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Tag Archive: history

Oct 19

A look back at my columns about baseball in general: Part 9 — Legends are born in October, so are surprises. This one is about the St. Louis Cardinals and October baseball. First published October 27, 2011, in The Examiner, an Eastern Jackson County, Mo., daily newspaper.

Legends are born in October, so are surprises 

“October is a fine and dangerous season in America” – Thomas Merton

October is indeed a lively month, always full of surprises and interesting fact and folklore.

Come to think of it, October could be my favorite month of the year with Halloween and quirky other holidays to celebrate such as the International Moment of Frustration Scream Day, National Cake Decorating Day and Leif Erickson Day (who was he again?).

But this particular holiday, “Squirrel Awareness Month”, is one we absolutely must talk about later in this story, and we will.

Mostly, I love the surprises that October brings whether from politics, weather changes, folklore or baseball. For example:

Politics: We know that politics can turn on a dime in the month of October, especially in presidential election years. Yet, candidates continue to surprise us with well-timed ‘October surprise’ news releases. They can rise to the top and influence the outcome of an election in a blip.

Weather: I don’t know why weather changes in October are such a surprise to me each year, but they are. Yes, I realize that the change in the seasons is coming, but on that October day when I first feel the cool, crisp fall air that feels so good, it is indeed a pleasant surprise. Watching the color change in autumn foliage likewise catches me by surprise every fall. I ask myself: “How many times have I seen this?” Still, it is breathtaking year after year.

Folklore: Did you know that October is really the eighth month of the year in the old Roman calendar that began in March instead of January (not the tenth as we know it today)? That is why October retained its name ‘octo’ meaning ‘eight’.

October’s birthstone is the opal, and legend has it that the opal will crack if it is worn by anyone who was not born in October. Actually, I once had an opal setting that cracked. I wonder?

Baseball: Remember, ‘Mr. October’ Reggie Jackson who could always be counted on to hit home runs in October during the World Series? And now, Albert Pujols is a Mr. October in his own right, tying Babe Ruth and Reggie Jackson’s World Series record of hitting three home runs in a single series game.

However, the biggest surprise of all this October has to be the birth of another October legend –the Busch Rally Squirrel. I wonder if that crazy squirrel that ran all over the field at Busch Stadium during the Division series playoffs knew that October was Squirrel Awareness Month? Squirrels everywhere are no doubt cheering him on.

Here’s the back-story on ‘Rally Squirrel’ if you haven’t been keeping up on October baseball and squirrel surprises:

On October 5, 2011, the St. Louis Post-Dispatch (stltoday.com) reported that a squirrel, now known as the ‘Busch Rally Squirrel’, ran across home plate while Skip Schumaker was at bat in the fifth inning during Game 4 of the National League Division Series. This series game was between the St. Louis Cardinals and the Philadelphia Phillies at Busch Stadium in St. Louis.

The night before in Game 3 the squirrel made a brief appearance darting across the field into foul territory along the third-base line. Cards lost. In Game 4, he came back, only much bolder this time. Cards won.

With that, legend was born, and Rally Squirrel entered baseball lore as another Mr. October surprise.

As a result, grown adults dress in Rally Squirrel costumes at baseball and football games, kids are dressing up as Rally Squirrels for Halloween, and squirrels everywhere are certainly celebrating Squirrel Awareness Month. After all, who has done more for them than Rally Squirrel?

Additionally, Rally Squirrel has his own Twitter account @BuschSquirrel, and, yes, even though I am a loyal Kansas City Royals fan, I am a proud follower.

After Game 3, the squirrel tweeted, “We need to win. I’m not ready to hibernate yet.”

In a recent interview with the Post-Dispatch, Rally Squirrel insisted that Matt Holiday, Cardinals left fielder, urged him to charge the plate. “There were sunflower seeds in it for me,” Rally Squirrel said.

What can you say? Rally Squirrel is baseball’s newest celebrity and perhaps it’s biggest October surprise ever.

Gotta love October.

