Friday, July 24, 2015

The Stairway Package

When you're an obsessive APBA player like I, you tend to begin worrying about the next replay as the current one nears its end. Do you go with a different era than the one you're doing now? One you're familiar with? One that brings back memories of watching the actual season as a youngster or a season that becomes a backdrop in a memorable time of life?

It's on my mind as I am nearing the final games of the 1950 baseball season I've been rolling since March 2014. I am still debating about doing 1972 or 1991. Both are important seasons for me. I watched 1972 as a kid in Minnesota; it was one of the first seasons I really watched closely as the Twins finished third that year behind Oakland. I am also debating going to my home town in Minnesota next month on my first vacation since my wife passed away nine years ago. I found a place to stay only 10 blocks from my home, and it'd be neat to roll games in that 1972 season while there, so close to the home where I watched the games as an 11 year old.

But 1991 was a great season, as well. I've written about that year here before, so stop me if you've heard this: I was in Lubbock, Texas, enrolled in a PhD program in English at Texas Tech and in the midst of a horrible, failing relationship. I bailed, dropping out of school and love between Games 2 and 3 of the Series that featured Minnesota and Atlanta. The Twins' winning the World Series that year was the salve to the heartbreak I experienced.

So, I obsess over which season to do next.

And, as a newspaper writer who's stuff is read by nearly 200,000 people daily, I at times worry if I'm doing a rotten job. We don't hear compliments on a story, but make one mistake and the phones light up. I once wrote in a story about an Arkansas house where he once lived, that Ernest Hemingway killed himself in an old hotel in Ketchum, Idaho. Ye-gads, the calls! It wasn't a hotel, the astute readers barked. It was an apartment building converted from an old hotel.

That doubt transfers over to any writing I do, and even to this blog. I run out of ideas at times. And I wonder if anyone even really cares about this. It's the thoughts of the low self-esteem we writer-types get.

But both my dilemmas — which season to play next and if the blog is worth the time — were answered with a package left in the stairway of my workplace this week.

I was leaving the office, heading to an assignment in a town about 50 miles away when I saw the large box. I opened it and, to my stunned surprise, I found a large framed picture of the 1991 Minnesota Twins logo on white material and red pinstripes, like their uniforms. There was also the 1987 World Series patch, the “TC” logo and a 25-year anniversary patch.

A simple note read: “A couple of guys from Michigan enjoy reading Love, Life and APBA Baseball.”

It was signed “Jerry and David” from St. Clair Shores, Mich.

I don't know Jerry and David from St. Clair Shores, Mich., but I am shocked, and pleased, by the offering. The picture will hang up on the wall above the table I roll these replay games. Above the table where I'll play the 1991 season next.

Yes, both of my dilemmas were solved in a single kind gesture. I will play 1991 next and I get feedback on this blog. A package from Jerry and David in St. Clair Shores, Mich., solved everything.

Thank you.

Friday, July 10, 2015

Back on Pace

The first step of my latest journey almost sent me backwards and into a pile of embarrassed stupidity.

But I held on, set the pace and took off.

I have joined a gym and took that first ventured step on a treadmill — something I don't think I've ever done with any regularity before. The forced walking, the undeterred pace of the thing, was a bit different. I had no choice but to step along, pacing more out of fear of appearing on some Stupid, Funny Video show than losing weight.

A couple of years ago, I swept the Doritos off my prone self, struggled up from the couch and began walking around a city park with a friend to lose weight. I had gotten so fat that I beeped whenever I backed up. Whenever I got on a scale, it'd holler out, “Hey, one person at a time.” My doctor began suggesting diets. One, I think, since I was in pretty bad shape, was to eat a stick in the morning, lick an apple for lunch and drink a glass of air for dinner.

Part of all that came with the depression of losing my wife in 2006. I kind of gave up and did that destructive thing survivors often do. I ate junk food and sat in a chair all day, rolling games in whatever APBA baseball replay I was doing. The most exercise I was getting then involved hiking to the refrigerator for another Pepsi. It's easy for people to suggest healthier diets and exercise, but there's so much more needed to break that cycle. I finally realized that and thought if I didn't do something, I'd turn into one of those people you see leaving his house only after paramedics remove a wall.

So my friend and I hit the park and I lost about 100 pounds in two years. I wrote about all that here back in August 2013.

But, much as the crack addict returns to the pipe, I returned last winter to the potato chip aisle and the ice cream aisle and the candy aisle. I was, alas, stranded on Fat Ass Isle. I gained quite a bit weight. Christmas and Thanksgiving? Why, thank you, I think I will have another slab o' pie

It got out of hand. No, really it did. Whatever was in my hand got out of it and into my mouth. Offer me a burger and pie and I looked like an industrial wood chipper.

Two weeks ago, when I neared my birthday, I joined a local gym that had all the equipment necessary to turn flab to ab, girth to worth, chunk to hunk and all that. The same friend who trudged weekly with me on the trail the past two years had already become a member and she extolled the virtues of walking and exercising indoors and at night.

So I went.

I put an old pair of sweat pants on and a tee shirt and, looking like some dorky extra in Olivia Newton John's circa 1980s “Let's Get Physical” video, I stepped on the treadmill and cranked it up to 3.7 miles per hour since I had no concept of speed. I might should have considered starting off slower. Me at that speed was like driving a Volkswagen minibus 95 mph at Daytona International Speedway.

