Archive for the ‘baseball’ Category

Take me out to the… prom?

April 13, 2013

Walked past Vandy’s Hawkins Field yesterday and noticed that they’d be hosting my undergrad alma mater Mizzou this weekend. Didn’t make it out last night, Older Daughter’s softball doubleheader in Columbia (on the other side of a soul-destroying traffic jam on I-65) had us out too late.  Arrived at last, as the sun lowered over Zion’s bucolic country ballpark carved out of the cornfields as in Field of Dreams. We weren’t in time for her near-homer in the first game (reported by Uncle D.) but did get to enjoy her pair of  crushed line drives & ribbies in the second.

She’s too hard on herself, though, later recapping the action by recalling instead a pair of inconsequential Ks against a tough pitcher. We must all continually learn and recall the lessons of positive psychology, and as parents (& teachers) we must continually teach them. We write our own narratives, let’s not bury the happy leads.

So, Commies & Tigers this afternoon maybe? But I’m told the senior prom, which in my day involved parents only minimally and grudgingly, would likely monopolize our afternoon and early evening. Have to see the kids, all gussied up in their formal-wear, get formally “presented.”

Oh well. Wasn’t really sure who I was going to root for at The Hawk anyway. I know who I’m rooting for at the prom.

Glory days

April 6, 2013

The baseball conference was great fun, as always. Older Daughter was free to join me this time, and she brought along the faded Yankees cap signed a few years ago by the late Tom Tresh, whose teammate Jim Bouton regaled us at lunch with stories of the glory days.


Stories like the one about a badly hung-over Mickey Mantle stumbling to the plate to blast a tremendous pinch-hit homer, to the awed delight of a stadium crowd just misinformed he was out of the lineup that day with a euphemistic “strained rib muscle.” Seattle expansion manager Joe Schultz mauling “Dostoevsky” and verbally abusing the shaved-headed ballplayer (“Tennis-ball head”) reading The Possessed in the clubhouse. Alabamian Fred Talbot and another teammate from Virginia arguing about which part of the south was dumber.

Bouton added his signature to our cap. Nice keepsake, nice stories. But how sad, for a guy with such ability and intelligence to have come along just a few years too soon. He was a 20-game winner and a World Series hero, and yet his highest salary in the big leagues, he told us, had been just $19.5K. Players of his era, pre-Curt Flood, were chattel. The owners treated them despicably. They’re still hustling for a living, these old athletes, even the few like Bouton who’ve penned bestsellers.

We’re probably going to run out of celebrity guests willing to travel to Murfreesboro TN for our baseball conference because they need the honorarium, one of these years. On the other hand, we’ll probably never run out of old guys eager to reminisce about the bad good old days… on either side of the lectern.

Execrable, inexorable, indefeasible rules

April 5, 2013

Presented at the 18th Annual Baseball in Literature and Culture Conference, Middle Tennessee State University, Murfreesboro TN-

[Postscript: the errors on slides 15, 26 & 27? Purely illustrative. Meant to do that. Sure I did.]

Opening Day!

April 1, 2013

So to answer my own question, if the days are gods then what is Opening Day? Nothing less than the perennial first day of creation, the primordial dawn we’ve been waiting for. It happens every Spring.

Every year at about this time, we baseball fans are united in that familiar fleeting feeling of giddy irrational exuberance. Our team is still in first. It won’t last, for most of us. We’ll get fooled again, and we’ll turn around and do it next year too. But that seasonal feeling of renewed great expectations is, as the commercial says, priceless.

CBS ran an Emersonian little feature yesterday on baseball as a road to god, prominently highlighting the “miracle” comebacks my team pulled off in the postseason year before last. Well, I’ve not trodden that path myself (I’m a Humean on miracles) but those were some pretty special days. Especially godly days.

And this ought to be a national holiday but it’s not, so it’s back to cases in Bioethics. 

We may want to linger over some of the cases we didn’t get to last time, thanks to the captivating report dialogue on the moral standing of hypothetically-sentient AIs. Brian Goldman’s very affecting TEDx talk on the fallibility of physicians and our need to create a culture in which they will feel free to admit they’re human, will never “bat 1.000” and will make mistakes is worth pondering. Why the myth of medical superheroes? It’s stupid and it costs lives.

Leading off today, it’s WebMD,, et al. [Koop’s obit,] “A little [web] information is a dangerous thing,” especially when it’s embedded in pay-per-click Big Pharma-sponsored ads and when it emboldens spottily-informed know-it-all consumers to shop for bargains abroad. It’s not easy in that venue to tell the difference between endorsements, ads, and “sponsored articles.” The decline of journalistic ethics  here takes a biomedical toll.

