“It’s a wonderful feeling to be a bridge to the past and to unite generations. The sport of baseball does that, and I am just a part of it.” ~ Vin Scully, Dodgers Broadcaster since 1950
I think we all have squishy memories.
The squishy ones are the memories that have no specific moment or event to make them distinct. They remember no special day or place. No exact time. Instead of one particular thing, a bunch of routine moments from the past squish together to make one single thought.
I have a lot of squishy memories.
When I was a kid we lived in California. And, on Saturdays, after the lawn was mowed and the Saturday chores were done, my dad would stretch out on his green hammock (a hammock supported by a metal frame, rather than trees, with white fringe along its sides, and with a matching green pillow attached at the top.)
The Googler, which is a frightening tool, took “vintage green hammock with white fringe” and gave me this photo of my dad’s hammock.
This is the exact one. The very same one that I haven’t seen in 40 years. I was so surprised to see it, I did a double-take. And, then I patted myself on the back for remembering it perfectly, right down to the pillow.
I can see my dad on that hammock on Saturday afternoons in California, drinking a Coors beer, with a blue portable radio that he brought out onto the patio with him. Listening to a ballgame.
Almost always, listening to Vin Scully call a Dodgers game.
This is something Vin Scully still does. Something he has done for 67 years. Something that he will only do for two more weeks before he retires at age 88.
To hear Vin Scully’s voice is to bring me back to Saturdays with my dad in his hammock. Sunny, warm days, when the most important choice I had to make was deciding whether to roller skate first, then go swimming, or to go swimming first, then roller skate.
To hear Vin’s voice is to have that Saturday back. A day in California a long time ago, when I was small and my dad was in his hammock.
And, when Vin retires at the end of this season, that memory will fade just a little, become just a little bit blurrier, a little bit squishier.
A lovely interview on National Public Radio this morning with Vin Scully. Listen here.
Baseball is the perfect way to spend your Independence Day. But, just in case your guys are the away team today (Dear Orioles, did you forget to pack your bats before you left for Chicago?), here’s some Free Baseball* to keep your game red, white, and blue.
10th Inning: Silent Cal
We are a nation of mega-mansions, monster trucks, and hotdog eating contests. More is always better. And, because five Racing Presidents weren’t enough for the Washington Nationals, we now have six. Welcome Racing President Calvin Coolidge!
Coolidge joins Washington, Jefferson, Lincoln, Teddy Roosevelt, and Taft.
(Add in Presidents Woodrow Wilson, Jimmy Carter, and George H.W. Bush – all played baseball in college – and you can field your own Racing Presidents baseball team!)
Apparently, Coolidge was not much of a baseball fan, but his wife Grace was. (Impeccable source for this fact? Annoying Nats color guy F.P. Santangelo. If it’s wrong, blame him.)
But, President Coolidge did say: “Baseball is our national game.” Which is about as generic as you can get, but apparently is enough to get a 40-pound felt head built in your likeness.
Oh, and he’s the only U.S. President born on the 4th of July. Happy Birthday, Cal!
Legendary Dodgers broadcaster Vin Scully can call a game all by himself – no need for color guys. And, he still has time left over to teach you a little history. During last night’s Dodgers-Mets game Vin shared some Star-Spangled Banner stories.
So gather round, listen, and Vin promises, you’ll “learn a little something about our flag.”
When I was about 10, I challenged my dad to a footrace around the block.
I’m not sure why I wanted to race, but my dad and I were always thinking up competitions with each other. I must have figured it was a no-lose race.
My dad said his longer legs would beat me, but I knew that I was fast. Even faster with my P.F. Flyers. I knew I could out-sprint an oldie like him.
We set the ground rules. From the tree in our front yard, we would run counterclockwise around the block. First one back to tag the tree wins.
Google Maps confirmed that my childhood home — and the round-the-block track — in California still exists. But, the finish line tree-of-legend is gone.
With the rules set, we took off into the street. A neighborhood block is much longer around than you think it is, especially when you’re 10 and your legs are much shorter than your dad’s. But, I picked up steam just as he was losing his, and I drew even with him somewhere around the houses that lined the block behind us. When we came to the final turn for home, my dad was pooped. I was hitting my stride.
