Wednesday, December 30, 2015

2015: Year of the Heart

In less than 18 hours, I'll be in St. Louis at the train station across from the Scottrade Center picking up my Illinois girl and bringing her back here for a week. I've been doing the countdown for seeing her for the past few days, constantly checking the clock and acting like an over-anxious kid before Christmas.

The countdown shifted suddenly today when we learned the train would not make it all the way into Arkansas because of flooding on the Mississippi River. It would only go as far as St. Louis. Oddly, and ironically as it were, when I discovered this tidbit of information, I was writing a story for the newspaper where I work about flooding and how the swollen Mississippi River was delaying crests along the Arkansas River.

Instead of picking her up in a town about 30 miles from here at 3:30 a.m. (depending upon Amtrak's promptness), I will now be in St. Louis at 7 p.m. It gives me eight more hours with her than had the train made its full journey and for that I am glad.

It's been that kind of year lately with unexpected changes and as 2015 draws to a close, I reflect upon the events of this year, the top stories of my life and whatever theme I can come up with that encapsulates the way this run went.

I do it every year. It's probably a news thing; each year the Associated Press sends out ballots to editors to select the top stories of the year. The state wire service does the same thing and, although us reporters don't vote, we do consider the year's legislative actions, the sensational trials, the horrific crimes, the deadly storms and all the other news when debating about the impacting stories of the year.

My personal year, my tour of 2015, has a simple theme. It's “Heart.”

I opened the year with a heavy heart. On Jan. 24, my cat, May, had to be put to sleep after she suffered scores of seizures. I had that cat for seven and a half years and, although I didn't consider myself a cat person at first, I bonded with that pet more than I've done with most humans I've known. It was yet another loss that I seemed to be getting quite experienced with. I deal with abandonment and sadness a lot; it broke my heart losing her.

Later in the year, a friend of mine had a series of medical issues that was somewhat nerve-wracking. Another friend became seriously involved with a woman and I became his consultant during their two-step dance of love, regret, reconciliation and angst. Then, my editor at the newspaper, the best person I've ever worked with, quit and moved off. The heart took a beating with all the changes.

But life soldiered on and in the late summer, my heart woke again. I began talking with my Illinois girl on Aug. 23, and in September I drove the 554 miles to see her for the first time. Everything changed after that. Not to get all mushy here (People can see in the bio on the right side of this post about me being a romantic dreamer), but this girl has made my heart beat again.

The APBA game realm, for which this blog is named, has seen some changes as well. I began a replay of the 1991 baseball season in August but, because of my own changes in life, the pace of the games has slowed. That, in itself, is a change from the norm. But the heart is still there when I do play the occasional contest or two on some days.

So, 2015 began with a broken heart and is closing with a mended one. I will be with my Illinois girl on New Year's Eve and she will be the first person I speak with in 2016. That's a good sign for the upcoming year.

How will this relationship play out in 2016? I have no idea. I am sure there will be many unforeseen changes ahead for the upcoming year, but at least it's beginning with a good heart.

Friday, December 25, 2015

Christmas night 2015: 38 years later

Thirty-eight years ago tonight — at about this exact time — I began the APBA journey that I'm still on. Like many of us sports replay game-playing aficionados, we probably became acquainted with the APBA games on Christmas Day as kids.

I was 17 when I unwrapped the large box containing the APBA football game. It was the last gift my parents handed me from under the Christmas tree. It was the “headliner” gift of the holiday and it was well received. I had played electric football and baseball before, along with simple games that involved dice and spinners as a youngster.

But this game was different. The APBA games were far more complex; they utilized cards with real players' names on them and those cards replicated those players' actual statistics for the season. We could select our lineups, play the games and watch them as they unfolded before us. It was, in a sense, a step into being a grown up while still playing a game.

So, I opened the football game for the 1976 season and looked over the cards. There were Fran Tarkenton, Chuck Foreman, Gene Washington for the Minnesota Vikings, which, because I lived in Minnesota for a while, became the team I followed. Terry Bradshaw, Roger Staubach, Kenny Stabler, O.J. Simpson and others were also carded. I was holding in my hands the heroes of my day.

I stayed up late that Dec. 25, 1977, reading the instructions for the football game, rolling dice, checking charts, learning the game. I selected the New York Giants and the Washington Redskins to play. It was complex and it took hours to figure out. I wanted to play the Vikings, but I needed to first learn the flow of the game. Obviously, I wanted to replay the previous Super Bowl in which Oakland beat the Vikings. I had to set things right.

I have never been one to sleep much; when I was 16, I worked at a bar and restaurant deep into the nights, so I was fine with figuring out the football game during the late hour. My parents slept while I tossed the dice that Christmas night and referred to the cards. I knew I'd be playing it the next day, and the day following. Even then, I understood the lure of this game and the long journey it would take me on.

I am sure so many people embarked on similar journeys on Christmas nights. And I hope more are doing so this night, 38 years later. And that they will play the game for at least 38 years like I have so far. It's one of the mainstays in the life I've run through.

Today, like I've done five times in the 10 years since my wife passed away, I worked Christmas Day at the newspaper where I am employed. Today, I wrote a story about an arson fire at Bill Clinton's birthplace home in Hope, Ark. In the past, I've scribed stories about homicides, a plane crash, snow storms and other mayhem on the holiday. The Christmas night APBA games were always was a respite for the long day. While others spent time with their families on the evening, I came home, left the harshness of the news outside and rolled a few games.

Tonight, later, I'll roll a game between Pittsburgh and Montreal in my 1991 APBA baseball replay and then another game between Detroit and Toronto. I'm still playing the game 38 years later, the longest thing I've consistently done. I've tabled the football game and didn't get into baseball until 1998 when I bought the game — for my own Christmas present that year.

The games keep rolling. They've done so ever since that night in 1977.

Saturday, December 12, 2015

Life Happens

I'm not one to necessarily quote musicians much, but Beatles songwriter John Lennon is credited with a saying that is apropos, somewhat, of the APBA replays we all do. Lennon said, “Life is what happens when you are busy making other plans.”

The Fab Four guitarist could easily have been talking about doing these long-running APBA baseball replays that take months or even years to play out. Your own life happens while you're rolling a season that can go on for quite some time. 

Even the most enthusiastic replayer will spend nearly a year recreating one of the earlier baseball seasons that feature the eight-team American and National leagues. Later seasons — post 1968 that include two divisions for each league incorporates more teams and, thus, more games. So, it takes much longer to play those seasons. Hence, life has more of a chance of changing during a replay.

