The Divine Mum of Crocus Hill has sent us her husband’s “Little League Coach’s Diary, Vol. VIII, Ch. 1”: “‘I see great things in baseball. It’s our game — the American game. It will take our people out-of-doors, fill them with oxygen, give them a larger physical stoicism. Tend to relieve us from being a nervous, dyspeptic set. Repair these losses, and be a blessing to us.’ — Walt Whitman (as very roughly, but commonly, paraphrased)
“It seems trivial to mourn a lost or truncated baseball season when we have lost lives, lost livelihoods and lost our collective way these past seven months.
“But along with concerts, dining out, going to work and going to the mall, it is worth mourning what we missed — and celebrating what we have.
“Fred’s middle-school baseball team was planning to win the St. Paul City championship, and we anticipated a season of fun and friendship, but they left school in March and never went back. There was no season. There was no leaving work early to get to the field on a cool April afternoon to watch a game. Then the Midway League, where all three of our kids have played for 10 summers, canceled its season. Through the middle of June, Fred and I had played a lot of catch, but there were no practices and no games, and nothing on the calendar. He wasn’t on a team.
“Then we got lucky. There was room at Highland Little League in St. Paul. Games were allowed starting late June, with some limitations. Only three kids were allowed in the dugout at a time, the umpire stood behind the mound instead of behind the catcher, and there were no post-game handshakes. But it was baseball and it was fun and it made everything feel pretty normal. He played in its 13U house league and got to play 10 extra travel games for one of its ‘plus’ teams. I helped coach as an assistant. With two or three games each week, we always had something to look forward to.
“After the summer season ended, I assembled a fall team, and we played five doubleheaders across the metro area with one practice or scrimmage each week. The fall season ended yesterday, with our kids laughing through a loss, happy to be playing on a beautiful October afternoon.
“Baseball in 2020 was fun — in some ways more fun than ever because we never took a game or practice for granted. We had our practices and played our games, and everyone stayed healthy.
“For anyone lost in the mounting avalanche of bad news, dysfunction and uncertainty that surrounds us, I can only report what I saw from a couple dozen 13- and 14-year-old boys who scampered across a baseball field these past few months, seemingly in a race toward adulthood: They value their friendships more than anything. They love to be physically active. They’re getting taller, stronger, faster and smarter every day. They are worth the effort.”
Gregory of the North: “It’s been a sad time for baseball fans of a certain age. Both Bob Gibson and Whitey Ford died this month. The Good Lord must have needed some good pitching. For younger readers, these Hall of Fame pitchers dominated their times.
“Bob Gibson is most famous perhaps for throwing an amazing 17 strikeouts in Game 1 of the 1968 World Series and once pitched 47 consecutive scoreless innings. In 1968, he was the National League’s most valuable player. He was also the MVP in two World Series (1964 and 1967). He frequently led or was near the top of the National League in wins, strikeouts and earned run average. He played his entire career with the Cardinals and was inducted into the Hall of Fame during his first year of eligibility. I admittedly didn’t follow the National League much in those days, but I knew enough that I was glad he had retired well before the Twins played the Cards in the 1987 World Series. Gibson died of pancreatic cancer on October 2.
“Whitey Ford was the consummate Yankee who lived and played his entire life in New York City. He was an All-Star 10 times, pitched on six World Series championship teams (voted Most Valuable Player in one of them: 1961) and often was at or near the top of the American League in number of wins, earned run average and complete games. He accomplished this even while taking time out to serve in the Army during the Korean War. Ford was nicknamed ‘Chairman of the Board’ by his teammates and was one of the most awesome pitchers I ever had the chance to see pitch in person. It is believed that Ford died of his long-standing dementia on October 8, although his family has not revealed the cause of death.
“Baseball was a great game during their times. In my opinion, it was a more pure game, where pitch counts weren’t tabulated and strategies seemed to run several games at a time. I still love baseball today, of course, but it was different then. Remember when even pitchers batted?”
BULLETIN BOARD SAYS: Indeed, we do — and as little as we miss watching the pitchers who were helpless and hopeless at the plate (e.g., for the Twins: Dean Chance), we very much miss seeing the pitchers who could handle a bat (e.g., Jim Kaat).
