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Category Archive: Science

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?

Oct 19

A look back at my columns about the Kansas City Royals: Part 3 — 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?

“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?

Apr 07

The Day of the Frogs is here, and it is all about love. Ribbit! (First published March 19, 2009, in The Examiner)

The Day of Spring Frogs

The Day of Spring Frogs

“What is all the racket down by the backyard pond? Are those crickets,” I asked one morning this week.

My husband replied, “No, those are your frogs. Remember the tadpoles you bought late last summer from some catalogue pond supply house? They turned into frogs and hibernated all winter. They’re back.”

“Frogs! The frogs are here,” I rejoiced. “How could I possibly forget my frogs?”

Then, I wondered, did those cute little green amphibians hide over winter in the pond muck, or did they spend the winter under brush and leaves?

Wherever they took cover for the winter, I was delighted they came back. After all the Day of the Frogs means that Spring is conclusively, absolutely, and we-are-not-kidding this time, finally here.

Besides, the spring crooning of frogs is delightful, at first.

My delight lasted for three sleepless nights.

Make no mistake about it, these frogs are singing about much more than the return of spring. It is all about love, and the guy frogs are singing their hearts out trying to find the gals.

When the winter air warms, usually in March in the Midwest, the male frog starts to sing and call for a prospective mate or two or three.

I guess that is the point. Perpetuate the species.

Since I was awake anyway due to these love-starved frogs, I did some midnight research about their springtime mating calls. I learned that the sound of the male can carry for long distances and can attract female frogs from miles away.

I sighed with resignation, “Just what we need—more frogs.”

As I continued my frog research I learned that the male Spring Peeper is noisier than the Cricket Frog and is said to have the same decibel level as found on airport runways.

Wonderful. I think we have both these critters in our pond plus some of their cousins.

Some frogs in our small backyard pond make a whistling sound; the Cricket Frog chirps like a cricket; and the Peeper says “Peep Peep” like a baby chick.

To make matters worse, the male frogs in our pond have formed a singing group (I call them Froggies ‘N Sync), and their combined voices sound like a loud chorus of crickets. The serenade goes on all evening; sometimes well into the morning hours.

The only way I have found to stop their racket is to walk toward the pond. They either jump into the water or become blessedly silent.

Yes, there can be too much of a good thing, even the singing of spring frogs.

On the fourth sleepless night, my husband commented that he sure hoped our new neighbors are not trying to sleep with a window open.

“If they ask about the noisy frogs, better tell them the frogs crawled up from the creek,” he said. “Don’t tell them you bought them on purpose.”

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