I've seen that in many of my previous replays, and it'll happen again as I am in the early stages of the 1991 APBA baseball season I recently began. We roll the games for seasons that have already happened; we know the real outcome of whatever season we're recreating, and we know the schedule of games, playing them one by one.

But then, life steps in with its unpredictable changes. To create a visual, metaphorical image of this, think of a linear procession of the games we play and the wavy lines of life, much like a seismograph that records earthquakes, or a criminal trying to bluff his way through a lie detector test. The games provide the baseline, life creates the waves.

Cases in point: I got married while replaying the 1992-93 NHL season that APBA released. Later, my wife's health deteriorated due to kidney failure as I did the 1957 season. I bought the house I'm living in now and moved while replaying the 1987 baseball season. And in the solitude after her passing, as I tried to adapt to a new lifestyle alone, I rolled the 1932 baseball season. The games go on as predicted, but the life side is always changing. Things are resolved over the length of a replay.

So, yes, life happens. Unforeseen things, changes, alterations. I covered a school shooting and its subsequent lengthy court proceedings in 1998 for the newspaper where I work that changed me all the while replaying the 1990-91 NBA season. I lost a lot of weight as I tossed the dice for the 1942 baseball season.

Even now, as I have just begun the 1991 season, things changed yet again for me and the wavy lines of my own life are moving yet again.

I began this replay on Aug. 16. One week to a day later, on the evening of Aug. 23, I called a girl I was interested in and talked to her for three hours. A month later, I drove 554 miles to see her and set change, I hope, in motion.

I am playing the games in this replay a bit slower than usual. For once, my own life has taken precedence over the daily routine of rollin' the games. I'll see how my relationship with my Illinois girl will grow during this 1991 replay.  The replay will take months, but life has time and will move along with it. This relationship I've embarked upon will be more defined and, I pray, a hopeful future will be ahead, by the time I roll the last game of the season. I'm doing a refinancing of my home as well and it, too, will be resolved well before this 1991 season ends.

So, we roll these games working a straight line in the season, knocking each game out one by one in that linear procession, while life comes at us with its wavy lines.

Monday, November 30, 2015

1991 First Update: April 22, 1991

Yes, the 1991 APBA baseball season is underway. I've not forgotten it. However, it's been a much slower process this time around, what with changes in my personal life. I began rolling this season on Aug. 16. A week later, I made a phone call to a girl that changed things in my world. Since then, I've been to visit her twice; the games have been placed on hold for at least 12 days during those trips. And, I'm dealing with strep throat now, so I haven't felt much like rolling the games lately, either.

That said, I still find a bit of time to roll a few games and now, four months later, I've reached April 22, 1991.

I mainly embarked on 1991 to replay the Minnesota Twins' World Series year. Also, after more than three years of replays (1942 and 1950) with no East or West divisions, it's a nice change to return to divisional play.

So, with only a few weeks of the actual season replayed, it's hard to get a feel for much. Montreal is really bad so far. They've found ways to lose each of their 13 games. Only 4 were by one run and none was in extra innings. In each replay I've done, I've found one team that defies statistics and either achieves well above expectations or simply plays below them. It looks like the Expos are the doomed team in this replay. Their next six games are against Pittsburgh and St. Louis, which are first and second now in the National League East. They still are a ways from beating the worst start in a baseball season. The 1988 Baltimore Orioles opened their season losing their first 21 games.

Here are the standings as of April 21, 1991

EAST      W   L    GB
Toronto     8    5    -
Boston       6    5     1
Detroit       5   6      2
Milwaukee 5   7    2.5
Baltimore   4   6    2.5
New York   4   7    3
Cleveland   3   7    3.5

WEST       W   L   GB
Minnesota    9   3      -
Kansas City 8   3     .5
Seattle         8   4     1
Texas          6    3    1.5
Chicago      5    5     3
California   5    8    4.5
Oakland      3   10   6.5

EAST          W    L    GB
Pittsburgh    10    3      -
St. Louis       9    4     1
New York     8    5     2
Phil'phia       7    6     3
Chicago        5    8     5
Montreal       0   13  10

WEST        W    L   GB
Atlanta        7     3     -
Los Angeles  7   5    1
Cincinnati     6   5    1.5
Houston        6    6    2
San Diego     5    8   3.5
S.Francisco   4    8    4

It's still early to get a feel for the leaders as well. Danny Tartabull of the Kansas City Royals and Kelly Gruber of Toronto lead the American League with five home runs apiece. Howard Johnson, who led the New York Mets in the actual 1991 season, has clubbed eight home runs so far and leads in this replay as well.

So, the progress may be slow this time, but the games will be played eventually.  

Wednesday, November 25, 2015

The Homeless Philosopher

DALEY PLAZA, CHICAGO — I pulled out my wallet to give money to the homeless guy who accosted us the other day while we were in the southeast corner of the plaza. He approached us quickly and began babbling about needing train fare to visit some family for the upcoming Thanksgiving holiday.

I was intrigued. I wanted to hear his story; as a newspaper guy, I spend most of my days asking questions of people, gleaning tidbits of information and observations from them to compile stories. This was an opportunity to get a behind-the-scenes look at the man's plight and how he got into his situation; a front row seat to one of society's issues.

So I took out the wallet.

And that was a really stupid move akin to opening a can of tuna fish in a cat shelter, or throwing one chunk of steak into the lion's den, or telling a horde of Black Friday shoppers that whoever can get to the huge flat screen television first can buy it at 80 percent off cost.

I had returned to the area last week to visit the Illinois girl who has changed my world. We decided to take the Metra commuter train into the city and spend the day walking around the Loop. She, since having lived there for years, acted the normal urban person. Me, on the other hand, gawked and pointed at buildings and came across like some southern hayseed. A rube ripe for the takings.

We had difficulty finding the Plaza. A street map app on my phone kept misleading us in different directions and by the time we ended up there, we were a bit worn out. Also, we couldn't actually get into the plaza because vendors were setting up for a large event there and instead, we had to sit on the perimeter. And that's where the man found us.

I handed the guy $10. But that wasn't enough. The train ticket, he said, cost something like $14.95. My Illinois girl gave him $1, thinking it was a $10 bill, in an effort to get rid of him. He became adamant, wanting more money. She gave him a $10 of her own.

“I don't have any family,” he said, welling up fake tears and beginning to whine. He needed the money. Needed it desperately. I didn't think at the time to question his contradiction. No family? Just moments ago he said he needed a ticket to visit family.

