on baseball

A bit of a detour here today, and I apologize to the non-Americans reading. It’s about baseball. I’m of a mixed mind about baseball. I grew up as a fanatical sports fan, mostly baseball and basketball, south of Boston, early-to-mid-1960s. That meant that the Red Sox lost every year, and the Celtics won every year. Made things comfortable, you knew what to expect. 1967 the Red Sox went to the World Series, and everyone’s expectations changed forever – (but they lost, in 7 games). 1969 Russell retired, and the Celtics changed for a while too.

I drifted in and out of the sports-fan sphere for many years, mostly out. Too busy being a 1970s teenager/art student. Then I got swept up in the Larry Bird era for the Celtics, and I watched that endlessly. I also jumped on the wagon when the Red Sox lost to the Mets in 1986.

Then off again. I got too involved, I used to yell at the television, like any red-blooded lunatic American sports fan. Finally I dumped it all, figuring why spend all that time, energy and emotion watching millionaires play games? Being a spectator is fine now & then, but to dedicate so much time to it, well…there’s only so many hours in a day and I had stuff to do.

Then – 2004. I had to watch the Red Sox in the World Series that year. I just kept thinking – “what if they win, and I lived through it & didn’t see it?” So I called up the cable TV people and had them hook me up for a week or so. They were astounded when I called the day after the Series was over to tell them to disconnect me. They said “But you’re all paid for the month…” I said “pull the plug.”

I never cared about baseball again. A few years later, the Red Sox won a 2nd world series, and I didn’t read a thing about it, nor did I see any of it. I liked it better when they’d almost win, then find another astonishing way to lose. After Larry Bird retired, I never watched a basketball game again. Now I have a philosophical opposition to watching sports, all that sitting and watching other people live/work/play – seems to me my time would be better spent doing something myself.

So why am I writing on this woodworking blog about baseball and sports? Because this spring and summer, I have been spending a lot of time answering questions from my kids, mostly Daniel, about baseball. Lots of questions. And it is bringing up many issues in my head. My father was a huge baseball fan, one of my prized possessions is his baseball glove from when he was a kid in Boston, c. 1920s/30s.

Moe's glove
Moe’s glove

For many Americans, baseball has a magical, timeless appeal and it’s easy to get absorbed in it with a kid. There’s so many stories and personalities tied to baseball, and the drama, pathos and even humor. Even our language is filled with baseball phrases. Sunday we’re headed to Pawtucket Rhode Island to see the PawSox play. Unless it rains, in which case, we’ll get a “raincheck” and we’ll teach the kids what that phrase means.

We don’t have television in the house, and I don’t let the kids read the newspapers. I used to absorb the sports pages, and magazines about sports. Now with drug and sex scandals, murder investigations and other such stuff leaking all over the sports pages, I figure no 7-yr old needs that.

So they’ve been reading some library books about baseball, and one player they learned about was Jackie Robinson. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jackie_Robinson Before my time for sure, but I knew who he was from my father.

Here’s a drawing Rose did of Robinson for her brother

42
Rose’s drawing of Jackie Robinson

And of course, Babe Ruth, which brings you into the record books. Daniel had lots of questions about Ruth’s home run records, then we got to Henry Aaron (more heroism in the face of racism) and eventually to modern-day cheating dopers.

Here’s Daniel’s drawing of the Bambino pitching for the Red Sox, thus pre-1919.

Daniel's drawing of Babe Ruth
Daniel’s drawing of Babe Ruth

I like it best when we go out and hit a few, and play catch. My arm is sore from hewing and planing for the last 35 years, but I can manage enough…for now. When he gets bigger, and throws & hits harder – we’ll see.

daniel infield

But there’s lots of baseball lore stored away in my grey matter, and it’s being stirred a bit. There is this great romantic pull, of being a link between Moe’s early-20th century baseball enthusiasm and now Daniel’s early 21st-century bout with the game. Of course, I’m an old fart, so to me, it’s not like it used to be…but to Daniel, it’s thrilling. He & I watched a local collegiate league game the other day, and all the fly balls were hit right at people. I told him the trick is like what Wee Willie Keeler said –  “Hit ‘em where they ain’t”

Willie Keeler Baseball Card.jpg
Wee Willie Keeler

Addendum:

 

The glove is not as old as I thought. It is marked on the edge of the thumb “licensed under pat. no. 2231204”. So i looked that up, and here is the story http://www.google.com/patents/US2231204?printsec=description#v=onepage&q&f=false

Filed 1939, issued in 1941. Let’s see, my father was 17 or 18 years old by then. Next, I have to look through the photos to see if I have him wth the glove on…

 

patent for Moe's glove
patent for Moe’s glove

24 thoughts on “on baseball

  1. Really enjoyed this, Peter. Please tell Rose and Daniel that their art is wonderful. It’s so damned fun helping the little ones learn the game but don’t forget to start with short toss before long toss, old man. When you gonna turn Daniel a bat on your spring pole lathe?

  2. Peter
    The Durham Bulls are in town while you are in NC at the Woodwright School. You are welcome to come to a game with me.