Oct 28

Legends are born in October, so are surprises

“October is a fine and dangerous season in America” – Thomas Merton

October is indeed a lively month, always full of surprises and interesting fact and folklore.

Come to think of it, October could be my favorite month of the year with Halloween and quirky other holidays to celebrate such as the International Moment of Frustration Scream Day, National Cake Decorating Day and Leif Erickson Day (who was he again?).

But this particular holiday, “Squirrel Awareness Month”, is one we absolutely must talk about later in this story, and we will.

Mostly, I love the surprises that October brings whether from politics, weather changes, folklore or baseball. For example:

Politics: We know that politics can turn on a dime in the month of October, especially in presidential election years. Yet, candidates continue to surprise us with well-timed ‘October surprise’ news releases. They can rise to the top and influence the outcome of an election in a blip.

Weather: I don’t know why weather changes in October are such a surprise to me each year, but they are. Yes, I realize that the change in the seasons is coming, but on that October day when I first feel the cool, crisp fall air that feels so good, it is indeed a pleasant surprise. Watching the color change in autumn foliage likewise catches me by surprise every fall. I ask myself: “How many times have I seen this?” Still, it is breathtaking year after year.

Folklore: Did you know that October is really the eighth month of the year in the old Roman calendar that began in March instead of January (not the tenth as we know it today)? That is why October retained its name ‘octo’ meaning ‘eight’.

October’s birthstone is the opal, and legend has it that the opal will crack if it is worn by anyone who was not born in October. Actually, I once had an opal setting that cracked. I wonder?

Baseball: Remember, ‘Mr. October’ Reggie Jackson who could always be counted on to hit home runs in October during the World Series? And now, Albert Pujols is a Mr. October in his own right, tying Babe Ruth and Reggie Jackson’s World Series record of hitting three home runs in a single series game.

However, the biggest surprise of all this October has to be the birth of another October legend –the Busch Rally Squirrel. I wonder if that crazy squirrel that ran all over the field at Busch Stadium during the Division series playoffs knew that October was Squirrel Awareness Month? Squirrels everywhere are no doubt cheering him on.

Here’s the back-story on ‘Rally Squirrel’ if you haven’t been keeping up on October baseball and squirrel surprises:

On October 5, 2011, the St. Louis Post-Dispatch (stltoday.com) reported that a squirrel, now known as the ‘Busch Rally Squirrel’, ran across home plate while Skip Schumaker was at bat in the fifth inning during Game 4 of the National League Division Series. This series game was between the St. Louis Cardinals and the Philadelphia Phillies at Busch Stadium in St. Louis.

The night before in Game 3 the squirrel made a brief appearance darting across the field into foul territory along the third-base line. Cards lost. In Game 4, he came back, only much bolder this time. Cards won.

With that, legend was born, and Rally Squirrel entered baseball lore as another Mr. October surprise.

As a result, grown adults dress in Rally Squirrel costumes at baseball and football games, kids are dressing up as Rally Squirrels for Halloween, and squirrels everywhere are certainly celebrating Squirrel Awareness Month. After all, who has done more for them than Rally Squirrel?

Additionally, Rally Squirrel has his own Twitter account @BuschSquirrel, and, yes, even though I am a loyal Kansas City Royals fan, I am a proud follower.

After Game 3, the squirrel tweeted, “We need to win. I’m not ready to hibernate yet.”

In a recent interview with the Post-Dispatch, Rally Squirrel insisted that Matt Holiday, Cardinals left fielder, urged him to charge the plate. “There were sunflower seeds in it for me,” Rally Squirrel said.

What can you say? Rally Squirrel is baseball’s newest celebrity and perhaps it’s biggest October surprise ever.

Gotta love October.

Jun 09

Do you remember D-Day? Do Generations X, Y and Z?

“Normandy is marked by the landings. It is inscribed in people’s hearts, in memories, in stone, in rebuilding, in memorial plaques, in street names, everywhere.” –the Rev. Rene-Denis Lemaigre, priest of Lisieux.

Do you remember D-Day? It happened 67 years ago this week, on June 6, 1944, to be exact. On that day the world witnessed the Allied invasion of Normandy and the beginning of the liberation of Europe and the end of World War II.