Instead, I reasoned with him. “I don't have any family, either,” I said.

“You got a wife,” he pointed.

“Not yet,” I countered.

“Well, you got love,” he replied.

And, by gosh, blurting out of the mouth of an obvious guy with some mental issues came forth an observation I couldn't contest. I paused, almost stunned by the beauty of it.

But then he snapped me back into reality. He offered to trade places with me and made an exaggerated high-stepping motion, like he was becoming me, taking over my role. In my mind I wanted to tell him to be careful what he wished for. He wanted to be me? With a career in newspaper — one of the worst financial forms of employment — and a home mortgage with Wells Fargo? I was tempted to make the switch with him merely for economic reasons.

But then it got weird.

He made kissing faces and said he would marry my Illinois girl. He stepped toward her, but never got too close and I got between them, acting as buffer for her safety and to deflect any marriage proposals. I mean, I've known her for only a few months and never got that aggressive. If this homeless guy who probably lives in an Amana refrigerator box somewhere by the Chicago River could sweep her off her feet and away from me, I may have to change my strategies.

We left quickly; he remained in the Plaza, talking about having love and all.

The Chicago Coalition of the Homeless estimates there are close to 90,000 people living in the streets of Chicago. It's hard to get an accurate count because of the transient nature of the homeless. But of those 90,000 or so, we came across the philosopher who espouses love, all the while pleading for cash.

So, was it worth it? Maybe. We saw something different, got an insight into homelessness and received a memory. Although I kicked myself for putting my Illinois girl into any harm's way by being stupid and country.

Later, as we sat in the Ogilvie Transportation Center and waited for our train out, a young guy approached us and asked for $10 to “stay in a hostel.” I started to say something, but my Illinois girl, who opted to stay with me rather than fall for the Plaza guy's advances, quickly took over and told him we had already been hit up on by another guy and we didn't have the cash.

This time, I knew to keep my mouth shut and forego getting any story.

Saturday, November 21, 2015

At the Grayslake, Ill., APBA Tournament

When Doug Schuyler throws his APBA dice, his right elbow points out and he looks like he's soon a candidate for Tommy John surgery, what with the torque.

Don Smith blows a duck call during highlights in his own games.

Joel Pike was mired in a 15-inning game and Kevin Burghardt milled about, watching the contests of the Chicago Retro World Series APBA Tournament held Nov. 14 in Grayslake, Ill.

I know all this because I was there. For the first time ever, I actually saw, in person, others who are obsessed with the baseball game with which we all recreate seasons. I made the nine-hour trip from my home to north of Chicago — not specifically for the tournament, mind you, but to make a second visit of a girl who lives nearby and who has changed my world.

I took her with me to the Grayslake Historical Society and Museum to give her a crash course into the game and the mania that ensues. What better way to introduce her to the game than exposing her to a room full of intense guys rolling dice, marking score sheets and watching others play.

When we walked into the museum, two workers greeted us at the door. I told them we were there for the baseball tournament and a man pointed us around a bend toward a room. “I'm surprised you haven't heard them,” a woman said.

At one point, Doug, with that elbow-breaking roll, tossed a walk-off home run for Darryl Strawberry. Loud cheers ensued. My own obsession for the game game seemed pale by comparison.

We were late, and it was difficult to meet and talk with the guys. I've never played an APBA game with anyone else before; the logistics of who rolls the dice, the rules for two, etc., were not familiar with me. It was not a place to learn. Instead, I walked around and recognized a few of the players from pictures I had seen on the APBA Facebook page.

I was glad to meet Rich Zawadzki. I called him at his Jackson, Mich., church a few months ago out of the blue just to talk to him. The other guys were great as well. There's a bonding with this game and although we come from different areas, cultures, lives, we do share the commonality of the game.

It was good seeing Joel as well. By far, he is the most creative person, I think, in our group. Check out his Facebook posts to see what I'm talking about.

The games rolled on. We didn't stay too long. Like I said, it's hard to interfere with guys heavily mired into the strategy of their games. You don't interrupt people praying, eating or rolling APBA dice. It's common courtesy. We left early; we had other stops to make before nightfall and we planned to venture into Chicago the following day.

There are upcoming tournaments in the area. Thomas Nelshoppen has one in the Champaign, Ill., area in April and Doug has another in Grayslake in July. I won't play in them — I can never commit to anything like that far ahead because of the fickle nature of my news job and its schedules. But I do know that I have added motivation to make it back up there to visit my Illinois girl. And I don't think the mania she saw that Saturday scared her away … yet.

Sunday, November 8, 2015

Three Books for the Off-Season

Baseball is over and the wait for the next season begins, but that doesn't mean we have to stop thinking about the game. Along with the APBA replays that we can carry on through the off-season (and in some cases a few off-seasons for a long replay), there are plenty of books to read to maintain our fixes.

I delved into three this year that provided looks at the business behind baseball. It's fun reading about players during the actual season, especially those who may starred in the past and during an old replay we are engaged in. But there are other parts of the game that bear study as well.

So, I offer three books that may help carry us through the downtime between that last World Series out and the first pitch of the 2016 season. These were published earlier this year; obviously, there will be plenty more published in the near future including the expected myriad of books on the Kansas City Royals' success, retiring players and new looks at historical events — such as the latest look at the 1919 Chicago White Sox's World Series scandal.

Here are three books I read this summer:

Big Data Baseball, Travis Sawchik

Who would have thought a book about math and statistics would be so entertaining? Granted, there is the baseball element that's always good, but reading about math and probabilities and ratios is not a high selling point for some books.

 But Travis Sawchik does an amazing job of incorporating the mathematical principals used by the 2013 Pittsburgh Pirates to turn their team around and end a 20-year losing season streak into a dramatic story. He writes of how manager Clint Hurdle got his players to accept the changes.
A lot of the book focuses on defensive shifts made popular when the Cleveland Indians are (wrongly) first credited for moving fielders to one side of second base to deal with Ted Williams. He also writes of pitch-framing by catchers and the changing pitcher's motions for different release points of the ball. Hurdle even debated about going with a four-man rotation rather than a five-man one.

Baseball fans all remember 2013 and how the Pirates began hot and held on. In the past, Pittsburgh teams, if they were decent in the spring, usually faltered by August and resumed their position well behind St. Louis in the Central.

