Once a baseball man, always a baseball man?

Ask a silly question . . .

Big Eek of Southeast Minneapolis: “I had a friend who was a baseball lifer, from the time — as a 10-year-old in the late ’30s — he first watched Ted Williams play for the Millers at old Nicollet Park.

“He played baseball for teams at the high-school, university, army and professional level. He coached university and professional clubs. He was a ‘figger filbert’ doing analytics to gain an edge before they even invented the term.

“He had two pet peeves. One was the introduction of the designated hitter into baseball. The other was people who misspelled Bibb Falk as Bib Falk. Bibb was an ex-Chicago White Sox outfielder and my friend’s college coaching opponent.

“He called me to arrange another discussion (really argument) session at the McDonald’s on Stinson Avenue. He was waiting in a booth when I got there. Before I sat down, I asked him a question: ‘Do you spell Bibb with one or two b’s?’

“‘With two,’ he said. ‘Definitely. You know that.’

“‘Are you sure?’ I persisted.

“‘Yes, I am sure,’ he said.

“‘That’s funny,’ I said. ‘Most people spell it with three.’

“With his red face and Type A personality, I thought I had gone too far. He calmed down and had figures to show that Ted Williams was a better hitter than Babe Ruth.

“His niece wrote me a nice letter. At his care facility, they checked his room and he had passed away while working in his bed on his baseball statistics.

“As I said, he was a true lifer.”

Our pets, ourselves

Grandma Pat, “formerly of rural Roberts, Wisconsin”: “Springtime and vaccines are here, lifting our spirits.

“So many of us ‘seniors’ have struggled with isolation during the long lockdown. My little sister, Nancy (who is only 86), and I have fared pretty well. Not only do we have each other, but we also share our home with two more residents.

“One of these is my sister’s Australian Blue Healer, Maggie; the other is my princely cat, Mr. W.

“Maggie loves her role as greeter to her resident neighbors. As she and Nancy take their walks, many voices exclaim: ‘Oh, what a beautiful dog! What is her name?’ Then: ‘Is it all right if I pet her?’ Sometimes this interaction elicits a story about a person’s beloved pet from long ago.

“Maggie has learned that many people using walkers carry doggie treats in them, and that if she just looks imploringly at the person, lo and behold out comes a treat.

“Mr. W does not go out walking, and he does not greet anyone. In fact, if anyone comes to the door, he disappears into a closet or under the bed. When all is clear, he comes back out and takes charge of things. If he is hungry, he goes to the kitchen and stands, pointing to the box of canned cat food. If he needs brushing, he goes to the brush, then stares at his Auntie, the brusher-in-chief.

“Both four-legged friends like to watch the evening news with us, Mr. W on the reclining chair and Maggie on the floor facing the TV. Sometimes the two of them will lie down, four white paws facing each other. There is no growling or hissing, just silent staring. I know they speak very different languages, but I wonder if some kind of telepathy is going on. Who knows?

“What I do know is that these companions, plus the feathered visitors at our bird feeders and the 10 green plants on the sun porch, have kept us smiling.”

Our times
Pandemic Division

The Astronomer of Nininger: “Subject: The New Normal?

“It has been a little over a year now that the COVID-19 virus has been here, affecting millions of people. We’ve masked our faces, locked down our businesses and even closed our schools. For some it has been a mere annoyance, while being very serious, even fatal, for others. We have all welcomed a ‘return to normal,’ whatever that might look like.

“For the past year, I have not been able to serve alcoholic drinks at a nearby assisted-living facility where I had been volunteering before. Once a week, I came in and would push a well-stocked bar cart around the River Room, where we met for Happy Hour. The purpose of the Happy Hour was not just to provide residents with intoxicating beverages (they are limited to one beverage); the social nature of the event has always been the central focus. For the past year, residents at many senior facilities have had stringent regulations restricting their freedoms. These limitations were meant to protect people from the virus. That was understandable. But people have been wanting this pandemic to be over.

