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.