There will be comparisons with Sawchik's book to Moneyball. I felt the writing in Big Data was far more engaging. While Lewis' book was good on stats and written, well, Sawchik is a fan from Pittsburgh, and his heart comes through in this. His writing about Pittsburgh clinching its first winning season and then its playoff birth are very good and entertaining.

The Game, Jon Pessah

How can you write a gripping narrative about the business of baseball? Jon Pessah knows how. This book, which covers Bud Selig's career as interim commissioner and commissioner from 1992 to 2010, is a must-read for any baseball fan. It chronicles in full detail the negotiations of the 1994 strike — Selig's first real crisis — labor issues, television contracts, exorbitant salaries, George Steinbrenner's life, talks of contractions, Milwaukee's stadium heist and steroids.

At first glance, this book seems only suited for the real baseball fan. But Mr. Pessah writes in such a compelling, drawing-in way, that the 580-plus pages of copy is not deterring at all and in fact is written with drama, pacing and flow that a good novel has.

He doesn't exalt Selig in The Game, nor does he slam him too much. In the end, he argues that Selig should have a place in the Hall of Fame which, despite my personal feelings of his tenure, totally agree.

Mr. Pessah offers a lot of behind-the-scenes looks at the negotiations during the 1994 strike. Donald Fehr, in my opinion, comes across as a turd. Also, Rob Manfred is foreshadowed as the new commissioner. There is also the blind eye toward steroid use and how the belief of the 1998 home run race between Sammy Sosa and Mark McGwire brought fans back to the game. However, their records were tarnished by later admissions of PEDs. Mr. Pessah also delves into Selig's dilemma of if he should attend Barry Bond's games as he neared breaking Henry Aaron's career home run record. Selig eventually attended a few games in San Diego, but fortunately for him, Bonds did not hit the coveted homer there. And fortunately for Selig, Pessah notes, the commissioner returned east for Hall of Fame inductions and was not able to attend Bonds' games in San Francisco where he hit the record.

All that to say, The Game has a lot of information that enhances what we remember during his tenure as commissioner. A companion book that may be interesting to read before this is Marvin Miller's A Whole Different Ballgame to set sort of a precedent to the salaries and times that Selig oversaw.

Mr. Pessah hits this one out of the park with his fine reporting on a subject that many would not be able to so deftly write about.

The Best Team Money Can Buy, Molly Knight

Put aside Molly Knight's huge crush on Los Angeles Dodgers' pitcher Clayton Kershaw for a bit while you read this, and you'll see the bigger picture on how the team became an annual playoff contender. Knight spent the 2013 season with the team and provides the behind-the-scenes looks that baseball fans crave.

She writes of the personalities of that team. Zach Greinke and his anxieties and medications, Yasiel Puig and his ups and downs during the season, Kershaw's contract workings, Shawn Kemp and Andre Ethier both tangling for outfield positions and the Dodgers' 42-8 run that took them from last in the National League West to first place.

I got to go to Game 2 of the 2013 NLCS when the Dodgers played in St. Louis. Puig struck out four times and the Cardinals' fans razzed him. I saw him angrily slam his bat down and head to the dugout, but I didn't realize until reading Knight's recount of it that Puig broke down into tears of frustration and shame. It's little nuggets like that that carry this book along.

Knight also uncovers the insanity that was the Frank McCourt ownership of the Dodgers at the beginning of the book and the divorce settlement that wracked the team. It reads as a soap opera that's really hard to believe.

Sullen players, egos, big bankrolls, playoff baseball. It's all in this book. Whether you like the Dodgers or not, Knight's book is an interesting read to see how a team is formed.

These are just three books. There are plenty of others out there as well.. Hopefully, they'll help carry you through the winter months and into spring before the next season starts.

Friday, October 23, 2015

Blood Work

I didn't know the difference between triglycerides and tricuspid valve regurgitation until I looked them up and learned they are vaguely related if you eat too many potato chips and cause your heart ventricles to leak.

CBC is for Complete Blood Count? The only three-letter abbreviations I am aware of are NFL, NHL and NBA. And I thought all cholesterol was bad; I didn't know there was a good-cop, bad-cop version of the stuff.

Needless to say, I'm not the most savvy person on my own health. I roll APBA games most of the time. How strenuous is that? If I can wake up, drive to work, head home after the appropriate 8-hour shift and be able to work a remote control, then I'm fit as a fiddle. Never mind if I'm as big as a base fiddle, or as out of tune, metaphorically, as a Friday night fiddle at country jamboree that features flashing neon advertising.

So, when my doctor asked me to do my yearly blood work a while ago, I ignored it. And, to be honest “a while ago” was about two years ago. I seem to have a habit of procrastination. Once, the doctor refused to give me a refill for pain medication until I walked over to the lab and had blood drawn immediately.

I returned to see him recently about some sinus infection I was dealing with and he asked again about my blood work. “I'll get to it,” I replied, filing the request in the recesses of my recall where I keep things like remembering to buy bathroom supplies, getting a hair cut and sitting through oil changes at the garage on Saturday mornings. Necessary, but not enjoyable.

But then life happened. I met someone recently who restored the feeling of my really being loved and cared for and, for the first time in a decade, I felt reciprocating emotions (see Leaving the Swamp, Oct. 6, 2015 ) It's hard being motivated to do something on your own, when your only reward is self-satisfaction. It's much easier when you can envision a bright future with the person helping and encouraging you. She has been a major influence on me.

She asked me to stay healthy and be around a long while so we could continue growing in this relationship together. Guys, if you're not motivated by that, you may skip the doctor visit and head directly to the mortician.

She suggested on a Wednesday night that I think about checking all the blood work and doing the yearly thing, albeit two years later than I should have. On Thursday morning — less than 10 hours after the initial request — I went to the clinic. Motivation, I tell you.

I was greeted in the lab by a tech who handed me a small cup and pointed to a bathroom. I had forgotten I was to provide another sample and, like any good traveler, had gone just before I left. But, gee whiz, they needed thee whiz.

I won't get into too many details here, but providing a sample is not the easiest thing in the world to do. And the bathroom door lock was broken. So, I did the deed; one foot on the door to keep it closed, the other in some spread stance to provide some semblance of balance. I didn't want someone barging in on me while I looked like I was doing a yoga maneuver. Urinating Dragon? Tilted Bass Fiddle?

Since I had already given my sample earlier to the city's wastewater system, the process was slow. Add to it that I was going to write for the newspaper I work for a story that day about a rapidly growing drought in the state, and it was tough. I began thinking of Niagara Falls; rainy days; and TLC singing “Waterfalls," in which Lisa “Left Eye” Lopes urges us not to chase waterfalls, but instead stay with rivers and lakes.

