of the grandkids was nestled snug in her bed, while her brother and cousins danced and jumped on their heads.

Papa in his slippers, and I in my wrap, longed to settle down for a cozy afternoon nap.

When out on the lawn there arose such a clatter, more grandkids arrived to add to the chatter.

Away to the coffee table I flew like a flash, put away vases, pictures and books before they were trashed.

The moon on the breast of the new-fallen snow, meant more kith and kin would come soon with toddlers in tow.

When what to my aging eyes should appear, but a van load of college students with eight cans of beer.

With a little old driver, so lively and quick, I knew in a moment it must be Uncle Nick.

More rapid than eagles, the relatives came, as I whistled and shouted and called them by name:

“Now, Auntie! Now, Uncle! Now, Nephew and Niece! On, Grandpa! On Grandson! On Brother and Sis!”

To the top of the porch, to the top of the wall, Papa whispered, “Dash away! Dash away! Dash away all.”

As dry leaves that before the wild hurricane fly, the hungry settled round the table ready to eat ‘til they die.

So up to the kitchen, I flew like a flash, threw open the empty cupboards and searched for some cash.

With a purse full of bills and no time to blink, I drove straight to the deli but was soon back at the sink.

There was no food to be had in our little berg; the shops were all closed, the keepers gone home. There was nothing to feed this hungry, wild herd.

And then in a twinkling, I heard in the drive, the screeching and stopping of each giant tire.

As I drew in my head and was turning around, down the chimney the Schwan’s man came with a bound.

A bundle of boxes he had flung on his back, and he looked like a St. Nicholas just opening his pack.

My eyes how they twinkled! My heart how merry! He had entrees, desserts, and even frozen cherries.

He had hams and turkeys, gravy and pie. Casseroles, pizzas, chicken, oh my!

A wink of his eye and a check of his supply, soon gave me to know there was plenty to buy.

There were scalloped potatoes, California blend veggies, green beans and corn, frozen fruits galore, peppermint ice cream and chocolate cake rolls.

He spoke not a word but went straight to his work and filled our fridge, then turned with a jerk.

And laying his finger aside of his nose, and giving a nod, into his yellow truck he rose.

I sprang to the task; serving up the stash, and to my guests gave a whistle.
They flew to the table like down on a thistle.

But I heard him exclaim as he drove out of sight,

“Next year lady, buy your food ahead a fortnight (and don’t forget to cook)!”

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