Sunday, May 6, 2012

The Game as a Diversion

The APBA  baseball game dice came out quicker than usual when I got home each night last week. They rolled with more of a fervor and the importance of the results of those rolls were heightened.

But it provided a focal point away from what I saw that week and it returned me to an innocence I have long lost.

I am a reporter for a daily newspaper in Arkansas and I’ve been covering a capital murder retrial in the northeast part of the state. I know the details of this case well. And they are horrific details.

A family of four was killed in 1998 in what prosecutors said was retaliation for the theft of the defendant’s drugs. The killings were brutal. The father was shot. He had it easy. A knife and both ends of a tire tool were used on the others. Two children died.

This is the second time the defendant is being tried. He was convicted in 2004, but the state Supreme Court overturned that conviction and ordered a new trial.

It was a senseless crime and, while the brutality and the photographs displayed in court were rough, the simple disregard for life was even more acute.

It bothered me. I’ve been in news for 30 years and have become, for the most part, immune to the depravity of life. I’ve seen what happens when humanity breaks down and after much exposure it, I’m generally unmoved.

But this was bad. This, and the 1998 school shootings at Westside Middle School, will haunt me.

So, when I came home each night from covering the trial and filing the stories, the APBA baseball replay of 1981 took more of an importance than usual.

I replayed the June 3, 1981, game of California and Toronto on Thursday — a game that, while perhaps entertaining, wouldn’t usually keep me up late at night to see what happens. Like I said before, it wouldn’t be the NBC Game of the Week.

But last week, that game and others became the focal point of the evening and it provided an escape. The APBA game may seem like a child’s game and a quick diversion, but there’s much more to it. Minnesota played Texas, Boston faced Cleveland, the Cubs battled Pittsburgh. And I went away. Back to 1981, back to a time when I had yet to find my way into news and back to a time when I didn’t really know what humans were capable of and what the embodiment of evil really was.

The trial resumes again this week. On Monday, I’ll return to the court to listen to the defendant’s attorneys outline why he didn’t commit the crimes. When it’s over, I’ll interview attorneys for both sides and talk to family members of the deceased.

At night, I’ll come home, bring out the APBA cards, roll the dice and forget what I do for a while.


  1. APBA is something that always provides an escape. I used to play APBA baseball as a kid and loved the statistical aspect of it. I believe that it truly helped me prepare for college and work as I used to create in depth spreadsheets to manage the statistics. I recently tore my achilles tendon playing football and I am laid up in bed. It is times like this that I remember APBA is always there for me eventhough I havent played in over 5 years. APBA can be a metaphor for life it would seem: Sometimes you roll double 6's... sometimes you roll a 41 and get a dreaded 24. Regardless, the game goes on. Keep us informed of your replay.

  2. I can relate very well to your story. In 2000, I was selected for a sequestered jury on a murder trial in Missouri. I had an hour to get home, pack my bag and be back at the courthouse to be bused to the middle of the state where I spent 4 days with my fellow jurors and State Marshalls who oversaw us. Among my belongings was my Replay baseball game and two teams. While it wasn't APBA, the result was the same,some much needed relief from the stress of a murder trial testimony.

  3. I am glad your trial is over. The images can be brutal. That probably is the main reason I got out of the criminal end of the law 30+ years ago. I still remember a number of the images. I do not purport to understand man's savagery. One thing that sometimes helps is to remember an intereview with Mother Teresa. The good lady was asked what would be the first thing she said to Jesus Christ when they met. Her answer "You have got some explaining to do."

    I have always found APBA is a good way to forget about things for a little while. A game or two before bed gets me thinking about baseball not life and death.