When I left the bathroom, I made some joke about “needing another beer or two” to give them a decent sample. It wasn't funny. The techs looked at me as if I dropped the sample jar on their shoes.

I then went to the section where they suctioned the blood out. I took a photograph of the needle in my arm and the blood draining into vials and later sent it to my motivator as proof that I did, indeed, follow her urgings. The tech took four small vials of my blood, taped a bandage on my arm and sent me on my way.

It took all of about 30 minutes. Now I'm waiting for the results. I am sure they will be better than previous tests. I have reduced those pesky triglycerides by quitting potato chips and other starchy things and I've not noticed any valve regurgitation of late. This girl may be a life-saver. At least, I'll be able to roll the APBA dice with more confidence that I am well, as soon as I get this bandage off my arm and my back muscles heal from that yoga workout.

Sunday, October 11, 2015

Getting Cut

I read an article a few days ago about a handful of successful people who were cut from sports teams of their youth. Apparently, the revelation of being told they weren't good enough at an early age was the motivation for them to turn it around and become wealthy leaders in their industries.

CEOs, bank presidents, even former CBS News anchor Dan Rather were all dropped from high school teams and they fared well later in life. We all know about Michael Jordan being told he wasn't going to make his high school basketball team; he turned out okay as well.

So, it makes sense that I should have been doubly successful in life because I was cut twice from teams of yore. Somehow, that early childhood trauma didn't translate into some survival instinct in my career, though.

I never had much of a sporting prowess. Sure, I could play basketball with the neighborhood kids, and I was decent in backyard whiffle ball. I could stick-handle a puck in our street hockey games in Minnesota like old Northstars leftwinger J.P. Parise. But put me in some organized sporting event and I became pretty klutzy. I had the dexterity of a broken-stringed marionette operated by a drunken puppet master with palsy.

I've written about my baseball experience here before. I was about 10 years old when I tried out for Little League in northern Minnesota. I was supposed to wear glasses to correct vision so bad that I think the eye doctors who diagnosed my epic myopic eyesight originally thought of just giving me a seeing-eye dog and a tin cup and pointing me to a street corner. But I opted not to. Vanity, in my case, was blind and I relied on my sense of smell and sound to maneuver around. Yes, I was as blind as a bat when, well, swinging the bat.

I was playing left field for our Little League team on my birthday that year. Some kid on the opposing team — the Orioles, I actually remember — lofted a soft fly ball my way. We were losing 28-1 at the time; if I could catch the ball, there'd be some satisfaction I could garner from the game. I stared at the sky, hoping to smell the incoming ball. Instead, it plopped behind me, the kid scored, we were trailing, 29-1. The coach screamed at me, took me out of the game and ushered me into a world of the first of many disappointments.

When my family moved to Arkansas several years later, my parents wanted me to get involved with school activities more to help bust that culture shock of moving from the north to the deep south. I tried out for the basketball team. Again, I was awful. I could dunk a basketball flat-footed and I knew how to spin the ball on my finger. If we had a halftime show ala Harlem Globetrotters, I could suffice. Forget putting me in a real game, though.

During practices, the coach called for a star drill, in which players ran in a frenzied, yet choreographed, pattern, passing a ball back and forth. When it came my turn to participate, I looked like Lucille Ball trying to dance a congo line with Rockettes. I ran to one point, the ball ended up at another. The star, sadly, blinked out. The coach yelled at me, “It's a star drill, stupid.” I over-analyzed, asking if he meant a regular five-pointed star or if he was referring to a Star of David.

About a week after I tried out for the school team, a small forest fire broke out near our home. My father got a hose and watered down the edge of our yard to keep the fire from spreading. I grabbed a rake and tried to cut a fire line as protection. I ended up stepping into a pit of burning leaves and my sock caught on fire, badly burning my foot. Now, 40 years later, I still have a faint scar from that.

I couldn't walk, let alone do star drills, and that gave my coach the perfect opportunity to cut me from the team. It hurt my pride. Even at that age, I knew I was no good but the rejection still stung.

It may be what helped draw me to the APBA game, though. I decided to learn the strategy of basketball and the tendencies of NBA players of that era and gravitated toward the APBA basketball game. It's a plodding game; most complain about the length of time to play, but I learned the teams by playing those contests and could out talk anyone about the pro game.

Years later, I interviewed the coach who dumped me for a story for the newspaper where I now work. The coach, long retired from the school system by then, had become a county judge of one of the rural counties in my coverage area in northeast Arkansas. I don't recall the topic of the story, but I called him and eventually told him about how he cut me.

He became nervous and asked if he was diplomatic in releasing me from the team. After all, I write for a paper that's read by about 190,000 people during the week and 285,000 on Sundays, along with multitudes online. His words would be read by a lot of people; I think he was apprehensive that I may have carried a grudge for quite a while. I told him he was right to let me go, and he probably saved the integrity of the school's athletic reputation by keeping me off the hard court.

But I wondered, after reading about how all those who prospered in business got cut early in life, why I didn't fuel my rejection into millions in salary.

Maybe I need one more rejection. Maybe there's some senior men's basketball team around that needs some power forward that I could try out for. If they do a star drill, I'm sure to get cut.

Tuesday, October 6, 2015

Leaving the Swamp

Those of us who play the APBA sports replay games do it for a variety of reasons. For some, we do it to recreate a season of baseball — or any sport for that matter – that resonated with us. Some play tournaments and others combine seasons for a “What-if” scenario. Could the 1998 New York Yankees, say, defeat the 1934 St. Louis Cardinals in a seven-game series? We also roll these games as a form of personal nostalgia; we can recapture the youth that has slid by so long ago.

But I venture to guess that part of the motivation for playing these games is to escape from the trials life has dumped on us. Stress at work, money problems, loss, broken relationships, illness, fear of change. There's a myriad of reasons.

But, in my case at least, the very game I play to forget about the outside world and use to escape into the familiarity of previous baseball seasons has led me to an entirely new world.

One of the Facebook pages I often visit is the APBA Baseball site. We share our own game stories, talk about current sports and post pictures of APBA game cards received in the mail. Some of us become “friends” with each other via Facebook. All that to say that I “friended” a guy from APBA who had another friend. She would join in during some of our posted “conversations” about sports or news items or just life in general.