Just looked them up, at baseball-reference.com, and found these hitting stats for Messrs. Ford and Gibson:
Over 16 seasons with the Yankees, Whitey Ford batted .173 in 1208 plate appearances. He had three home runs and 69 RBIs, scored 91 runs, walked 113 times and struck out just 224 times. (Miguel Sano, eat your heart out!)
Over 17 seasons with the Cards, Bob Gibson batted .206 (above the Mendoza Line!) in 1,489 plate appearances. He had 24 home runs and 144 RBIs, scored 132 runs, walked 63 times and stuck out 415 times — still a couple of hundred strikeouts fewer than we would expect from Sano over the same number of plate appearances.
May they both rest in peace, along with their fellow Hall of Famers whom we’ve lost this year: Lou Brock, Al Kaline, Joe Morgan and Tom Seaver.
Now & Then
Writes Grandma Pat, “formerly of rural Roberts, Wisconsin”: “A couple of days ago, I got a small burn on my hand while I was taking a pot roast out of the oven. I immediately put my hand into cold water, and it is fine now.
“This brought back memories of childhood, when the remedy for a burn was to coat it with butter. That felt worse than the burn.
“Then I started thinking about health issues and practices, and how much has changed over my lifetime.
“There were some vaccines, but no antibiotics. Ear infections were so painful, but there was no relief except for a warm hot-water bottle.
“Measles, mumps, scarlet fever and whooping cough were dealt with by quarantine. Those who were sick had to stay home, and your house was marked with a yellow sign informing everyone of which illness you had.
“Here in St. Paul, if you were really sick, you did not take the streetcar to the doctor’s office. Instead, the doctor came to your house at the end of the day. It was considered unhealthful to have sick people near each other in a waiting room.
“Cuts and scrapes were coated with iodine, then covered with gauze and adhesive tape or a Band-Aid. Temperatures were taken with a glass thermometer. When one of these fell to the floor, little silver balls of mercury rolled around on the floor.
“Then there were the polio years, when every fall when you returned to school, you would see classmates with a crippled arm or a brace on a leg.
“In some ways, though, perhaps things were a bit healthier. Parents were vigilant about fresh air and exercise. The streets were ours after school. There were very few cars, since most people took the streetcar. We kids came home from school and changed into play clothes, did some homework and a few chores, then played all kinds of games in the street. No adults were involved. No one drove us any place.
“The dreaded tablespoonful of cod liver oil was mandatory every day, but we had pop (soda) only if we had an upset stomach. Our beverages were water, fresh-squeezed orange juice, and milk. There were potato chips, but these were used only occasionally for a picnic. Our snacks were raisins, carrot and celery sticks, and various nuts in the shells. Not too bad!”
Gee, our old La Salle ran great!
John in Highland writes: “Having grown up a few blocks off of Grand Avenue in St. Paul, I have great memories of what a busy and vital street it was, and still is today.
“In the ’50s and ’60s, there were barbershops, banks, and bakeries. In the four-block stretch from Lexington to Victoria, there were liquor stores, a dry-cleaning shop, the Uptown movie theater, and drug stores with soda fountains. Down the street, there were new-car dealers where I and my friends would go in the fall to see the new models.
“The Bungalow Bakery (now Wuollet) was a favorite stop. Kids who were with their parents would always get a free cookie.
“There was an automotive service station on every block. There was a Standard station at Lexington, Vince Strauss’s Pure station at Oxford, Howard Lloyd’s Texaco station at Chatsworth (Still in business, but across the street), and Ernie Hebert’s Cities Service station at Milton. There also were a Clark and an M&H station between Oxford and Lexington, but they were ‘gas only,’ no car repairs.
“On the edge of the M&H parking lot stood a small hamburger shop called ‘The Alamo.’ It looked like a tiny White Castle.
“A friend of mine worked for Vince Strauss. Vince was adamant that Pure gasoline was better than the competition’s. He told us that he had proved it by using Pure gas on a trip back to his hometown of Valley City, N.D., and a different brand on his way back home. Of course he said he got better mileage with Pure gas. Vince had a sign that read ‘Volkswagen Repairs.’ He liked repairing VWs because the customers ‘always pay in cash!’
“At some point, while riding my bicycle with my friends from baseball practice, I got a flat tire. We were on Grand Avenue, right by Ernie Hebert’s station. I asked if he could fix it. He got right on it, patched the tire and re-inflated it. I was concerned because I had no money in my pockets. I asked him how much I owed him. He laughed and said: ‘Tell your old man to buy some gas!’
