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Tag Archive: poems

Oct 19

A look back at my columns about the Kansas City Royals: Part 1 — Baseball fever happens every spring. First published April 14, 2007, in The Examiner, an Eastern Jackson County, Mo., daily newspaper.

 

Baseball fever happens every spring

More than flowers or sunshine or April showers, it is baseball that is our true April love. It has been that way as long as most of us can remember.

 

After all, baseball is America’s game. Granted it may have gone global, but we invented it, and we love it.  In fact, we love it so much, that when opening day of baseball season finally arrives, folks take off work often braving bitter temperatures and cold rain just to watch. You know the drill. Some of us just have to be there. Period.

 

Others of us prefer the coziness of our homes or offices on opening day, but make no mistake we are paying attention just the same.

 

Each spring, baseball makes us believe all over again that all things are possible, for a few weeks at least.

 

Any team can win the Pennant on opening day, maybe even the World Series. The worst team in the league can be at 500 in mere days. The coaches have winning records, and the pitchers have great stats. Every batter can be Babe Ruth, every fielder Jackie Robinson, on opening day.

 

If they can be all things, then so can we. At least that is our hope each and every spring.

 

To be on the safe side, we throw up a silent prayer along with our hopes, “Please do not break our hearts this season!” How well we remember last year when our home team had an indescribably miserable and embarrassing record.

 

Let’s face it. Some years, it is nearly impossible to be a fan. We pray it will not be such a year.  We pray hard.

 

“No more 3 to 2 losses in the ninth, please,” we beg.

 

“No more pitchers losing their groove.”

 

“No more batting slumps by our star hitter.”

 

Ernest Lawrence Thayer understood our baseball psyche, our worries, and desperate baseball prayers such as these as long ago as 1888. That is when he wrote “Casey at the Bat”, the single most famous baseball poem ever written. “Casey at the Bat” was first published June 3, 1888, in the San Francisco Examiner.

 

Another writer Albert Spalding once wrote of it, “Love has its sonnets galore. War has its epics in heroic verse. Tragedy its somber story in measured lines. Baseball has Casey at the Bat.”

 

In his legendary poem, Thayer describes a baseball hero, the mighty Casey who is advancing to the bat just in time to save the day for Mudville’s home team.

 

It is fun to remember some of the poem’s perfectly written verses. Here are some excerpts:

 

“The outlook wasn’t brilliant for the Mudville nine that day.

The score stood four to two, with but one inning more to play…

A sickly silence fell upon the patrons of the game

A straggling few got up to go in deep despair.

The rest clung to the hope that springs eternal in the human breast;

They thought, if only Casey could get but a whack at that,

We’d put up even money, now, with Casey at the bat…

Close by the sturdy batsman the ball unheeded sped,

‘That ain’t my style,’ said Casey. ‘Strike one,’ the umpire said…

He signaled to the pitcher, and once more the spheroid flew;

But Casey still ignored it and the umpire said, ‘Strike two’…”

 

So the legendary story goes, but let us pretend we do not know how the game ended.

After all it is April. Baseball season has just begun. It happens every spring.

May 26

The flower of the fallen, the blood-red poppy, an enduring Memorial Day symbol – from archived columns first published in The Examiner, an Eastern Jackson County Missouri daily.

poppy-field-wet“In Flanders fields the poppies blow, between the crosses, row on row”

—Col. John McCrae, 1915.

Nothing except perhaps the America flag symbolizes Memorial Day more than the blood-red poppy.

And no one explained this symbol better than Colonel John McCrae, a Canadian veteran of World War I, who wrote a poem in 1915 entitled “In Flanders Fields.”

His famous poem describes the bright red flowers that bloomed between the rows of white crosses that marked the graves of the war dead in Belgium. Those vivid reddish-orange flowers, poppies, were soon known throughout the Allied world as the “flower of the fallen”, sometimes, “the flower of remembrance”.

Although I have no live poppies in my yard like my Mother used to have in her garden, I will never forget the reverent and simple pleasure of picking them for “Decoration Day”.