It began over a year ago with the Facebook comments. One of us would come up with some spirited, fun discussion that we could all join in on. She and I began sending chat messages on occasion and, finally about two months ago, a phone call that lasted over three hours. The more I talked with her the more I realized this was a special person who was pretty like-minded with me. (We are seeking treatment for her on that behalf.)

So, that all lead to me gassing up the car and driving 554 miles to meet her in her town last week. Seeing her in person, obviously, was much better than talking on the phone and as the week progressed, I found that getting to know her was rekindling feelings I've not had since my wife passed away nearly 10 years ago. I am a hopeless romantic, but this had me bumbling around like an 17-year-old kid just before prom night.

For example, on the second night of my visit, we watched for the lunar eclipse that most of the country was waiting for. It was cloudy; we never saw it. It didn't matter to me. And later, when I drove her home and made the 4-mile trek back to my hotel, I sort of got lost —both in bliss and along the road. The trip was a straight line from her home to the hotel. A three-year-old who was able to connect dot-to-dot puzzles could figure out the path. But, I failed and I forgot where the turn was. Never mind the hotel is four stories tall and has signage and lights. I missed that. When I did find the correct turn, I pulled into the wrong lane and, when seeing a car heading for me, I drove over a median helter-skelter like, thumping over curbs, drawing the wrath of those who knew how to drive and embarrassing myself all the while bearing a goofy grin.

It was that kind of week. Blissful. We went to see a lighthouse and a beach and I took a bunch of pictures. It was the first real vacation I've had in more than 15 years. We also watched movies and on Tuesday, the last night I was there, we saw Shrek. Those of you who have kids know the movie. I've never seen it. The premise of the 2001 cartoon film is an ogre who lives alone in a swamp. His solitude is interrupted when he and a talking donkey are enlisted to rescue a princess. In the end, Shrek wins the princess and finds friends, all by leaving the swamp.

Later, as we talked about the week we had, she noted that I had “left the swamp,” after I said I broke from the routine of my own world and ventured out. I was glad I did.

I used to play whatever APBA replay I was doing constantly, often rolling four, five, six games a day. Others have lives — families, kids, friends — that keep them from playing as much. But I didn't. Until now.

The dice sat quietly on the table at home, unrolled for a week while I was away, the longest spell I've gone without tossing a game for quite a while. When I returned from my trip, the game was there waiting patiently, like it always does. And, after driving nine hours, unloading my car, going to the grocery to stock up on water and returning, I picked up the APBA dice, got the team cards out for the next contest and, in the stillness of the late night and the feeling of the road still in me, I rolled the game.

This time, though, it wasn't to escape, but instead to rejoice.

Wednesday, September 9, 2015

Welcome Back, Twins

The first time I rolled an APBA baseball game for the Minnesota Twins in two and a half years, lead off batter Dan Gladden struck out.

In fact, the Twins' first two players went out quickly against Oakland As' pitcher Dave Stewart the other day in Minnesota's season opener of the 1991 season replay I've begun. Kirby Puckett finally slapped a single into right field, but first baseman Kent Hrbek then grounded out, ending the Twins' first inning.

The last time I rolled a Twins' game was when I ended my 1981 replay season in April 2013. The Twins didn't make the playoffs and the cards the gamers use for the replays were returned to the envelope and shelved.

Then, I did the 1942 baseball season and followed that with the 1950 season and there were no games for my favorite team for the next 30 months. These replays take a while to complete if you stick with them.

For those not initiated with the game, APBA uses statistics of actual seasons to create cards for the baseball players. Each card contains 36 numbers on them and the APBA players roll two dice as they play the game. The results of the dice roll are matched with corresponding numbers on the baseball players' cards and those results are then compared to yet more numbers for play results. It sounds complex, but long-term players, like myself, can memorize results and play a game within 15-20 minutes.

So, after the long hiatus of Twins' games, I opted to return to playing them. I chose the 1991 season — which they won their second World Series in the real game — for that team mainly.

Back are the Twins. And, for that matter, the Baltimore Orioles, the two Canadian teams, the designated hitter, domed stadiums, west coast teams, and East and West Divisions in each league.

And strikeouts! I learned while playing the 1950 season that either the strike zone must have been the size of a postage stamp or pitchers had the control of me during my ill-fated Little League career. Here's a comparison:

I've played 38 games into the 1991 season. Pitchers have combined so far to record 479 strikeouts and 208 walks. In the first 38 games of the 1950 season, pitchers recorded 248 strikeouts and 307 walks. That's a vast difference that I noticed when Gladden took his first at bat for the Twins.

The Ks were aplenty. In the second game I played in this replay (the Twins didn't open until April 9, a day after other teams kicked off their season, and didn't take the field until the ninth game) Roger Clemens struck out 10 Blue Jays in his complete-game win. Even in losing, Tom Candiotti notched nine strikeouts for Toronto.

The games are moving along and, unlike the 1942 and 1950 seasons, obviously, I remember seeing almost all of the players in the actual 1991 season. It's part of the draw of the APBA replay games. We learn about the history of the game when playing the older seasons, but we also deal with memories when rolling the games we lived. The 1991 season was a good one because it played out while I was going through a transitional phase in my life. The Twins' World Series victory over Atlanta that year was a blessing and a way to straighten the toppled gyroscope that had been directing my life.

So, Gladden struck out in the Twins' first 1991 replay game, but Shane Mack hit a two-run home run with two outs in the top of the ninth and Minnesota held on to beat Oakland, 2-0. Jack Morris picked up the win, possibly foreshadowing his Game 7 mastery in the real World Series?

Minnesota won its next two games, sweeping Oakland, 9-1 and, 6-2. Gladden hit a home run in the second victory over the As. The Twins are now 3-0, the only undefeated American League team left. They come home to host the California Angels (another team I've not seen the past two and a half years). Can the Twins do as well in my replay as they did in the real game? The season has just begun, but so far, so good …

Sunday, August 30, 2015

1991 Replay Begins; Leaving Lubbock Memories

Like every good story, this one involves a girl. And a dust storm, a failed attempt at earning a PhD, a sports bar, a trailer hitch, heartbreak, Texas-style flatulence and a return trip home.

But, there was also sports and, as any sports obsessed fan will say, there is always sports. In the unsteady horizontal projection of life, sports is on the stable conveyor belt that accompanies our path and weaves into our own lives.

