Lost Ballfield Memories…

Is there anything sadder in today’s Covid-warped world than the sight of an empty Little League baseball field?

I know we face a myriad of problems, but problems have always been with us. From the beginning of these United States, turmoil, hardships, and troubles have been a familiar constancy—along with death and taxes.

“People ask me what I do in winter when there’s no baseball. I’ll tell you what I do. I stare out the window and wait for spring.” – Rogers Hornsby

Ever since Abner Doubleday invented the game—although, like many legends of the past, this may be in doubt—baseball brought joy to the hearts of many a young boy.  The game is a business in the major leagues, America’s favorite pastime corrupted by greed. But when I was growing up, it brought much joy and happiness to me and my friends in Cumberland, Rhode Island.

These were different times in the 1960s. We often cloud the reality of the past with the analgesic of nostalgia. Still, I think memories of baseball played on a Little League field are as close as one can come to remember the “good ole’ days” as they really were.

These are the faces of life-long memories

Girls weren’t on teams back then. There were no leagues for girls. Truth be told, it was more selfish protection of less-skilled male athletes from being outplayed by girls than anything else, but they were different times. One cannot change the way of the past. We were just little boys with no need or ability to understand such complex matters. We just wanted to be boys playing baseball.

Little League games gave ten-year-old boys the glorious moments of dreaming they would one day play at Fenway or Yankee Stadium (for the really, really outstanding players.) These lost moments on today’s empty fields can never be recovered. I know much has been lost to the pandemic—graduation celebrations, wedding receptions, travel plans, summer days before heading off to college—a whole host of missed opportunities. But these are adult things, or on the cusp, where a lesson in the vicissitudes of life can reap benefits down the line.

Ten-year-old boys don’t need such lessons at that moment in life, they’ll have time for that later. But they can never regain the moments of standing at-bat, the thwack of a ball on a wooden (never aluminum) bat, and the pure joy of making it in to score a run.

Standing in the late afternoon sun, on a warm and humid August day, even playing right field to minimize the chances of actually having to catch a fly ball,  is as close as one can come to pure joy in this life. Such is the cost of these challenges we face.

A field of dreams lost to time, and memories left unmade.


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Baseball Traditions amid Changing Times

America’s pastime baseball may be changing, but every March it serves as a harbinger of Spring, the smell of freshly mown lawns, and crowds of fans watching men living the dreams of little boys.

I’m not a sports fanatic. I can’t quote chapter and verse of statistics. I can’t wax poetic on baseball strategy. Truth be told, I would be hard-pressed to name more than a couple of players on my favorite team, The New York Yankees. For me, it is the occasional game at a ballpark, checking the scores periodically, often losing interest once the Yankees don’t make the playoffs.

But I still enjoy the game, even if I’m not glued to Sports Center or the Baseball Channel.

Like many things in life, my being a fan of the Yankees is a legacy passed on from my grandfather to my father to me. And like my father, I sometimes get more enjoyment out of torturing Red Sox fans than I do from a more traditional appreciation of the game.

The rivalry between these two teams is legendary. Most of the time it is played out on the field, resolved by the final score and end of season standing. Sometimes, it breaks out in bench-clearing brawls which, while immature and silly, remind us it is a game most often played by little boys.

(I know girls play sports. I know that there are likely quite a few woman who could play at the professional level. But that’s a different subject. For now, this a game played by little boys in the bodies of grown men. I also know baseball, like all pro-sports, is a business. Again another subject.)

I admit I miss the once consistent history of the baseball seasons of my youth where I could watch the Yankees in the playoffs and tease my Red Sox fans with the slightly mocking, and not the least bit consoling, “there’s always next year.”

Oh, how things have changed.

The rivalry remains. The gap between World Series won by each team is closing. Well sort of, Yankees have 27 Red Sox have 8. And I know my Red Sox fan friends will point out they have won more this century than the Yankees. True. And it is also true if the Red Sox win 19 World Series in a row, they will tie the Yankees in 2037.

Something to look forward to.

One thing baseball can do is provide a valuable lesson about the realities of life. A good season is when a team plays above .500 ball. Think about that.  If a team wins just a few more games than it loses, it’s successful.

Even more dramatic with a batter. Hit consistently above .300 and you’re a star. Teams are anxious to acquire players who get a hit one out three times at bat. In other words, failure isn’t an indication of poor performance. It is the ability to persevere in the face of failure that is the mark of success.

One of the greatest players of all time, Ted Williams (see I can appreciate Red Sox achievements), had a lifetime batting average of .344. Williams didn’t get a hit more often than he did, and he is the benchmark.

Baseball is proof positive that life’s not fair. We all will fail, often as much as we succeed. The best players understand this. They must ignore failure and learn from their mistakes in pursuit of success.

Baseball is a roadmap to success in life.

In the immortal words of the great New York Yankee Existential Philosopher, Yogi Berra. “It ain’t over, ’til it’s over.”

Just like life.

Go YankeesYankees

There’s No Crying in Baseball, There are Tears on Saturn

The Business of Baseball, not in the public interest.

Let me preface this piece by saying I enjoy going to McCoy Stadium to watch Pawsox Triple-A baseball. t533_main_logoYet, public investment into private business is fraught with risk. This is compounded by the incestuous nature of Rhode Island’s political machine.

To engage in such an investment requires transparency, openness, and an informed, involved public. Something our history says we haven’t always practiced.

It would be a shame if the Pawsox left Pawtucket. Forty years of history, memories of so many rising stars refining their skills, and the untold numbers of people entertained there over the years would be a tragic loss.