It was at that moment that my dad veered off the street. He cut through our next-door neighbor’s yard, hopped over the waist-high fence that separated our houses, and tagged the tree. He had cut several seconds – and several feet – off of the race by short-cutting across Mr. and Mrs. Faustini’s lawn.
I was still running in the street. Soundly beaten.
I had yet to learn any of the wonderful, bleepful words that grown-ups use but children don’t. So, I probably just called him a “big cheater.” I was pretty mad.
He was jubilant. “Hey, Kid, you never said we had to follow the street.”
It would be my first time getting screwed by a loophole. There would be no rematch.
I’m not sure my dad saw any great lesson in our race. He was just the kind of guy who liked to prank his kid from time to time.
But, his non-lesson left a big impression on me, and I’ve been pretty careful about making ground rules clear ever since.
Which brings me to this.
Ground rules are a baseball thing. They are the special rules governing play that are unique to a park, usually identifying a park’s lines, corners, poles, and edges as fair or foul.
At Wrigley Field in Chicago, if a ball gets stuck in the ivy it’s a double, but if the ball pops back out, it’s in play.
At Tampa’s Tropicana Field, the four catwalks are governed by different ground rules. Hit the lower ones, it’s a double; hit the higher ones, a homer. Indoor parks have all sorts of ground rules for balls that hit the roof, trusses, cables, or other stuff hanging down.
Some individual games have had their own ground rules. In 1903, during the first World Series, the games were so packed that fans overflowed into the outfield. The Pittsburgh Pirates and Boston Americans agreed that if a ball was hit into the fans it would be a “ground-rule triple.”
The Americans went on to hit 18 triples over the course of the eight-game series, a World Series record that still stands.
The key thing is this – ground rules are unique to a single park or event.
Here’s what’s not unique in baseball.
Rule 5.05 (a) (6)
A fair ball, after touching the ground, bounds into the stands, or passes through, over or under a fence, or through or under a scoreboard, or through or under shrubbery, or vines on the fence, in which case the batter and the runners shall be entitled to advance two bases;
There you have it. A ball that bounces from fair territory into the stands is a double.
Nothing unique. Happens all the time. The rule is the same no matter where you are.
It is not a ground rule double. It’s just a double.
What do doubles have to do with my dad? Nothing really.
But, my dad was a stickler for getting things like this right.
San Francisco Giants broadcaster Jon Miller is a stickler, too. While most everyone else calls a fair ball bouncing out of play a “ground rule double,” Miller will call it what it actually is – an “automatic” double or a “rule book” double.
Jon gets it right, but if you listen through, you’ll hear Mike Krukow get it wrong. And, look! That’s former Oriole’s closer Jim Johnson on the mound giving up the automatic!
(Even legendary Dodger’s broadcaster Vin Scully gets it wrong. Listen.)
Though he liked the Dodgers, my dad wasn’t much of a baseball fan, but I think he would appreciate my using this Father’s Day post as an opportunity to set the record straight about ground rule doubles.
And, he’d probably ask me to remind you: Always set clear ground rules, lest you get beaten by someone who discovers the “Faustini Loophole.”
Tennis, World Cup, Baseball, Poetry. And, I buried the lead. Again.
Poetry is said to be emotion set to words.
Which, if the poetry is good, is deep and satisfying and stays with you like the memory of those crazy-good chocolate-chipotle and salted caramel gelatos from Splendora’s that I just started thinking about … and now I can’t shake.
Not all poetry is good.
But, good poetry doesn’t need to be long or deep or hard to cut through.
This is good poetry. It’s one of my favorite poems that I recite to myself nearly every day.
See, poetry can be beautiful and useful, too.
(I might argue that “Suckity, suck, suck” which sometimes slips out of me when the Orioles go bad at about the sixth inning is poetry, too. Not beautiful, but there’s a certain rhythmic honesty to it, don’t you think?)
Most important, poetry must be just-so. Just the right amount of words and rhythm and voice to convey an emotion or a thought. And, nothing more.
One of my clients was at the French Open and when I asked him how it was he said simply, “Roger Federer is poetry.”
Federer is nearing the end of his career and was defeated early on in the Open, but, I knew what he meant.
