Monday, June 22, 2015

Happy Father's Day

On this Father's Day I realize my father, who passed away in March 1987, has been gone for more than half my life. But despite not having seen him for more than 28 years, I also realize his influence is on me every time I write a story for the newspaper where I work or when I roll the dice in the APBA replays I am constantly engaging.

I came late in my dad's life; he was born in 1916 and my parents didn't have me until he was 44 years old. He was diagnosed with Parkinson's Disease at 54 — the same age I am for another week. I was 10 at the time, so, my formative years were dealing more with health issues than normal dad things. Most kids played catch with their dads, but because of the disease, I never really got to experience that.

But I wasn't disappointed. Most fathers teach their kids how to throw a ball. My dad thought me how to think. He had me reading Jules Verne and H.G. Wells and Walt Whitman early in my life. He encouraged me to write. He taught me to play chess, and after beating me five or six games in a row, when I began lacking interest, he threw a game to keep me playing.

The only time he really got mad at me was when he and my mother bought a new bureau dresser. I was about 4 or 5 at the time and we were living near the zoo in Madison, Wisc. Each night in the summer, they'd leave the windows open so I could hear the lion roaring in his cage. Somehow, one evening, I got one of my mom's pins and engraved my name (in print) in that new bureau. Even then, I guess, I was trying to write. He should have sent me to a juvenile prison camp in Russia for that offense. Instead, and I vividly remember this, he was really disappointed as he spanked me. The hurt I experienced that day was not physical. It was emotional. I had let my father down. The lion's roar that night was more mournful than prideful.

I grew up as an only child in a home that was more influenced by my father's failing health. He couldn't go outside and play sports, but he taught me to watch them on television. We suffered with the Minnesota Vikings' four Super Bowl loses and the Twins' woes of the 1970s when we lived in Minnesota. He planted the sports obsession in me that remains today, and fuels the drive I do when I replay the APBA seasons.

When he was diagnosed with the bastard disease that took his life on July 24, 1970, we were at a university medical complex in Fargo, N.D. Pres. Nixon was at the same hotel we stayed to speak to a governor's counsel and we caught a glimpse of the president then. My dad, like all I'm sure, was impressed seeing a president live. But he made a point to ensure I saw Nixon as well. The day my father's world crashed with the Parkinson's diagnosis, he sheltered me from the sorrow by teaching me to draw cartoons on chalkboards in the hospital's lecture rooms. He thought it would be funny if students came to class the following day to see the chalkboards covered in my scrawlings of cats and dogs and other animals.

He did have an intellectual sense of humor. But he also laughed at fart jokes and enjoyed the bizarre, conceptual stuff. He was also a genius when it came to music; he could pick up any instrument, figure it out in a few moments and begin playing it. He also sang professionally in New York and New Jersey when he was young. Sadly, only the fart humor gene was passed along to me. I chew gum at church so it looks like I'm singing. If I belted out a tune during services, we'd lose half our congregation who'd run out and convert to atheism out of fear.

But, then I equate his talent of music for mine of the word. He could sing and play music and create. I can write. Later, when the disease really took hold, he'd not be able to go anywhere. Instead, he'd come into my room and sit, watching me play the APBA football and basketball games I had at the time. He'd ask about the games, not really caring about the results, but instead just wanting to let me know he was there and was interested in what I was doing.

I guess the best thing I can say on this Father's Day is “Thank you” to my dad. He spent his time as a father, despite being older and, when I was not even a teenager, having to deal with what eventually killed him. I can only hope to continue my life as he had, with the dignity and intelligence he showed. I hope he'd be proud.

Friday, June 19, 2015

1950 Season Update - Sept. 14, 1950

With just a little more than two weeks remaining in my 1950 APBA baseball replay, it appears the New York Yankees have all but wrapped up the American League. The National League, though, is an entirely different story and as the season winds down, it'll be a dogfight between the New York Giants, Brooklyn Dodgers and St. Louis Cardinals to see who faces the Yanks in postseason play.

I've reached Sept. 14 in the replay. It's taken quite a while to arrive at this point. I began the replay on March 7, 2014, and now, 14 and a half months later, I'm still slowly rolling the games. I used to average four or five games a day. For some reason I've yet to figure out, I'm only tossing about two a game now.

But the National League race has sparked my interest and the games have returned to the forefront of my consciousness. Maybe I had a life outside of this dice game that briefly took me away — I've been busier at my newspaper job writing daily dispatches about flooding for the past two months, I've watched the NHL playoffs closely and the NBA games with a passing interest and I've been reading more stuff lately.

Anyway, despite the slow pace, the games continue on and, like all the previous replays I've done, this one has its own personality.

First, the standings:
                    W     L    GB
New York    98   42      -
Boston         89   51      9
Cleveland    83   60    13.5
Detroit         80   59    17.5
Washington  59  81    39
St. Louis      53   86    44.5
Philadelphia 53  89     46
Chicago       47   94     51.5

Joe DiMaggio leads the AL with 38 home runs now and Boston Red Sox shortstop Vern Stephens is second with 35. Apparently the long ball is the deciding factor in the league. Six of the seven AL home run leaders are from New York, Boston or Cleveland — the top three teams in the league. Johnny Mize has 34 for the Yanks, Red Sox outfield Ted Williams has 33 and Indian teammates Al Rosen and Luke Easter each have 30 homers.

