Playful, Pius or Remembered Stuff

Hang out with the old preacher by browsing my blogs.

Friday, March 16, 2012

Wrigley Field, Los Angeles

When I was a kid, major league baseball was an eastern establishment.  Some people still think it is.  Eastern sports writers put their stories to bed, and the presses are roaring before the last West coast game is finished.  They don't care.  They print the previous day's score and the standings, but the standings are always out of date.  Eastern snobbery believes that all the important scores are in.  Let me rant about that another time.

Today's recollection is a pleasant reminiscence of Wrigley Field, Los Angeles.  They tell me it was built to be nearly identical to Wrigley Field in Chicago, that is the playing field.  And the Los Angeles Angels who used to play there were a triple A farm team for the Cubs.  This was the Pacific Coast League.  They played real baseball.  It wasn't moneyball, it was actual baseball.  The brick walls that surrounded the outfield were covered with ivy, just like in Chicago.  And just when a player got amazingly good, the Cubs would bring him up to play in the big leagues.

One year we had Frankie Baumholtz, who almost hit 400 one year.  There was some legal clause in his contract (or somewhere in the machinery) that prevented the Cubs from stealing him until the season was finished.  I saw Chuck Connors hit 4 home runs in a double header at Wrigley.  He was a lanky (6' 5") first baseman in those days.  Later he made his mark in show biz as the Rifleman in a great TV series.

A guy named Joe Dimaggio played for the hated San Francisco club.  Another ball basher was Luke Easter who played for San Diego.  I was always relieved when he only hit a single instead of a home run.

The Angels had a great second baseman who seemed to be very savvy about the game.  His name was Gene Mauch.  You may remember him as a great major league manager, but he was a very good second baseman as well.

Angel Annie was a special favorite memory of mine.  She was an aged black lady who was the Angels' greatest fan.  Following an inning in which the Angels rallied for a run or more, Annie would stand in her place in the stands and hoot a long, high pitched cheer that everyone recognized as it echoed throughout the stands.  I only saw her from a distance, but she was surely a legend in her time.  Every true fan of the Angels loved Annie and listened for her hoot.  There were very few games she missed.

There was an ambidextrous pitcher named Calvin Coolidge McLish.  Actually he only pitched right handed, but he was a switch hitter.  He was a good hitter for being a pitcher, and the season I remember well he hit two home runs.  One right handed and the other left.  I caught the one he hit from the left side. The cheap bleachers were in right field, and that is where we usually sat.  One night he lifted a high drive, and as a young man I still had my sharp baseball instincts.  I could tell the ball was coming right for me.  Yes, I caught it on the fly, and since it was a lofted blow I was able to make the catch, bare handed, without any pain.  I mention this in detail because the next night, when a bunch of us guys were in the same bleachers, our friend, John "Dick" Dickinson, tried to catch another home run.  This time it was hammered by a guy named Dale Long (known for his line drive hitting).  The ball struck the bleachers just in front of Dick, bounced up and hit him in the mouth, and ricocheted in another direction where some stranger chased it down.

If you're not yet bored to tears, I fondly remember attending a playoff series.  One night I took a girl friend, but we were arriving late.  The opposing team was at bat and someone hit a home.  Kids always loiter in the street, hoping to get a ball.  But this ball came bouncing right to my feet.  I proudly stuffed it in my pocket, and then bought the usual bleacher tickets.

And it was the very next night, when I took my mother to the game, that we arrived early, having learned my lesson the night preceding.  After leaving the ticket booth we stopped to rent cushions (the bleachers were just hard benches and it didn't seem right to let my mother's delicate buns suffer that hardship).  It was still time for pre-game batting practice, and as we walked to our chosen perch, I couldn't help seeing a long ball coming from home plate.  Hey, that ball is headed right for me!  I dropped the cushions I had under each arm, stood in place, and caught the ball.  Of course the fans around me were impressed, and gave me feigned praise with applause.

You see, I'm old enough to remember when they really played baseball.  The crack of the bat, the smell of the ball in your glove, the bright green of the field just seemed different back when underpaid ruffians were playing baseball because they loved the game.  Now it's about millionaires working for billionaires, and threatening to strike when they don't get the money they want.   Uggh!  Sinful greed spoils so many things in our society!

