My books can be purchased as e-books for only $1.99. If interested, just click here: Books.
Match Play is a golf/suspense novel. Dust of Autumn is a bloody one set in upstate New York. Prairie View is set in South Dakota, with a final scene atop Rattlesnake Butte. Life in the Arbor is a children's book about Rollie Rabbit and his friends (on about a fourth grade level). The Black Widow involves an elaborate extortion scheme. Doggy-Dog World is my memoir. And ES3 is a description of my method for examining English sentence structure.
In case anyone is interested in any of my past posts, an archive list can be found at the bottom of this page.
My newest novel, Happy Valley, can be found here.

Monday, June 6

Baseball Then and Now

Today’s subject will be baseball. Baseball has always been a part of my life, not as much as for those true die-hard fans who attend almost every home game played by their favorite team. But I knew the game from the time I could throw a ball or swing a bat. I grew up in a small South Dakota town where sandlot games were the norm and the major leagues were only on the radio. We didn’t have high school baseball back then, so I and others played on a junior-junior American Legion team, advancing to the higher level, the junior legion team, sometime around age fourteen. We had a coach, Bill Nogle, but I don’t remember a single lesson he ever gave us about how to play the game. All I knew was that when a ball was hit at you, you either caught it or you tracked it down and threw it somewhere. I never learned how to slide properly so I used the head-first method. I think what discouraged me from the feet-first slide was the time I tried it and took off a good portion of flesh on the outside of my left hip. It was either poor technique or a really hard, stony infield. I mostly played an outfield position, but sometimes I was at first base and sometimes I pitched. No one ever told me how to pitch. All I knew was you got on the mound and then threw it as hard as you could, hoping the catcher could catch it or you didn’t cold cock the batter. I tried to vary the flight of the pitch by changing the arm angle, all the way from straight overhead to a submarine, none of which was very effective. One of my teammates tried to show me how to throw a curve but I could never grasp it. As for batting, you had a bat and you tried to hit the ball. There were no signals from the third-base coach; there was no mental duel with the pitcher. You had three swings to hit it somewhere. What more did you need to know? Playing in the outfield, none of us had any idea what hitting the cut-off man was all about. Just throw it as hard as you could in the general direction of the catcher. Kids today watch games and listen to the announcers and learn all kinds of things about how to play the game. I have several vivid memories of my baseball days. I remember a game our town team was playing (I played with them very briefly after I got out of high school). The pitcher threw me a strike and I hit it out to the left-center field fence for a double. I remember joyously telling my father after the game how the ball had looked like a pumpkin, and anyone could hit the snot out of a pumpkin. I found in a box of memorabilia from my youth a baseball that I’d kept, listing the players in ink on the baseball, recording the score and length. We had lost 3-2 to a nearby town in ten innings. Now, why would I have felt it necessary to preserve that result? I remember an afternoon in Minneapolis going to a Minneapolis Millers game with my father. And guess who was playing center field that day. Willie Mays in his first season in baseball. I grew up hating the cocky Yankees and loving the Minnesota Twins, with Harmon Killebrew and Rod Carew. I think that of all the major sports, baseball has had the fewest changes in the last hundred years. Football now has these huge behemoths who play. And basketball now has these muscular giants who sometimes hit their heads on the rim on the way to a slam-dunk. I guess tennis and hockey haven’t changed much, but baseball least of all. Changes most obvious: sunflower seeds instead of chewing tobacco, ground-length pants instead of knee-highs, batting gloves for both hands, defensive infield shifts depending on who’s pitching and who’s hitting, and the challenge rule for a variety of close calls. Everything else is essentially the same as when Ty Cobb, Babe Ruth, and Honus Wagner were around the game. What elements of the game could be improved? Disallow the extended stalling conferences at the mound when a manager wants to give the bullpen time to warm up; do away with the four pitches that constitute an intentional walk and simply wave the batter to first; somehow stop players from spitting every five seconds (Tv closeups are rather disgusting); disallow hitters from adjusting their batting gloves after every pitch; make everyone in attendance pay attention to the play on the field instead of what’s on their cell phones (And just how would that be accomplished?); instruct infielders and outfielders to catch fly balls with both hands instead of one; and finally, get rid of the balls-and-strikes umpires who can never make consistent calls (A computer can do it much better). I think that may be enough about baseball. Maybe forever.
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