So, as I begin replaying the 1991 APBA baseball season, I think back on that year now. It's what we do. When APBA baseball game replayers chose seasons to replay, we often give weight to those we grew up with or that we had some important connection with. Sure, the game company offers every season ever played, and the lure of rolling games with the 1927 New York Yankees or the 1906 Chicago Cubs — two seasons that, despite my shock o' grey hair, that I was not alive for — are intriguing.

For the past two years and four months, I replayed the 1942 and 1950 baseball seasons and while they were they were fun and historically educational, there wasn't that personal context. Now there is.

In 1991, I was teaching English at a university in my town and entertained the idea of advancing that vocation by earning a PhD. A girl I was seeing at the time had just been accepted to a masters program at Texas Tech University in Lubbock. Because I am a romantic idiot, I applied there and was promptly denied because, well, anyone who has read my stuff here for a while can get the idea. An English PhD involves Shakespeare, critical analysis of classics and couth. I write about sports, stinky worms and farts.

When I was rejected, the girl seemed saddened. I thought maybe, just maybe, it could be the fact she thought of missing me. Later, I learned she feared missing the Draw-Tite receiver trailer hitch with full lighting package that I installed on the back of my vehicle to haul her stuff westward.

I wrote a pleading letter to the folks at the university and actually bluffed my way into the PhD program. They gave me tuition, room and board in a dorm and a teaching position. I was soon to be a Texan.

When I arrived in Lubbock, I was promptly greeted with a sand storm of epic proportions. It was one of those events where three days later you were still emptying sand from your shoes and spittin' grit. I sought refuge in a mall bathroom during the crux of the storm and a cowboy father-son combo suddenly jingle-jangled in, taking two stalls. One — I'm not sure which — made a noise akin to a Browning 686 over and under shotgun on the west Texas prairie. The other responded with the sound of a brahma bull's last words before castration.

Of course, I laughed. (Admit it, you would, too). Tex, or maybe it was Tex Jr., asked from behind the stall what was the source of my amusement. “Dang,” I said. “They're right. Everything is big in Texas!”

Despite my intro to Texas culture, I began teaching English I and II while taking courses of my own there. I'm not making this up, but I worked on a research project that involved the beginning of internet messaging and the use of grammar. (You can thank me the next time you chat a friend and ask “Wht r u doin, dawg.") I lived in a dorm with a roommate 10 years younger. I graded students' essays, panicked on my own assignments and tried to become accustomed to the routine.

Meanwhile, the girl had developed her own new routine involving another student. She basically told me to take a hike; she was infatuated with the guy. The guy, who was in her class, was the son of a rich cattle farmer. I couldn't compete with that. He also wore shorts, sandals and black socks a lot. I thought I had him beat there, but such is the folly of love.

So, in that lost, heartbreak way, I started heading off campus a lot to drown my sorrows. I found a golf course bar where I ended up, watching sports on the television, and downing heavy-vermouthed martinis with Hispanics.

But as all of this hit the fan, baseball kept going on. And the Minnesota Twins, my favorite team, were winning a lot. They were in first place that fall and, despite the troubles I endured, I was aware of it. I would catch games on television at times or read about it in the local paper. When the girl's parents came to the airport, I went to pick them up and I fed quarters in the coin-operated televisions there to watch games while waiting for their plane to arrive.

And I saw most of the American League playoffs at that sports bar as the Twins dispatched Toronto in five games.

Finally, I had enough and quit school in October and, on a travel day between Games 2 and 3 in the World Series, I hit the road and fled back to my mother's home in Arkansas to regroup.

The Twins won the Series and it eased the transition a lot. Sports came through yet again. I watched Kirby Puckett hit the Game 6 homer in the 11th inning that is the Twins' greatest moment in team history. And I stayed at my mom's for Game 7 to see Jack Morris go 10 innings to beat Atlanta. I left the next morning for my new journalism job.

A few months later, the girl got married to the guy, but it didn't last. I mean, who couldn't see that coming? The guy was wearing shorts, sandals and black socks. That's grounds for annulment in 16 states.

At the time, it was hurtful, but baseball and the Twins were there ... as sports teams always are for their fans. Now, looking back and beginning this 1991 season, I see that Texas adventure more as annoyance and silliness. It gives me more sources for writing about stuff. So I will enjoy replaying this and really seeing how the Twins' season developed more closely.

And hopefully, I won't be interrupted by any dust storms or Texas-sized farts.

Saturday, August 15, 2015

1950 Replay World Series Recap

Just as they did in the real 1950 World Series, the New York Yankees won my APBA replay Series with hitting in key moments and pitching. In the replay, the Yankees defeated the Brooklyn Dodgers, four games to two. In the actual Series, the Yanks shut out Philadelphia in four straight games.

It was a long replay for me to do, despite fewer games to play than a more modern season. And a lot happened during the replay in my own life. My cat of seven years got sick and in January I lost her. She was a part of the replays, often sitting in the same room, watching me roll and hoping for an errant dice to fall off the table to chase. A huge wind storm, or duracho, hit my home last June, tearing off shingles, causing leaks and gaining me a new roof. I continued writing stories at my newspaper and life went on, just as the games did.

There's always that odd, bittersweet feeling after completing a season, too. The players, the cards, become commonplace. I know the St. Louis Browns' 1950 starting line up. I don't even know the 2015 St. Louis Cardinals' lineup. We live these replays. Finishing the season and placing the cards back into their envelopes and then storing them in their boxes is sad. But then there's always another season to delve into, which I will soon,

Anyway, here's the game-by-game recap of the 1950 APBA World Series. The home team is in capital letters:

Game 1
New York 11 BROOKLYN 9
The Yankees took a 5-1 lead after three, but the Dodgers came back, bolstered by Gil Hodges' two home runs. His second, in the sixth inning, gave the Bums a 9-8 lead. But, foreshadowing Ralph Branca's trouble in the real 1951 playoff series between his Dodgers and the New York Giants, he got in trouble in my game. He loaded the bases in the top of the ninth before Gene Woodling hit a sacrifice fly to tie the game. Phil Rizzuto and Yogi Berra then hit singles, scoring two and giving New York the win.

Game 2
New York 4 BROOKLYN 3
Joe DiMaggio hit his first of four home runs in the Series in the first inning, giving his Yanks the early lead again. But Brooklyn responded with three of their own runs in the bottom of the frame. The score stood until the sixth inning when Billy Johnson doubled in one run and Jerry Coleman plated Johnson with an ensuing single. Vic Raschi went the distance, giving up five hits and striking out six for the win.