Saturday, March 10, 2012

Fallen People in a Fallen World

Last Monday I tried to dig up asphalt with my right knee and it didn't work.  Don't you know old people who experience a bad fall as the beginning of the end of their earthly career?  Not this time.  We pitiable old duffers don't mean to fall.  We try very hard not to fall.  But we do fall, and it's not a pretty sight.

Very soon after we moved into our present residence, the man next door witnessed my fall on the front steps, rushed over to help me up to my feet, and now I can remind Tom that I fell for him the first time we met.

Of course I can--and do--replay this most recent event in slow motion.  We were at our favorite nursery supply.  We decided to use a wheeling cart to tote our planned purchases.  As I moved toward the cart, I kicked the cement barrier for cars in the parking lot, and my legs can no longer move sprightly enough to recover.  I can see the adamant objects of my environment coming up to meet me, but in review it is happening in slow motion.  There is the metal cart itself, and there is that black pavement, made to resist indentation by 2 ton vehicles, and to my left is the fender of one of those vehicles.  There is really no hospitable touchdown point to which I might aim my trajectory, but I do manage to raise my arms to save my head from concussion.  Somehow the primary contact was made with my right knee, and with my considerable girth behind it, it came down with devastating force.

Some concerned fellow customer asked if I was alright.  To this lame question I offered the distinctly honest answer, "No, not really."  I was still lying on the pavement, and frankly I intended to stay for a little while at least.  I couldn't imagine being any more comfortable doing anything else--certainly not using my damaged limbs to regain my stance.  He wisely advised me to take my time.  Eventually a clerk rushed to the scene and offered the same lame question to which I gave the same honest answer.  Between the two of them I attempted to regain my feet.  Once again my corpulent physique posed a challenge, but these rugged men were able to set me upright at long last.

We sat at a table which had been offered for solace, and made plans for the remainder of our day.

Later that day, when we saw the grapefruit-sized knee that seemed to be headed for watermelon instead,   Barbara asked if I wanted to go to Urgent Care, and I submitted to her reasonable suggestion.  No broken bones, but some blood vessels were obviously opened, and what with my aspirin and plavix regimen, my veins were leaking copiously into the surrounding tissue.  The prognosis is for my survival, and in fact I am scheduled to stand and deliver a sermon on March 25.

When I took a fall over a curb in Chattanooga, TN, my wife asked me, "What are you doing?"  Which inane inquiry prompted several sarcastic quips to come to mind.  But that is all recorded in some ancient blog of former days.

Saturday, March 3, 2012

Personal Integrity

Does anyone remember what personal integrity means?  It's not just something we use to embarrass politicians, but it's something that is supposed to look back at us in the mirror.  Integrity is not a category of public image polishing.  It is at the heart of that sacred cornerstone of modern American culture: self esteem.  When a person has a modicum of personal integrity, he feels good about himself.  If he feels good about himself, this is self esteem.

A few years back, some agency or survey was questioning young people from many different countries.  They asked them if they thought they were good at math.  The American kids all answered in high degrees of the affirmative.  Asian children were quite modest about it and all claimed they were only average or below.  But the actual test results proved the Asian young people to be dramatically superior to the American kids.  Perhaps most of this result is accounted for by cultural differences.  The point is simply that we have taught our youth to feel good about themselves when there may be nothing of substance behind that confidence.

When someone shoots several people, invariably some relative comes forward to say, "He's a good boy."

But what is breaking my heart today is what I see in people I love.  Kids planning divorce which will destroy their little ones.  What part of "better or worse" did they not understand.  Or taking a 5 year old into a major theme park, pretending he is three.  Don't you hate seeing a liar and cheat in the mirror?  Or do you think yourself extremely clever?

Why does my culture scoff at the doctrine of total depravity when people are scamming the medical system with phantom pains.  And local catastrophes turn nice neighbors into looters.  And sometimes I see a very cheap price for personal integrity, cheating a vending machine out of a few dimes. If all we can get for political candidates are liars and cheats, perhaps it is because there is no one else to choose.