Then, organ donation. What’s wrong with soliciting needed vitals via social media? Tweet for a lung, link-in for a liver…

“Reality TV” has actually turned sufferers’ medical desperation into prime time entertainment with Miracle Workers and the like.  I don’t watch those shows and had no idea there were people competing for ratings for their lives. Nor had I considered the damage a show like House could do, glamorizing expensive tests and cases while dissing the most important (but least telegenic) day-to-day work of health care providers. Not to mention peddling “phony” hope for ordinary medical consumers. (“Don’t all docs do that?”)

Redefining retirement sounds good to me, I’m no good at shuffleboard and there are still collegians to fund in my family. But McGee’s right, for those ready to rock back retirement should be “a special time” to give back some “wisdom, experience, and accumulated skills.” We’re just not geared that way yet, nor do we appear about to be. Anyway, many of us aging Americans need to stay in the workforce as much as it needs us, to continue paying for schools and hospitals and urban upkeep. So, a solid ethical conclusion: retirement is wrong. (I presume no one will argue that it’s wrong to provide biotechnological “treatments for just about everything that kills us.” Well, Bill McKibben maybe?  “Enough!” But that’s still the patient’s call.)

“Dying Well” is a standard topic in bioethics, and I’m glad Glenn’s backed away from his earlier criticism of “advance directives” and “living wills.” I do love that he’s worked Woody Allen’s Sleeper into the discussion…

…not to mention Timothy Leary, Darth Vader, and George Jetson.

And Alistair Cooke, being attacked not by a duck [at 2’01”] but by bone-thieves.

And that traveling museum exhibit of interestingly-arranged naked corpses, that I saw in St. Louis (trying to recall its name… Body Worlds)… surely that can’t be ethically blameless? [A Bioethicist takes a peek]

And I guess a Bioethics class has to talk about Terri Schiavo sooner or later, just as we had to talk abortion the other day. Alright, let’s get it over with.

Affecting the quality of the day

March 30, 2013

Well that was interesting: logged on as usual but, for the first time in 1K+ dawns, was met by an ominous “Oops” from wordpress. “Small system error” etc. (??!!)

Small death, more like. (Just watched Princess Bride the other night with Older Daughter, Mandy Patinkin’s “prepare to die” still echoing with fresh awful resonance.) The set and comforting habit of a thousand dawns does not die quietly. I’ve heard tales of blogs mysteriously disappearing into the void, never to be recovered.

But not today, thank goodness. “Refresh” worked. (Hope I’ve been doing the “export” backup correctly.)

So what I was just about to say, before the “system” so rudely interrupted…

If the days are gods, Emerson must’ve known, they’re not clones of the Judeo-Christian god: they’re not officially “all good.” A case could be made, though, for the worst of them fitting Dawkins’  description.

The God of the Old Testament is arguably the most unpleasant character in all fiction: jealous and proud of it; a petty, unjust, unforgiving control-freak; a vindictive, bloodthirsty ethnic cleanser; a misogynistic, homophobic, racist, infanticidal, genocidal, filicidal, pestilential, megalomaniacal, sadomasochistic, capriciously malevolent bully.

(What a confrontation he and He might have at the Pearly Gates, as cleverly imagined here.)

No, the day-gods are Greek and Roman: powerful, unpredictable, delightful, terrible, capricious, reassuring, painful, pleasant, emotional, disconnected, willful, forgiving, mean, generous, dreary, sunny, short, long, busy, boring, creative, sluggish.

And at daybreak, whenever we rise to meet them, they’re still always full of challenge and possibility. And for us too, most important of all, they’re mortal. Hence the deep wisdom of Henry’s  observation: “To affect the quality of the day, that is the highest of arts.”

Affecting the quality of the day is how we mortals pursue happiness, or don’t. The quality of my day was elevated yesterday by a few things, lunch with Older Daughter at Woodlands not least. Then the pleasure of assembling a flyer for PHIL 3160, The Philosophy of Happiness, for which students at my school will soon be registering in droves. Then Jon Miller and the Giants on the MLB channel from SF, stoking my eager anticipation of another season in the sun.

If the days are gods, what does that make Opening Day?


March 2, 2013

Snow! It doesn’t take much to impress a middle Tennessean, even a transplanted midwesterner who always makes fun of the natives who freak out  and line up for grocery staples, cancel school and skip appointments and scotch travel plans etc. The light dusting we woke to this morning has turned drab late winter pretty, briefly, transforming roofs and limbs and moods. It’ll probably be gone by noon.

What kinda “gone” we talkin’ about? asks one of the songs Younger Daughter’s been inflicting, on the first leg of our daily commute. It’s a good question. Gone from the ground isn’t gone from memory and anticipation. Let it melt, we can begin looking forward to its next rare appearance all the sooner.

I’ve still been studying Lincoln, in anticipation of the American Philosophy conference soon to come. “Now he belongs to the ages,” famously proclaimed his War Secretary. That’s another kind of gone, lamentable but also more comforting than oblivion.