“I don’t think we can say it is over, but residents of the long-term-care facilities have gotten their vaccines and the scenery is changing. No, it’s not 100 percent back to normal, but now the assisted-living facility where I serve at Happy Hour has reopened its policy to allow volunteers to come in and interact with the residents. I’m back! That does us all a world of good.

“I get to mix drinks and talk with the residents. That’s the key word: talk with the residents. JD and I kidded about JD’s ‘usual’ drink, a vodka and tonic water with lime. But she bought limes and tonic water for anyone who wants it. Folks do share, because in a living facility like this, your entire life is shared. I talked with O, a centenarian who, while growing up in Chicago, left high school to join the Navy and fight in World War II. He spent the war out in the Pacific, and knowing people like him, you come to understand that wars are fought by young men. And those teenagers who fought so this country could continue to be the ‘land of the free and the home of the brave’ are all around us. S loved a beer. He was a pilot, and both of us were members of an aviators organization that celebrates flight and life. JO likes to play bridge and is partial to a Brandy and Seven. And there are so many others: farmers, priests, teachers and business people. Father L likes Scotch and soda, while his brother enjoys an O’doul’s. Nobody drinks much. They can’t, but the drink is a means to an end, to be together. By talking with these folks, you can see a microcosm of the community. They built it, and their kids and grandkids are still here.

“Hopefully the new normal will allow people to stay together. It is our nature, and it helps us thrive. Not only do I learn and more fully appreciate the human condition every time that I serve there, I hope that the residents appreciate interacting with me, an outsider, and that they take something to heart from being together. I saw the excitement in their eyes and in their voices when I came in Friday — not for me, but for a sign that maybe we are, indeed, one step closer to the new normal. And when we get there, maybe we will understand ourselves a little better.”

Life as we know it
Pandemic Division

Kathy S. of St. Paul: “Subject: Friendship bowl.

“While visiting New Mexico, I fell in love with Storyteller pottery, invented by a potter in the Southwest. They tend to be seated clay adult figures with their mouths open, covered with children — as I sometimes want to be.

“Cruising the Internet today, I found a ‘friendship bowl’ in the Indian Pueblo Store in New Mexico. It is a bowl with open-mouthed figures hanging over the edge from four sides. It reminds me of recent efforts people have taken to socialize while staying at a safe distance.

“Soon my second vaccination should be ‘done,’ and I can roam in public. It feels strange. As we get busy again, I hope we never forget how much we need each other.”

Life imitates art

Donald: “Subject: Is that Popeye I hear?

“A reporter for a TV network was asking people why they’ve declined to get vaccinated. This was one man’s response: ‘I am what I am.’”

That was then . . .

John in Highland: “Subject: Who Was That Old Man at the Back Door?

“Growing up on Ashland Avenue in the 1950s, I remember the door-to-door salesmen who would come to our front door. My mother would buy things from the ‘Watkins man’ and the ‘Fuller Brush man,’ although she said they had such good products that their wares would last, and she would often tell them that she didn’t need anything.

“The denizens of our alley between Ashland and Portland were a different case, however. Mr. McCarthy, who lived down the block, was the only person who still had an ice box. The ‘ice man’ had an old horse-drawn wagon, and we kids would follow along behind and pick up the chunks of ice that would fall off when he grabbed a block with his large tongs.

“One day, a disheveled older man with a cart came to the back door and asked Mom if she had any old clothes that she was going to throw away. She said no, but would save any old clothes for the next time he came by. After he left, I asked her who the man was. She said that he was ‘just an old “rag man.”‘”

The little treasures

Elvis: “Here’s one of Elvis‘s Great-great-uncle Bud on stilts. No idea about when, but probably this dapper gentleman is near the family home in Pennsylvania.

“He was one of 11 kids of a German immigrant couple who came to the U.S. and started farming. Bud went on to open an antique store in Williamsport, Pa., which also sold musical instruments. His violin is still in the family.

Elvis‘s maternal Grandfather Harold, one of the younger kids, left home with another brother and rode the rails for a while as hobos. Eventually they landed in Ohio, got jobs and learned machining.”

