Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Time to Talk Baseball

I wanted to use “Let’s talk baseball”; but that’s what Larry Dierker used to call his column when he was writing or doing a spot on the radio. If I’d said, “Let’s talk health care”, or “Let’s talk government”; well, let’s not go there today.

My dad sent me an envelope full of old time baseball pictures a friend had given him. The church my dad attends has a couple of familiar names, Hershiser and Earnshaw; ones the son of a famous major league ball player while the other is the father of well know ball player ball player.

Baseball has given us some awesome names, Lefty Grove , the Babe , Hammerin’ Hank , Shoeless Joe and the list is nearly endless. What would we do without nicknames? There’s the Big Train , the Big Unit , Big Puma and Will the Thrill . Recently we lost one of the more colorful ball players, Mark “the Bird” Fidrych ; who could forget some of the antics he pulled cultivating the pitcher’s mound?

When I was growing up, a work in progress, my dad could rattle off statistics of nearly any major league ball player, team winning percentages for any given year, who pitched different games of a World Series and a host of other details about the game. Dad could also do Morse Code better than most folks whistle; but that’s because he did that for the Navy in WWII and has nothing to do with baseball.

Last night I watched the Astros get whooped, for lack of a better word, up in Colorado; final score was 12 -1. It was a pitiful exhibition; but only counted as one game and as soon as the sun came up this morning it was a new day, a chance to right things. I could say the pitching wasn’t up to the challenge, fielding or hitting; but last night it was a team effort in all aspects of neglect.

Cecil Cooper, the manager, left a struggling starting pitcher in to bat with two men on and only one out when the team was “only” behind by the score of 5/Zip. The next inning, after that same pitcher loaded the bases without recording an out, a reliever was brought in. I’m not saying the relief pitcher didn’t do his job; he did get two outs without letting a run score before giving up a Grand Slam to the deepest part of the park; just that the home run came with the count at a ball and two strikes, the next pitch was wild over the center of the plate.

I know, I could have talked about the blow out in LA where the Rockets got humiliated; but that has nothing to do with baseball. One good thing about basketball, maybe the only good thing, is they have some great nick names; Air Jordan , Shaq or the Glide .

I still can picture Michael Jordan flying through the air as if he’d figured out how to redefine the laws of gravity; a remarkable piece of magic, sorry that name goes with a whole different individual .

I had a nick name given me by a Lieutenant in the police department. I’d just transferred from patrol where you ride around in, of all things, a patrol car; to three wheeled motor cycles. The best description I can offer about that vehicle was they took the worst from a four wheeled vehicle and coupled that with the worst characteristics of a two wheeled motorcycle; probably the result of a biker on drugs doing time in the county slammer.

Where was I; oh yes, I’d just started learning how to operate the three wheeled motor cycle, practicing in the parking lot adjacent to the main station when I drove it into the side of a City of Houston Water Department van parked behind the old main police station. My natural instinct to lean, like you would with most other motor cycles with handle bars, did absolutely nothing to alter the path I was taking and by the time I pulled to one side; well, it was too little too late. It pushed the front wheel up under the motor and I broke the cheesy plastic wind screen off as I went over the handle bars. Fortunately my helmeted head kept me from going through the side of the van and there were no injuries, other than my pride.

I’d only met the Lieutenant once, a short interview two days earlier when he approved my transfer. The day after I’d destroyed one of his vehicles I got the name, “Crash”; but that was before we got to know each other. Later on, after many friendly confrontations, I had other nick names; none of which are suitable for print.

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