I’ve also been encouraged by my spouse to think about the possibility of our being gone for good from our family homestead of nearly seventeen years, in part because Older Daughter’s about to be gone (to college) and because other changes may also be in store. I admit I do like the place out near Temple Road she found yesterday. But the thought of being permanently gone from my beloved little cave out back, glistening this morning under a fresh coat of white, makes me sad. This particular residence would come with a bigger and better detached retreat-house than mine, but…

“Detached” is a clue to the quality of this kind of regret. We become attached to our places, to our particular plots of earth. It’s hard to think of going, let alone packing and moving.

So I won’t, this morning. Spring Training’s in full sway now. There’s another kind of gone my inner child loves without qualification or regret, the kind that always ends in coming home. “It’s a goner!

Don’t get any ideas

October 29, 2012

The calendar says it’s still October, but the Series ended last night as the big storm gathers and the grading-pile calls.  It’s winter.

Time again to recall the wisdom of Thoreau (“live in each season as it passes”) and Santayana:

To be interested in the changing seasons is, in this middling zone, a happier state of mind than to be hopelessly in love with spring.

Anyway, tensed time is supposed to be an illusion, right? We deceive ourselves in thinking that spring is far in the past or future. Be here now.

I notice, btw, that the estate of William Faulkner is suing Woody Allen for using that line about the past not even being past in “Midnight in Paris.” Come after me too, rebs, I dare ya. It’ll liven my winter.

One of my other favorite lines from that film: “He walks. He gets ideas.”

But I’m stalling. Grade, grade, grade.

Infallible like the Pope

October 6, 2012

You cannot call that an infield fly!” But the umpire can. Blown calls are part of the game, and part of life.

Would I be so “philosophical” if the call had gone against my team? Of course not.

“You can’t do that!” But the umpire can. He’s “infallible.” Like the Pope.

And as Dan Dennett has written, having a team can be meaningful and gratifying (or galling, Braves fans?) if you don’t forget it’s only a game.

I am a Red Sox fan, simply because I grew up in the Boston area and have happy memories of Ted Williams, Jimmy Piersall, Carl Yastrzemski, Pudge Fisk, and Wade Boggs, among others. My allegiance to the Red Sox is enthusiastic, but cheerfully arbitrary and undeluded. The Red Sox aren’t my team because they are, in fact, the Best; they are the Best (in my eyes) because they are my team.

Same here. I grew up in the St. Louis area and have happy memories of Lou Brock, Curt Flood, Bob Gibson, Tim McCarver, and Mike Shannon, among others. The Cards went all the way last year as a wildcard, if they do it again it’ll be even wilder. 12 in ’12! So, would they then be the “best”? Yes. Just not on paper.

That says something about paper, just as blown calls show something about Popes, imperfection, and human fallibility. You don’t have to be the absolute best to play the game, or to win.

What really matters about the game, as Mr. Rice said, is how you play it. And just for the record: with or without that blown call, Atlanta did not play it well last night.

Summer spirit

July 30, 2012

Lovely cool morning, birds in full voice, air crisp and sweet, 60s heading for the high 90s again. Up early enough to cheat the heat, if not quite yet to re-establish a reliable routine for the schoolyear soon to begin. What ever happened to Labor Day, academic calendar-makers?! But that’s not what I want to think about today.

Awoke to the fine (and free!) Librivox version of John Muir’s My First Summer in the SierraHe goes on too much, to my taste, about God’s glorious creation: Heseems to be always doing his best here, working like a man in a glow of enthusiasm.” (More MuirBut fine dawns like this one do awaken the spirit, even in a heathen like me. And a glow of enthusiasm is exactly what I need. My landlord Dr. Curtis might be an inspiration here. Again, he was called to Dayton to testify on science’s and John Scopes’s behalf.

The defense believed he would make a good witness because he tended to emphasize the spiritual rather than the material influences of science.

Well, now that I’m up I must turn attention to the assignment I’ve put off long enough: rank a batch of new baseball poems. Don’t know much about poetry, but I know what I like: the spirit of summer, what William Carlos Williams called a delightful “spirit of uselessness.” That’s what I’m looking for, what I’ll be trying to hang onto: a particular species of spirit, not separate from but actually implicit in the material of existence.

And that’s what August is about to try to steal!

Getting a grip, adjusting stance

June 16, 2012

Speaking of making words sing, Mark at Baseball Bard sent along a pleasing poem for Father’s Day. “Better air in our lungs,” indeed!

Baseball as metaphor for life is cliche, but find a better one. Paternally considered, it’s hugely gratifying when your home-team’s players develop skills exceeding your own. Not just talkin’ baseball here. How’s writing camp going over there in Memphis, Older Daughter?