The little treasures (responsorial)

The Gram With a Thousand Rules: “I enjoyed seeing the photo of the Shirley Temple look-alike in ‘The little treasures (Volume 30).’ It brought me right back to a seat in the Orpheum Theatre in 1937.

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“My sister Ruth (whom I have written about before; the celebrity in our family) was one of the 15 winners out of nearly 4,000 entrants to earn a screen test in an MGM contest held at the Orpheum Theatre in Minneapolis. The night the theater presented the viewing of the winning screen tests, I was sitting between my mom and dad, and Ruth was next to my proud Dad. I was 5 and totally unimpressed with my sister, but thrilled that my seat was directly behind a little girl who looked a lot like Shirley Temple. When the little girl’s screen test came on the screen, she scooted low in her seat and said: ‘This is so embarrassing.’ To my amazement, Ruth leaned across my dad and tapped her on the shoulder and said sympathetically: ‘You and me, kid.’ Wow! Ruth actually had the nerve to speak to the girl who looked like Shirley Temple. Now that was impressive.”

Till death us do part (responsorial)

Beanie’s Mom: “As per Dennis from Eagan‘s request, I am submitting an April Fools’ Day story.

“As a former fan of April Fools’ jokes, I always tried to ‘fool’ my deceased husband, much to the delight of our daughters. Several times, I would put plastic, real-looking bugs in his dinner, buried under mashed potatoes, etc. Don’t worry; I made sure he did not ingest them by mistake!

“I realized that I needed some new ideas, so one April Fools’ eve, I got up in the middle of the night and sewed his underwear flap shut. I made sure said underwear was right on top of the pile in the drawer. The next day, after he had gone to work, I checked to see that he had donned the correct pair. Sure enough, he had! I waited patiently all day for the phone call from work, but no dice. When he got home, I asked him if anything unusual had occurred. He thought for a moment and said: ‘I wondered what the heck was wrong with my undies!’

“Hilarity ensued from myself and our daughters. Not so much from my poor hubby.”

A Happy Grandpa: “I totally forgot it was April 1st on this day. My children were in grade school at the time. I came home from work, in a hurry to bring the children to a school event which included supper. (My wife was helping out at school.) ‘Hurry up,’ I told them. My young daughter looked at me with those large sad eyes. She said: ‘But Daddy, we knew you’d be hungry, so we fixed you a sandwich. We had a snack before you came home.’ Not wanting to hurt their precious feelings, I said: ‘OK. but we have to hurry. Mommy is waiting for us.’ I felt really proud of them, thinking of their father. My daughter gave me a sandwich, which I grabbed on the way out. ‘Aren’t you going to eat our sandwich?’ she pleaded. OK, I grabbed a mouthful of sandwich. A red-pepper sandwich. My mouth immediately went on fire. My daughter had a glass of water ready, which I happily gulped. I ran outside and spit out the salt water outside.

“I looked at my children and sternly told them to come over here. They both looked terrified, but complied. I then hugged them both and told them: ‘I taught you well.'”

This ’n’ that
Al B and His Birds Division

Al B of Hartland: (1) “I was under a flock of countless starlings one day. It was a murmuration. They zoomed over me, and I heard this incredible whoosh that was both thrilling and mesmerizing. It caused the hair on my arms to stand. It was a splendid gift.”

(2) “I saw a small flock of ring-billed gulls in a parking lot. They’re called seagulls, but that name is colloquial and not scientific. They could be more rightly called parking-lot gulls, landfill gulls or French-fry gulls. This gathering of gulls enjoyed fries.

“A flock of birds is one enormous eye. And it looks in all directions.”

Our theater of seasons

Doris G. of Randolph, Minnesota: “The wood ducks like the new buds on our maple tree. Its hard to get any pictures after the trees leaf out more.”

And now Mounds View Swede: “Subject: Five maple bud progression photos.

“Like previous springs, I have been drawn to my front-yard maple tree as spring things start to happen on its branches.

“After a long winter, it is always a relief to see spring things happening again. The first photo was taken March 26.

“By April 4th, those buds were producing seedy things. I don’t know if bees feed on these, also. It may be too cool for them at this point.