I flailed and stumbled and staggered. I tried to get a drink from a bottle of water and promptly missed my mouth and poured it on my face and the tread below. Meanwhile, some fit asshat on the machine next to me jogged rapidly in place without sweating and without mussing his hair. I was wondering if I was bleeding from several orifices; he was trotting along oblivious to my demise.

But I stayed on the treadmill and, after losing feeling in my lower extremities, I looked at the odometer on the machine and saw I hit 3 miles. Nary a long stretch for most, but for me it was akin to a journey of 1,000 miles.

Later, I got on a stationary bicycle and peddled away. The bike has a little stand on it to allow for reading. I paged through my Sports Illustrated as I churned about 5 miles.

After two weeks, it's getting better. Last night, we tried a stair machine. It felt like my kneecap was going to shoot off and ricochet through the gym so I quit. But I rode 7 miles on the bike. I go three times a week now.

Each journey begins, like they always say, with a single step. My first step was a bit stumbled, but I kept at it.  

Wednesday, July 1, 2015

The Week: Sept 12-18, 1950

Last week was quite the week! There's been excitement, surprises, cheers, anger and flag waving. There's been second-guessing, arguments, close calls and tension.

Oh. Did you think I was referring to the Supreme Court's decision of last Friday? Of course not! This is APBA. We've got more important things to worry about.

And in this case, it was the previous week in the National League in my 1950 baseball replay. I'm nearing completion; there's only about 90 games remaining to play in the season and it's a dogfight to the end. In the American League, it's pretty much decided that the Yankees will head to the World Series and represent their league. As of Sept. 18, 1950, they are 9.5 games ahead of Boston with only 10 games remaining.

But, oh, that National League.

Here's a look at the week:

Sept. 12, 1950
New York 79 58 -
Brooklyn 76 60 2.5
St. Louis 76 61 3
St. Louis 10 Philadelphia 7
The Cardinals score all 10 runs in the first inning on a plethora of singles and walks. In fact, St. Louis only had one double and no other larger base hits the entire game.
New York 15 Pittsburgh 5
Sal Maglie goes the distance for the Giants, winning his 19th, and Hank Thompson drives in 5 runs.
Cincinnati 3 Brooklyn 1
The anemic Dodgers scored only once on a home run by Jim Russell in the 8th. Preacher Roe drops his record to 12-12.

Sept. 13, 1950
New York 80 58 -
Brooklyn 77 60 2.5
St. Louis 77 61 3
St. Louis 9 Philadelphia 4
New York 7 Pittsburgh 2
Brooklyn 12 Cincinnati 2
Jim Russell hits his second home run in two days for the Dodgers and Duke Snider adds one as Brooklyn gets back on the winning track.

Sept. 14, 1950
New York 81 58 -
Brooklyn 78 60 2.5
St. Louis 77 61 3.5
New York 13 Pittsburgh 2
Hank Thompson hits three home runs in the game and drives in seven runs.
Brooklyn 6 Cincinnati 1

Sept. 15, 1950
New York 81 59 -
Brooklyn 78 61 2.5
St. Louis 78 61 2.5
St. Louis 4 Brooklyn 0
Chicago 4 New York 0

Sept. 16, 1950
New York 81 60 -
Brooklyn 79 61 1.5
St. Louis 78 62 2.5
Brooklyn 8 St. Louis 5
Chicago 8 New York 6
Andy Pafko hits a three-run home run off Giants reliever Dave Koslo in the ninth to win the game.

Sept. 17, 1950
New York 81 61 -
Brooklyn 80 61 .5
St. Louis 79 62 1.5
St. Louis 5 New York 1
Sal Maglie gives up only three hits to the Cardinals, but an error, three walks and two hits in the sixth gave the Redbirds all their runs. Howie Pollet wins, improving his record to 16-7.
Brooklyn 7 Chicago 6
After trailing 6-2 in the seventh inning, Brooklyn scores five runs, including a bases loaded-clearing triple by Carl Furillo. Don Newcombe gets the win and leads the National League with 22 wins.

Sept. 18, 1950
New York 82 61 -
Brooklyn 80 62 1.5
St. Louis 79 63 2.5
New York 3 St. Louis 1
Bobby Thomson hits a two-run home run in the second inning, and the Giants hang on.
Chicago 3 Brooklyn 2
Hank Sauer's two-run homer, his 41st of the season, is enough to defeat the Dodgers. Preacher Roe takes yet another heartbreaking loss.

Each team still has 11 or 12 games remaining to play in the season. The Boston Braves are lurking in fourth, 4.5 games behind. Pittsburgh, which led the National League early in the season, has fallen apart and, after winning only two of their last 11 games, is now 9.5 games out of first.

The Cardinals appear to have the easiest remaining schedule. They travel to Boston for three games and then to Chicago for three before returning home for three games against both Cincinnati and the Cubs.

The Giants host Cincinnati and then head to Boston for a two-game set before going to Ebbets Field for two against the Dodgers. They end the season at home, hosting Philadelphia and Boston.

The Dodgers host Pittsburgh for three games and then go to Philadelphia for two before the Giants head in for what could be a pivotal series. The Bums wrap the season up at home with three against the Braves and two against Philadelphia.

It looks like a close race to the end, and it has kept me far more interested than Supreme Court rulings, Confederate flag controversies and other mayhem the country seems to always manifest.