I would love to find poppies to take to cemeteries on this Memorial Day weekend, but they are not readily available.

Luckily, I found an alternative flower choice while reading a Memorial Day blog by Sylvia M. onwww.usmemorialday.org.

The idea: use fresh, red carnations, an inexpensive and available option to decorate the graves of fallen soldiers and other loved ones.

Here is what Sylvia wrote about her idea and how she intends to use the carnations:

“This weekend I am going to do something different. I am going to buy some carnations each day and go to one of the nearby cemeteries and walk through the sections for soldiers. When I find a grave that has no flowers, I’ll leave one and say a prayer for the family of that person, who for some reason could not bring their soldier flowers. I will pray for our country and all who serve or have served. For their families, who also serve by losing precious days, weeks and months spent with their loved ones who are off serving, preserving peace and the freedom we have in this country. I’ll pray for the families who paid the ultimate price, who’s loved ones died, or were taken captive and never returned. I’ll pray for anyone who may still be held in captivity and thinks perhaps they are forgotten. I do NOT forget.”

Poppies or carnations?

It doesn’t really matter.

What is important is why this tradition endures.

One can almost see the poppies blooming between the rows of white crosses on Flanders Field and hear the voices of the fallen as described in the final lines of Colonel McRae’s World War I poem:

“We are the dead, short days ago. We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow, loved, and were loved, and now we lie in Flanders fields. Take up our quarrel with the foe; to you from failing hands we throw the torch, be yours to hold it high. If ye break faith with us who die, we shall not sleep, though poppies grow in Flanders field.”

May 26

The flower of the fallen, the blood-red poppy, an enduring Memorial Day symbol

“In Flanders fields the poppies blow, between the crosses, row on row”—Col. John McCrae, 1915.

Nothing except perhaps the America flag symbolizes Memorial Day more than the blood-red poppy.

And no one explained this symbol better than Colonel John McCrae, a Canadian veteran of World War I, who wrote a poem in 1915 entitled “In Flanders Fields.”

His famous poem describes the bright red flowers that bloomed between the rows of white crosses that marked the graves of the war dead in Belgium. Those vivid reddish-orange flowers, poppies, were soon known throughout the Allied world as the “flower of the fallen”, sometimes, “the flower of remembrance”.

Although I have no live poppies in my yard like my Mother used to have in her garden, I will never forget the reverent and simple pleasure of picking them for “Decoration Day”.

I would love to find poppies to take to cemeteries on this Memorial Day weekend, but they are not readily available.

Luckily, I found an alternative flower choice while reading a Memorial Day blog by Sylvia M. on www.usmemorialday.org.

The idea: use fresh, red carnations, an inexpensive and available option to decorate the graves of fallen soldiers and other loved ones.

Here is what Sylvia wrote about her idea and how she intends to use the carnations:

“This weekend I am going to do something different. I am going to buy some carnations each day and go to one of the nearby cemeteries and walk through the sections for soldiers. When I find a grave that has no flowers, I’ll leave one and say a prayer for the family of that person, who for some reason could not bring their soldier flowers. I will pray for our country and all who serve or have served. For their families, who also serve by losing precious days, weeks and months spent with their loved ones who are off serving, preserving peace and the freedom we have in this country. I’ll pray for the families who paid the ultimate price, who’s loved ones died, or were taken captive and never returned. I’ll pray for anyone who may still be held in captivity and thinks perhaps they are forgotten. I do NOT forget.”

Poppies or carnations?

It doesn’t really matter.

What is important is why this tradition endures.

One can almost see the poppies blooming between the rows of white crosses on Flanders Field and hear the voices of the fallen as described in the final lines of Colonel McRae’s World War I poem:

“We are the dead, short days ago. We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow, loved, and were loved, and now we lie in Flanders fields. Take up our quarrel with the foe; to you from failing hands we throw the torch, be yours to hold it high. If ye break faith with us who die, we shall not sleep, though poppies grow in Flanders field.”

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