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Tag Archive: Spring

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 01

All sad hearts need a little madness in the spring – (From my archived columns, first published in The Examiner, May 22, 2008)

flowersinyourhairA little madness in the spring is wholesome even for the King,”
– Emily Dickinson.

The merry month of May with its proms, weddings, graduations, and reunions is the perfect time to wear our finery and spruce ourselves up a bit after a sunless and dreary winter.

It is also the perfect time to “dress up” if one’s life happens to be going very badly.

In a funk because the ATM ate your debit card, the cell phone is lost once again, or because the expected economic stimulus check has not arrived yet?

Perhaps you are simply sick of the weather or you want the school year to end and hurry up about it.

Of course, there is no point at all mentioning how high gas prices drive our good spirits and normally cheerful moods completely downhill.

In the face of such despair, what are we sadsacks to do?

My solution–dress up, and I mean really, really dress up, and go somewhere fancy.

My friend Gladice did, and believe me she has more reasons than most of us to “get her dobber down.”

But she did not do that, and therein lies her story.

In the early spring months, Gladice endured a string of sad and grievous life events, one after another. Her father died unexpectedly and in mere weeks her husband died. Both deaths were sudden and both men in her life were vitally important to her wellbeing.  Both were relatively young men thus adding to her disbelief.

Despite dealing with the onslaught of grief and despite trying to raise two sons without her husband’s income, Gladice hung in there. She never lost her smile, and that is the first thing friends and acquaintenances noticed about her—a glowing countenance and composure.

Soon help and donations flowed to her family.

Yet, she needed more to alleviate the sadness, something cash and gift cards could not fix.

She needed to put flowers in her hair, dress up, and go out on the town.

One day friend Janice announced to Gladice, “Let’s get dressed up and go out. It is time.” And so off they went to an exclusive restaurant and ordered filet mignon.

Gladice decided to wear make-up and dress up fancy, something she does not like to do as a rule.  However, this time was different.

It was spring after all.

Janice knew Gladice deserved a good time, an elegant dress, a new hairdo, an evening out. Surely it would make her feel better.

Whether or not we have as many reasons as Gladice for sadness, we can follow her lead as how to get out of it.

As Edwin Way Teale observed, “All things seem possible in May,” and I would add, especially if you dress up and put flowers in your hair.

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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