Early Wynn is an amazing 22-2 for the Indians on the mound and Allie Reynolds is 22-3 for the Yankees.

The Red Sox have won 10 of their last 12 games; their two loses have come to the Yankees. And Boston has scored in double digits in each of its last five games. Granted, those games were against cellar dwellers Philadelphia, Chicago and St. Louis.

The Yankees and Boston tangle four more times, including twice in Boston on Sept. 30 and Oct. 1. With 14 games remaining and a nine-game lead, it appears the Yankees are a good lock to win the division.

                    W     L   GB
New York    81    58    -
Brooklyn     78    61    3
St. Louis      78    61    3
Boston         74    64    6.5
Pittsburgh    72    66    8.5
Philadelphia 66   75    16
Chicago        58    81   23
Cincinnati    48    89    32

Pittsburgh has been an interesting team to play. The Pirates began the season hot, going 10-2 in April and leading the league through much of June. They've faltered since then. They've won only two games of their last nine and six of their last 14. They did club Chicago, 24-2, scoring the highest amount of runs any NL team has accumulated this year. Ralph Kiner leads the majors with his 41 home runs. Hank Sauer of the Chicago Cubs is next with 38 homers and Duke Snider leads the Dodgers with his 36 dingers.

Brooklyn has hung close to New York with Don Newcombe on the mound. He is the league's only 20-game winner. Actually, he's 21-6. Sal Maglie is pacing the Giants with his 19-5 record.

Philadelphia has been the biggest disappointment. The Phillies won the 1950 season in the real baseball life, but has consistently come up short in the replay games. Phillies reliever Jim Konstantly is the lone success, saving 24 of Philadelphia's 66 wins. Del Ennis has 31 home runs for the hapless Phillies.

The National League schedule promises to have key games ahead. St. Louis is in Brooklyn next for a two-game series and then heads to New York for another two games. They may have the easiest final week, playing in Chicago before closing out the season with games agains Cincinnati and then the Cubs again.

The Giants face the Cardinals and the Dodgers each only two more times. They also have four games against Boston.

Brooklyn may have the most difficult task of any team to unseat the Giants in the lead. After their two game set with the Cardinals, they host Chicago and Pittsburgh, then travel to Philadelphia for two games against the upset minded Phillies. They close their season with home games against the Giants, Braves and Phillies.

There are still over 100 games remaining to replay in this season and at the rate I'm going, I may end this about time for football season to begin. But the excitement of seeing how this comes out brings me back to the game.

Sunday, June 7, 2015

More of That Smell

A few weeks ago I wrote about a smell in the APBA room that kept games at bay for a while as I tried to discover the source. I equated the stench to a skunk during stressful times or, when I lit a cinnamon Christmas candle, to Martha Stewart after a rushed dinner at an all-you-can-eat bean and burrito buffet.

It was overpowering and, frankly, a bit unnerving. I thought maybe an extra of The Walking Dead — that never-ending show about decaying zombies and the mayhem they produce — had taken to residing in a closet in the room. Maybe the city's sewer line opted to blow out in my front yard or a turd factory opened shop next door.

I found the source a day or so later. A long worm somehow inched its way through the house and into the APBA room only to die. We had a lot of rain back then, and worms were all over the place in my driveway and back patio. I guess they, like many people during flooding, were seeking higher ground. Higher ground in this case constituted my back room behind a desk where I seldom voyage.

I discarded said stinker and resumed APBA game play.

But then the smell came back.

And I freaked.

I searched for more worms. But this time the stink seemed centered on one small area about head-high near the entrance to the room. It would come and then fade away. I would come home, wondering if the smell was there. Rather than first unload the day's fare from my pockets on the kitchen countertops, I'd beeline for the back room to see if the smell remained. Sometimes it was gone, other times it lingered.

It drove me freakin' nuts. Friends offered condolences. One caring soul asked if the smell seemed to follow me around wherever I went. Another thought I had dead animals in the wall.

I was losing my mind because I couldn't find the source. I don't believe in ghosts, but if they were real it'd be my luck it would be a flatulent one. GASper the Friendly Ghost?

I thought of calling one of those ghost hunters or séance people you see on the upper channels of cable, but I figured the hunter, bedecked in infrared cameras and recorders, would only capture clouds of red vapor. A real smellavison event. Had I called that Long Island Medium who has the show on The Learning Channel, I envisioned she'd ponder and feel the spirit and say, in that Jersey accent, “I'm sensing some kind of abdominal issues.” And I'd nod vigorously and break into tears, like all those people on her show do.

I even climbed into the attic to see if some animal with an irritable bowel moved overhead.

But there was nothing there.

So, was I losing my mind? I've read about migraine-sufferers smelling odd things when their olfactory system when awry. But other than the continual C5 disc issue I have, there were no other headaches indicating my health was, to continue the metaphor here, sliding down the drainpipe.

Then, the other day as I was leaving, I noticed movement in the APBA room. It was another worm! He was inching slowly to the middle of the room, maybe heading for the same spot his buddy croaked a few weeks earlier. He was covered in worm slime and smelled like someone was boiling cabbage in a municipal wastewater treatment plant that the EPA had deemed in violation of 32 regulations; you know, like a high school cafeteria.

I donned a hazmat suit, got the paper towels and bundled him up.

The smell hasn't returned. But I am still leery of saying all is well. I won't go to any all-you-can-eat Mexican places now because I won't know if that's me or some nasty stench-worm again.