But do we remember? Some of us do or at least remember being told about it by our parents or grandparents, or we might remember studying it in school.

Some of us don’t, however.

Most baby boomers, including myself, are the children of those who lived during the World War II era, and some are their grandchildren.

It is the Generations X (born mid-60s to 1982), Y (called Echo Boomers born mid-70s and up) and Z (born approximately 1991 to the 2000s) that worry me. Do they know about D-Day? Are we doing our job in helping them remember?

Regrettably, this pivotal moment in history passed by this week with relatively little fanfare.

I find this sad.

Missouri native Gen. Omar Bradley, commander of the US 1st Army at Normandy, said after the war that he never failed to remember D-Day. “I have returned many times to honor the valiant men who died…every man who set foot on Omaha Beach was a hero.”

Still, I wonder if generations two and three times removed from “the greatest generation that ever lived” remember or even know about D-Day. Broadcast journalist Tom Brokaw coined the term, “The Greatest Generation”, in his book of the same name published in 1998, saying: “It is, I believe, the greatest generation any society has ever produced.”

And what they did to preserve freedom for generations to follow, it seems to me, should have a little more “to do” made about it.

Brokaw’s book discussed how that generation served, not for personal gain, but because they believed it was the right thing to do. These men and women came home after the war and set to work to make America the leader of the free world, a prosperous nation, and a superpower.

I wasn’t exactly sure how much I remembered myself, so I began researching D-Day. It didn’t take long for me to realize that I was “rusty” on the subject.

Here are some staggering facts and inspirational observations that I found that may astound you as well.

“What a plan,” said British Prime Minister Winston Churchill addressing the House of Commons on June 6, 1944. “This vast operation is undoubtedly the most complicated and difficult that has ever taken place.”

Indeed it was.

More than 155,000 young Allied troops from the United States, Great Britain and Canada waded through the chest-high water and climbed the cliffs to storm the beaches of Normandy, France.

Gen. Dwight D. Eisenhower sent these brave men into combat in Operation Overlord with these words:

“The eyes of the world are upon you, the hopes and prayers of liberty-loving people everywhere march with you. In company with our brave allies and brothers in arms on other fronts, you will bring about the destruction of the German war machine, the elimination of Nazi tyranny over the oppressed people of Europe, and security for ourselves in a free world. Your task will not be an easy one. …[but] the tide has turned, the free men of the world are marching together to victory.”

The beaches of Normandy were named with these code words: Juno, Gold, Omaha, Utah, and Sword.

Prior to the invasion, Allied forces practiced their roles for D-Day for months along the southern coast of England. Also, the Allies conducted a deception operation called Operation Fortitude aimed at misleading the Germans about the date and place of the actual D-Day invasion.

By August after the D-Day invasion in June, the 12th Army Group, comprised of four field armies, had swollen to more than 900,000 men and was the largest group of American soldiers to ever serve under one field commander. That commander was Gen. Omar Bradley, a native of Clark, Missouri, who graduated from Moberly High School.

D-Day numbers are staggering: 2395 aircraft, 867 gliders, and 6939 naval vessels. By June 11 (D-day plus 5 as it is called), there were 326,547 troops, 54,186 vehicles and 104,428 tons of supplies that had been landed on the beaches of Normandy.

According to the British Portsmouth Museum, there were millions more men and women in the Allied countries who were involved in the preparations for D-Day. They played thousands of different roles, both in the armed forces and as civilians.

To commemorate these heroes, what can you do to remember and to pass on their legacy?

To begin, visit the National D-Day Memorial website at d-day.org or dday-overlord.com for a wealth of historical information.

Commemorate D-Day by watching the few movies available that attempt to illustrate the intensity of the invasion of Normandy: Band of Brothers, The Big Red One, The Longest Day and Saving Private Ryan.

And most importantly, shake a hand of a veteran and say thank you to all who sacrificed their lives gladly for their neighbors and for us on that momentous Day–June 6, 1944.

Let us not forget.

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