“Years later, when I was working in a local hospital, Ernie came in as a patient. He was sick and dying. It was my privilege to help take care of such a hard-working, humble man.”
Reports Wayne Nelson of Forest Lake: “Today was a very unusual day for visitors in our back yard.
“The morning started off by watching 10 horses come running through our back yard like they were being chased.
“Another passing driver had to stop for them when they ran across his path. I got into my vehicle and tried to find where they may have run off to. Myself and the other driver found them on the road heading back towards their original route that they first came. We used our vehicles driving slowly side by side to herd them back to where they escaped from. We were able to get them back onto their property, but the owner wasn’t home, so with the help of the police we kept them confined in the yard until the owner came home about an hour later. He admitted that he must have not locked the gate and they escaped later.
“Then a couple hours later, for the first time in over 40 years, we had a white albino squirrel also in our back yard.
“Today was really full of surprises!”
Our theater of seasons
Mounds View Swede writes: “Subject: Six fall leaves photos.
“Saturday was such a beautiful day for being outside that I had to go take a look with my camera.
“This first photo shows our one remaining red oak tree. Now I understand why it is called a red oak. This tree keeps most of its leaves until spring,
then sheds them as the new buds form. I get to do leaves in the fall and the spring!
“My other oak trees look more orange-ish.
“A few of the area trees were brilliant yellow. I think the reds are striking, but something like this seems very special.
“This is a cottonwood tree, towering over everything else in its vicinity like it often does.
“And a tree like this is rare and so striking to see.
“Near the red tree was this one with variations in orange. I love the range of colors in the fall and how intense some are.
“Whatever goes into causing that to happen has done a wonderful job this year. It’s like a celebration to me.
“I can only applaud inside, smile, and take my photos.”
The Permanent Family Record
Leading to: Could be verse!
The Happy Medium: “Growing up in rural Wisconsin, we six siblings were always busy with something: milking cows, picking beans, shoveling snow, driving horses during haying season, and yes, even ‘helping’ with canning pickles, peaches, corn and the like.
“With all the activity around the farm and house, things got misplaced from time to time and the house got a little messy, to say the least. That was when my sister and I were given the task of cleaning the house each Saturday. To make it an easier task, we listened to the radio program ‘Let’s Pretend.’
“At all times, Mom was concerned that someone would just drop in for a visit unannounced. If we noticed a car advancing up the driveway, we would scurry about the house picking up this and that to make the house a little more presentable in case the visitor decided to enter the house. Therefore, we always kept a look-out in the event that someone was coming.
“I remember the day Mom and I came home from a Homemakers’ meeting when she said: ‘I wish my house could be as clean as her house.’ I responded: ‘Mom, she knew we were coming.’
“Yes, when we knew someone was coming to visit, the house would be spotless. Hence, my poem ‘Someone’s Coming.’ I was prepared for an important visitor. I straightened the house just as my sister and I did those many years ago. Only this time I didn’t listen to the radio program ‘Let’s Pretend.’
“someone’s coming today,
“And the house is such a mess.
“Try as I will, I’m
“not at my best
“at keeping this place clean.
“I must make the bed,
“hang up the clothes,
“put my shoes in the closet,
“so no one knows
“my house was in disarray.
“toss all advertisements
“in the circular bin
“and file others where
“they should have been
“in the first place.
“hide the curling iron,
“the hair dryer too,
“fold some bath towels,
“and toss a few
“in the clothes hamper.
“remove the newspapers,
“put the ironing board away,
“straighten the books,
“and consider the day
“a huge success.
“So who is
“this welcomed guest, you ask?
“Who has caused this cleaning frenzy?
“Why, she’s the cleaning lady,
“the one my friends all envy.”
Could be verse!
Poetry by Eos: “If I got invited to the President’s rally:
“With all respect to the office, sir,
“I fear I can’t attend.
“I have some winter underwear
“I really need to mend.
“The kitchen floor needs scrubbing
“And my closet is a mess.
“Plus I really don’t like the fact
“That I’d have to wear a dress.
“Please invite someone else
“to take the COVID dare
“And I will stay right here at home
“and mend my underwear.”
Band Name of the Day: Let’s Pretend — or: The Free Cookies
Website of the Day: Winners of Wildlife Photographer of the Year 2020