Game 3
NEW YORK 2 Brooklyn 1
This was the game that gave DiMaggio the MVP of the Series. The Dodgers, with Preacher Roe on the mound, held a 1-0 lead and had two outs in the ninth when Joltin' Joe came to bat. Phil Rizzuto, who ended up batting .417 for the six-game Series, stood on second. Roe struck out Yogi Berra for the second out and now faced DiMaggio. DiMaggio's dice roll came up as a “5,” which translated into a home run with a runner on second. Game over. The ending echoed Roe's season. Despite his “B” rating on his card, Roe seemed to lose a lot of games in last-play ways. I met Roe once in a West Plains, Mo., restaurant, interrupting his Mexican meal to talk about the Bobby Thomson home run of 1951 that he saw while in the dugout. I felt bad for his season in my replay.

Game 4
Brooklyn 13 NEW YORK 1
The Dodgers' bats came alive and saved a sweep. Whitey Ford was chased after two innings, giving up seven runs and Duke Snider, Roy Campanella and Billy Cox (that's one of the joys of playing ABPA... actually being able to say that phrase).

Game 5
Brooklyn 14 NEW YORK 1
Again, the Dodgers dominated New York and, after seeing the outburst of hits, I wondered if this could go to seven games. Snider drove in four runs, Hodges hit a three-run homer and Jackie Robinson had two RBIs of his own. Only DiMaggio's home run in the seventh kept the Yankees from being shut out.

Game 6
New York 5 BROOKLYN 0
Realizing who they were, the Yankees took control of the game early and shut down the Dodgers quickly. DiMaggio hit a two-run shot in the third off Carl Erskine and New York never looked back. Raschi had his second complete game of the series, giving up only one hit and striking out six.

In fact, an argument could be made that Raschi deserved the Series MVP. But, in my opinion, DiMaggio earned it with his .304 average, four home runs, seven RBIs and six runs scored.

Snider led the Dodgers with a .333 batting average, two home runs and five RBIs.

So, the 1950 season is completed. The cards are stored and the 1991 season is about to begin. I've done my obsessive-compulsive routine of handwriting each team's full schedule on paper and creating stat pages for home runs and pitching wins, losses and saves.

It'll be a change. For the first time in a few years, I'll roll games for the Minnesota Twins. There'll be DH players; Cal Ripken for the Orioles; Nolan Ryan pitching; Kirby Puckett, Kent Hrbek and Dan Gladden batting in my games. There are so many more games in a more modern season to roll, and this will take a long time to play. As I've said before, beginning a replay is embarking on a journey. This will be a long one, but with the dynamics of this season and the change I'll make from baseball more than half a century ago, it'l be an enjoyable one.

Saturday, August 8, 2015

Replay Season's End; The 1950 World Series Are Set

The regular season of my 1950 APBA baseball replay ended today when Philadelphia Phillies shortstop Granny Hamner grounded out to Brooklyn Dodgers' second baseman Jackie Robinson.

Robinson scooped the dribbler up, tossed it over to Gil Hodges and the Dodgers grabbed the pennant, taking it by one game over the New York Giants. Dodgers catcher Roy Campanella drove in three runs, including one on a second-inning home run, and Brooklyn won, 4-2.

That, coupled with a New York Giants loss in the game before, punched Brooklyn's ticket to the World Series to face the New York Yankees.

It was the closest finish to a replay I've ever done. The Dodgers and Giants were tied going into Oct.1, 1950, the last day of the season. It was almost foreshadowing what really happened in 1951 when the two teams faced off in the memorable playoff and Bobby Thomson hit the home run and the Giants won the pennant, the Giants won the pennant.

But it wasn't to happen in my replay. In the first contest, the Giants took the lead over Boston, 1-0, and held it through five innings. But Walker Cooper hit a two-run homer off Giants starter Jim Hearn in the top of the sixth. Cooper added an RBI single in the eighth and Vern Bickford pitched a complete game for the Braves and won 3-2.

Philadelphia actually led the Dodgers twice in the season's final game, but couldn't contain Campanella.

So, the 1950 season ended in a great finale. The APBA game is simplistic in that it uses cards and dice and basic rules; a game can be completed in 15 minutes, but the results of these games are pretty complex. I spent the week doing the “What-ifs” and figuring out how four teams could end up winning the National League with only a few days remaining to play.

Here are the final standings:

New York      106  48   -
Boston             95  59 11
Cleveland        91  63 15
Detroit             90  64 16
Washington     64  90 42
St. Louis          62  92 44
Philadelphia     57 97 49
Chicago            51 103 55

Brooklyn         87  67    -
New York        86  68    1
Boston             85  69    2
St. Louis          85  69    2
Pittsburgh        79  75    8
Philadelphia    76  78   11
Chicago           64  90   23
Cincinnati        55  99   32

Remember, I didn't keep full stats. At times, lots of times really, I regret that. But I mostly play the games for the peace they bring at the time and the standings. I've always loved standings and watched them daily in the Minneapolis Tribune when I was a toddler. I still love them.

Here are the leaders of the limited stats I did keep:
American League
Home runs: 41- J. DiMaggio. NYY; 37- Stephens, Bos; 36- Mize, NYY; 34- Williams, Bos, and Rosen, Cle.
Wins: 23-3– Wynn, Cle; 23-4– Lopat, NYY; 22-6– Houtteman, Det.
Saves: 19– Calvert, Det; 18- Page, NYY; 15- Aloma, Chi; 9- Hooper, Phil.

National League
Home runs: 46- Kiner, Pit; 43- Sauer, Chi; 37- Snider, Bro; 35- Ennis, Phil; 34- Pafko, Chi.
Wins: 23-7- Newcombe, Bro; 21-10- Chambers, Pitt; 20-7- Maglie, NYG.
Saves: 27- Konstanty, Phil; 16- Brazle, StL; 15- Hogue, Bos; 14- Werle, Pit; 11- Leonard, Chi.

Before I began this replay, I looked over the cards, as we APBA guys always do, and, based on the numbers on the cards, I expected the Yankees and the Dodgers to be the front runners for their pennants. It ended up that way, but not without the drama that ensues during a good season.

Now, the World Series are next. It's late here and, although I'm cranking Fleetwood Mac and Pink Floyd on the stereo as I write, I ought to consider sleep; the cards are in their envelopes waiting for the contest to begin. Eighteen months and a day after I began this journey, the 1950 season draws near a close. But the new questions are ahead. Will DiMaggio have a Series to remember? Will Roy Campanella continue his pace? Will pitching — stellar on both teams during the regular season— be the main story?