  3. Outstanding. Let us know when he is playing. In the meantime I will send him an autographed pic of Joltin Joe. Take two and hit to right.

  4. Peter

    Sorry but some things just are and that is that.The game and Daniel’s spirits are leading you forward. Bird tried to leave and worked as a garbage man. But he went back again. They asked him wouldn’t he be sad if he hadn’t returned to the game. No, he replied, I would have been the best Superintendant of Sanitation that French Lick ever had. Remember your Mom was a fan too. Roger Clemmons nearly broke her heart but she was still in the game.

    Jennie

  5. Nice post and good comments here but am I the only one who sees this? The Red Sox win world series first time in 80 plus years and it is the same week Peter Follansbee has cable TV in his house!

  6. Thank you. Reminds me of my dad and I watching a game and having him and my grandpa tell us stories of the S.F. Giants. Great art!!

  7. Peter, wonderful post and artwork. It reminded me of my thrill as a child watching and following baseball, (who didn’t love Johnny Bench?) loosing interest and then being brought back by my son. It’s been great fun watching him play and become an all-star little leaguer, going to sox games, seeing Wake get his 200th win at Fenway and then see my son catch a fly ball last year at a game while eating an italian ice. All wonderful memories I’ll always cherish. So just enjoy! PS, could you get your cable connected again this October if they go to the Series? The Sox need all the help they can get!

  8. Good post, no need to apologize to us foreigners, we just insert some other sport in the place of baseball…I am a huge non-fan of basically all sports for the same reasons you mentioned, but whith kids it is fun to share their excitement!

  9. How timely … Michael and Jonah got back last night from an overnight to Cooperstown, for the Baseball Hall of Fame. (they saw the Farmers’ Museum, too. And something about petrified bones? I don’t know.) One of M’s favorite grad school professors wrote “The Faith of 50 Million” about baseball. And life. Love the art, love the stories.

  10. Enjoyed the post Peter, and loved to see the kids’ artwork. When I was a little kid, I was singing “We are Family” and Willie Stargell was my hero. Over the last couple decades, the Pirates have made it easy to let it go, but then I looked at the newspaper today….

  11. Curtis Buchanan wrote to me last night…here’s part of it:

    “I saw the post about baseball and clicked on it. …My dad who is 90, will say to me, Curt did you watch the game last night? now I haven’t watched TV in 43 years but I say no what happened. And he says, well the Braves have this young left hander that they brought up last month……….and after 20 minutes of play by play of the 9th inning he finishes. So you see, growing up in my house baseball was important, we lived it, breathed it. So now 50 years later, with dad 90 and me 60 it is still about a father and his son.”

  12. Having been bounced off the sofa from many of those “screams” during the Celtics days I can attest to your rabid sports enthusiasm. It melts me to pieces to see Daniel in that crouch and the kids drawings are wicked cool. I’d love to paint that glove someday. Play Ball my friend !!!

  13. A memorable quote: “why spend all that time, energy and emotion watching millionaires play games?” Thanks for the laugh, Peter. That’s was a good one. As an INTJ, I feel the same way about sports.

  14. Thanks peter. You *almost* got me to understand the appeal of baseball. But it’s boring. It’s boring to watch, it’s even boring to play. At any given moment only two people are doing anything. I agree I’d rather be doing something than sitting watching someone do something.

    Thank you for your superb blog.

    Eric Erb

    eric.erb@bioclinica.com

    mobile: 240-328-3373

  15. Peter:

    Hard to say whether I more enjoyed what you said this morning about your Mom and Dad (and the Red Sox) or what you wrote in this wonderful blog (going in some of the same directions from where we were this morning, AND going in some very different ones!).

    I worry that the time we spend in front of screens (TV and computer/smart-phone) is slowly increasing, while the time we spend talking to each other and doing “together” things like singing and dancing and sharing food and playing games is shrinking.

    On the other hand, if I hadn’t read your blog, I wouldn’t have remembered how good you are with words as well as wood. And I wouldn’t have learned how well YOUR children are growing up without a TV or too much modern media. Great to know that Rose is such an eager writer (like some of us) and that Daniel looks so ready to “play ball,” and that both of them can imagine old sports stars (like Jackie and the Bambino) and capture something of their colorful energy on paper. (Energy is color. Color is energy.)

    Furthermore, without your blog–and without reading on my side of the screen what you and a few dozen others wrote of the other side of it–I wouldn’t have gotten a little nudge from some of your friends (several of whom are also my friends) that might help some of us find time/make time for some of those “together” things.

    So thanks for the talk this morning AND thanks for the blog this evening (reading it while I follow John Lester and his millionaire teammates who have just slipped behind the millionaire Diamondbacks 6 to 7 in the 7th). Though the talk seems somehow a little preferable, and the screen seems somehow muddled with millionaires and what the Puritans called “slippery slopes.”

    I look forward to the next one . . . whichever (blog or talk), whatever (wood, baseball, parents & children, millionaires, reading/writing), wherever, whenever.

    j

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