“By April 7th, they were looking pretty spent already.

“Another April 7th view.

“And by April 9th, they were much shaggier.

“If it stops raining sometime, I’ll get a chance to see what’s next — if they are not covered in snow!”

The highfalutin annoyances
Including: CAUTION! Words at Play!

Helena Handbasket: “Subject: It’s always something.

“Sadly, our cable-TV service provider ceased operation. We liked it a great deal: very few outages, excellent guide and DVR offerings, good remote controls — and I finally learned the numbers of my favorite channels. So, of course, it had to go — related to the theory that the more you like a TV program, the more likely it is to be canceled.

“There are some pros and cons (more cons) with the new service, but learning the new channel numbers and which buttons to push (and not to push) is top of the list. Mr. Handbasket declares he now understands why Remote Learning has such a negative connotation these days.”

CAUTION! Words at Play!
Headline Division

The Retired Pedagogue of Arden Hills: “Subject: Sometimes they just seem to write themselves.

“After Hideki Matsuyama became the first Japanese to win the Masters, both Twin Cities dailies carried similar headlines on the front pages of their Sports sections:

“Pioneer Press (large type — all caps): ‘RISING SON’

Minneapolis paper (smaller type — only first word capitalized): ‘Japan’s rising son’

“I wonder how many other papers featured headlines with similar wording.”

Everyone’s a copy editor!

Jeanne the St. Paul B. Board fan: “Subject: Mind the gap.

“I’ve occasionally seen badly hyphenated words in the newspapers. I’m
guessing that less proofing is done these days.

“Some of us are still keeping an eagle eye on what we read. Today’s St. Paul Pioneer Press has an exceptional example of how NOT to break a word.

“The first-page article about COVID vaccine doses at Walgreens was continued on Page 10. The second paragraph on page 10 mentioned that the CDC recommends time between the first and second doses. That line reads: ‘. . . recommends a three-week ga’ — and the rest of the word, yes, just a ‘p,’ was on the next line. The article continued as though everything were normal and fine.

“In the grand scheme of things, this is not of huge importance. Sometimes it’s good to focus on something that’s not deadly serious or epic. It made me cringe AND laugh! Is there a word for that?

“I had to share this with folks who would also appreciate it.

“Take care, everyone.”

Our community of strangers

Dianne Wood: “I used to live in Minnesota (in Afton, Lakeland, and St. Paul) and read the Pioneer Press and the Bulletin Board religiously. Then I moved to Oregon for 20 years; no Bulletin Board.

“I still have entries from 1990s Bulletin Boards under the glass top of my desk. Classics should be kept forever!

“When I moved back to the area, but too far from St. Paul for paper delivery, I subscribed to the Pioneer Press online. The first thing I did was look for the Bulletin Board, and it wasn’t there! Because we were going back and forth across the country and I wasn’t looking every day, I was not sure if the Bulletin Board had been discontinued, was not on the digital version, or I just didn’t find it.

“Today I found it in the April 11 Sunday edition online. I am ecstatic!

“I have spent the last 20 years noticing malapropisms, spotting advertising that is using the same photo as other ads, reading a great first paragraph, reflecting on unusual animal behavior, recognizing a cute-uplifting-poignant story, and wondering if anyone else saw it. Now I can see what like-minded people will comment about.

“Thank you.”


The sign on the road to the cemetery said “Dead End”
Electronic Board of the Church on Lexington in Shoreview Division

Our Official Electronic Board of the Church on Lexington in Shoreview Monitor — Red’s Offspring, north of St. Paul — reports: “Subject: Words to live by.

“The most recent message on the electronic board of the church on Lexington in Shoreview reads:

“‘Be Yourself . . .

“‘Everyone else is taken!’”

Band Name of the Day: The Fuller Brush Men

Website of the Day, recommended by Kathy S. of St. Paul: “Subject: Flash mob of Rembrandt.

“This is my favorite flash mob, based on Rembrandt’s The Night Watch:

“There is also a video of the making of it:

“It reminds me of days without masks.”

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