But baseball, despite the moniker of our national game, is a business. If this were a purely nostalgic emotional choice, the new owners would look for the best place to invest in a new stadium in Pawtucket. Instead, they are holding out the team as a prize to be bid on. They look to the state and the taxpayers to soften the risk.

Government is not equipped or designed for such investment.

There used to be a team called the Brooklyn Dodgers, under baseball’s expansion they moved to LA  and are now the Los Angeles Dodgers.

The Washington Senators split into two new franchises; the Minnesota Twins and Texas Rangers.

No doubt the fans of the original teams mourned the change, but the teams did not ransom themselves to the highest government bidder. The team owners took the risk and reaped the benefit.

This concept of government/private partnerships is complicated. The potential for corruption high. The risk to taxpayers serious. Baseball, while still a favorite sport, is not THE most popular sport. To put public dollars into private business was not part of the purpose of government.  The government should ensure business practice is safe, legal, and ethical. Otherwise, it should stay out of the way.

I’ll miss Benny’s too, but tax dollars cannot be used to shift the tides of an ever-changing business world. Baseball and Benny’s are businesses, let the market make the choices.

Crying over a machine: the end of an Era 1997-2017

I realize most people may have missed this, but one shining example of what used to be the proud American space program died the other day.Casssini

The Cassini-Huygens Saturn orbiter died. Running out of fuel twenty years after its launch and thirteen years after it orbited Saturn, the probe sent the last of its millions of transmissions then burned up in the Saturnian atmosphere.

Many of the project scientists and engineers cried. I wonder if they were crying over the demise of the machine, or the knowledge that we’ve seemingly abandoned such efforts?

We have a country fixated on what kind of dresses the First Lady wears to view natural disasters, a President who is more concerned about comments by a sportscaster then dealing with major issues, and a culture that knows more about some B level star dancing with some relic from an old TV show than monumental accomplishments like Cassini-Huygens.

I recall watching every single launch of manned spacecraft in the 1960s and 1970s. I remember being glued to the TV when Neil Armstrong said his first words from the moon. Things that made Americans proud.

I wonder, given the state of our disregard for the value of science, if we’ll ever strive to achieve such goals again.

Sex for Sale, Who’s Buying?

One of the news headlines out of Providence the other day was a story about a police raid at a brothel. Such raids are a rarity and the word caught my eye. Brothel is such an interesting word. Thought to be of Germanic origin meaning a ramshackle structure that harbors prostitutes.

It got me thinking about what sort of men, for it is invariably men who are the paying customers, avail themselves of such services.

I looked to the oracle of the modern world, Google, for information on the demographics of the typical brothel customer.

There was no single socioeconomic indicator.

Nor racial, ethnic, or religious similarities.

No single factor in common among those arrested for frequenting prostitutes.

But I knew human nature shares a commonality, there must be something that such “pay to play” individuals shared.

With a little creative data analysis, in-depth information sorting, and thorough check and cross-checking of sources I found the answer.

The one common element present in each customer of this and all American Brothels.

They were all Red Sox Fans.

I am still working on the data on the “sex workers.”  I’ll post that when I finish my analysis. But I have my suspicions…

Diluting the Joy of Memory

There was a time when having one’s picture taken required planning and someone with skill. After staging the subject and composing the shot, one sat still as the photographer took the picture.

Depending on the location the group broke up, waited for the flash effect to fade, then waited for the picture to be developed. Viewing the image required patience. It could be days or even weeks before one saw the results.

I often go for long walks in Cumberland. Along Mendon Road, I pass a faded sign for Rowbottom studios. Mr. Rowbottom was the official school photographer throughout my grammar school days. If you look up patience in the dictionary I would bet his picture is there.

I have vague memories of being forced to wear nice clothes, meaning ones without patches on the knees from our schoolyard basketball games, sometimes even a dreaded tie on the day set for school pictures.

All day in my least comfortable clothes waiting to be summoned for my turn to follow the instructions on where and how to sit, to smile, to “hold that pose” until Mr. Rowbottom was satisfied with the result.

Several weeks later, an envelope would be passed out in school containing the pictures. They thrilled my mother, I looked and shrugged. “Yeah, they’re nice. Can I go play baseball now?”

I wish I had been more appreciative for her. The joy of those captured moments of a young boy all too soon grown is a precious thing.

It’s all different today. More pictures are taken in one day today than in perhaps all of the time between the first photograph and the invention of digital imaging. There are probably more pictures of cats taken in one day than there were of all the students at Ashton School all those years ago.

My daughter has more pictures of her dogs than the population of North America.

The joy of those photographs diluted by technology. No one waits for a picture to appear anymore. No kid has to sit through a session with a skilled photographer to capture the stages of their lives. Today, every moment is memorialized; robbing it of its uniqueness.

No one has to remember what went on. They merely flick through some screens and there it is.

A friend posted a picture on-line the other day. You see, I appreciate that some technology is useful. Here’s the picture,


This is one of the few pictures taken that day. Some parents may have shot pictures during the game but I’ve never seen them. The picture captures a moment in each of those lives frozen in time. 1968 Cumberland-Lincoln Boys Club Champion Tigers in Cumberland Rhode Island.

There’s no video, no Facebook page, no online archive of thousands of images of each moment of that day. Just this single image of seventeen proud and happy boys celebrating a memorable summer day.

The picture helps me remember that day. Remember those moments of a more innocent time. It reminds me to refresh those memories every once in a while. Anything more than that dilutes the magic.