Poetry in writing and in athletics and in Yoga … is when you don’t do too much, but you do just enough.
It appears effortless, even when you know that it isn’t.
You can see here, that my client is right about Federer.
And, here’s World Cup poetry. Guillermo Ochoa is the goalkeeper for Mexico. During this week’s game against heavily favored Brazil, they played to a tie, and Ochoa did this.
But, a tie, strangely enough, leaves the story untied, untidy, and unfinished.
A good poem, like a good baseball game, will always end. On Tuesday, it took the University of Virginia Cavaliers 15 innings, and nearly five hours, to defeat Texas Christian University in the College World Series.
UVa Shortstop Daniel Pinero had two errors in the game, including one that led to an unearned run for TCU.
But, poetry has a habit sometimes of wrapping things up neatly, forgiving the sins of the past, and making things just-so. Like this.
A good poem will hold you. It’s too beautiful to turn away.
Watching LA Dodger Clayton Kershaw pitch is always poetry. Seemingly effortless and beautiful to watch.
Listening to longtime broadcaster Vin Scully call a Dodger’s game, something he’s been doing for 65 years, is poetry, too. The rhythm, the words, and the beautiful silence that stretches between. Just right.
To see Kershaw pitch a no-hitter this week, with Scully sitting beside you … forget the rest of this post. THIS is poetry.
“And now, if you don’t mind, I’m going to sit back and watch it with you.”
(Describing Dodger Rookie Yasiel Puig after a magnificent throw from right to get the runner at home and end the inning. August 31, 2013. You can see it all here.)
Oh, to be 85 and to see baseball as Vin Scully does.
I’m not a Los Angeles Dodgers fan (though my dad was, in a “I don’t like baseball, but I do like the Dodgers” sort of way).
But, I always like to listen to Vin, the voice of the Dodgers for the past 64 years. (And, soon to be 65 years, as he’s just signed on for 2014.)
He is, quite simply, the voice of baseball. Scully is in the Baseball Hall of Fame, is regularly chosen as the best broadcaster in baseball, and has been calling Dodgers games – on radio and, today, on television — since 1950. Since they were the Brooklyn Dodgers.
When I listen to Vin Scully doing a game today I imagine my dad, out in the backyard in California on a long-ago Saturday, beer in hand in his beloved green hammock, listening to a game on the radio. Vin Scully calling a Dodgers game, same as today. Only the names have changed.
And, long ago doesn’t seem all that long ago.
Whether describing a baby wearing a hat, marveling over a cloud formation, or his regular nightly depictions of the sun setting over Dodger Stadium, baseball becomes richer when Vin Scully is sharing it with you.
The world becomes sweet and timeless and precious.
So, I went to a game on Sunday. And, I took my camera (which is new and foreign and intimidating). I tried to see the things that Vin Scully would see, if he were at the park with me.
Harrisburg Senators (AA Washington Nationals team) vs. Richmond Flying Squirrels (AA San Francisco Giants team). September 1, 2013
(Second to the last game of the AA season. Harrisburg will go to the playoffs. The Squirrels’ season will end on Labor Day.)
It was Flying Squirrels autograph day at the park. Oh, to be 22 …
The Squirrels’ Jarrett Parker (UVA alum) … dreaming of the AAA Fresno Grizzlies?
Having a catch before the game.
Every team deserves a mascot (hear that Chicago Cubs?). The Flying Squirrels have two. This is Zinger. He is a giant acorn.
This is not a homerun swing.
This is. (The Squirrels’ Ryan Lollis, leading off the first inning.)
Not a good day to be a Harrisburg pitcher.
Right field can seem awfully far away sometimes.
The relievers in their bullpen. (Even minor league teams have their candy backpack … it’s over there on the ground on the left.)
All you have to do is turn a camera button and your 21st-century game looks like 1964.
Or, 1934. (That’s Editor/Husband on the left keeping track of the pitching changes in his program.)
When you get cocky, your camera will change all your settings.
Some clouds for Vin.
And, just as quickly as it started, the minor league season is over. Wasn’t it just Opening Day? Where did the summer go? And, how many days until spring?
(And, Vin Scully would be disappointed if I neglected to give you the final score. Richmond Flying Squirrels 7. Harrisburg Senators 3.)