Happy 60th, Helen and Tom

Today – June 30, 2010 – is the 60th anniversary of the wedding of my mother and father:  Helen and Tom Brown.

Mom passed away on January 1, 1998, but my father is getting ready to celebrate his 85th birthday next Monday, July 5th.  I spent a day with him last Sunday and was reminded again of how much Mom and Daddy (I am from the South) loved each other and how that has affected my view of the world.

My Mom was generally considered to be a saint, and dying at a relatively young age from cancer only cemented that view in all our minds.  I wrote her birthday greetings on what would have been her 78th birthday a couple of years ago, and that pretty much sums up how we all feel about her.

My father is a bit more complicated…which also makes him very interesting.

Mother once described my father as having a mouth “always turned up in a perpetual smile” but apparently it wasn’t always so.  Several years ago Daddy sent us some thoughts he had written while on retreat, which included the following:

“When I was young I had a poor self-image.  I was skinny, not athletic, wore glasses and was not really accomplished in any area.  I did fairly well in my studies.  As a result I compensated for this by criticizing others.  This bad attitude was called to my attention in a peculiar way while I was in the Navy.  One day a man said to me, ‘Brown, why do you think everybody but you is full of shit?’  He expressed it very well.”

In that same reflection, Daddy noted that identity crises can come at various points in your life.  When he retired, he no longer worked as an engineer and was asking “Who Am I?”  It was then, he notes, that he came to see that his primary identity was “a child of God.”

Don’t think that because he’s a Christian and Baptist that Daddy is a member of the Christian Right.  Nope, he’s a card-carrying member of the Christian Left and has come to be known for his regular letters to the editor in both the Nashville and Murfreesboro papers to set his neighbors straight about Baptist history, the separation of church and state, and the Constitution.  This is a man who took out a subscription to Mother Jones when he was in his 70s.  When the church he’d been a member of since the 1960s went through some upheavals, he took a two-year sabbatical from First Baptist and went to a black Baptist church, where they “show a little emotion.”  He has e-mail pals all over the world and we all receive updates from my father about twice a week with bits of wisdom.

Daddy is a great reader and gifter (if that’s a word) of books.  When I was home last weekend, he gave me a copy of Bill of Wrongs:  The Executive Branch’s Assault on America’s Fundamental Rights by that late, great unreconstructed Texas liberal Molly Ivins.  He’d bought it at the cheap book bin – only to come home and discover he already had two copies!  This is the kind of Molly Ivins quote that my dad would find hilarious:

“I am not anti-gun. I’m pro-knife. Consider the merits of the knife. In the first place, you have to catch up with someone in order to stab him. A general substitution of knives for guns would promote physical fitness. We’d turn into a whole nation of great runners. Plus, knives don’t ricochet. And people are seldom killed while cleaning their knives.”

God, I miss Molly Ivins…but I digress.

Daddy and I were having our traditional breakfast at City Cafe in Murfreesboro on Monday morning, before I headed off to Rock Castle and then Nashville for work.  We were talking about the fact that their 60th anniversary would have been this week, and then our conversation turned to a cabin in the North Carolina mountains that my sister and her husband own.  Daddy said wistfully, “Helen and I always talked about having a little cabin in North Carolina.”  I responded that he now had the cabin without the hassles of ownership, and he said quietly, “Yes, but I don’t have Helen.”

85 and still in love with the woman he married…that’s my Dad.

As I was leaving Nashville, I commented to some friends via email that there were more guitars per capita in the Nashville airport than in any other airport in the world.  Three guitars and their owners passed me just as I was writing the email.  My favorite sticker on a guitar case that passed by simply said, “Don’t Postpone Joy.”

It is a sentiment my father would endorse.

Happy anniversary and happy birthday, Daddy.




I usually love to listen to baseball on the radio.

Tonight was not usual.

On the drive home from BWI Airport following a quick trip to Nashville, I tuned in to the 7th inning of the Washington Nationals vs. Atlanta Braves game.  According to the announcers, the first six innings were well-played and scoreless.

The seventh was neither (well-played nor scoreless).

For all the T-ball aged readers of More to Come… here are things you’ll learn when you make it to Little League.  (Apparently the Nats skipped that level of baseball development.)

First, when the #6 hitter has a lead-off double and you are the #7 hitter, you do not sacrifice bunt.  By bunting you put all the pressure on the #8 hitter because the pitcher bats in the #9 hole.  Of course, for the Nats tonight the #7 hitter bunts for a sacrifice in that situation, then the #8 hitter makes an out (a likely occurence for all #8 hitters – there’s a reason they are there) and all of a sudden the pitcher – who is throwing a shutout – is supposed to drive in the run.  You know how often pitchers drive in runs with two outs.

Second, when you get a double play ball hit to you at shortstop, you turn the double play.  Ian Desmond booted a tailor-made double play in the bottom of the 7th.  Instead of two outs and one on at third, the bases are loaded with no outs.

Third, when you are a weak-armed center fielder and a sac fly is hit to you with the bases loaded, you throw the ball to second to keep the double play in order.  You do not throw the ball to third, where you have no chance to get an out and you give up second base to the runner on first.  Of course, Nyjer Morgan throws to third.  Both runners score.

It is tough to be a fan of a team playing the worst baseball in the majors at the moment.

Oh well.  Let’s see what tomorrow brings.

More to come…


Playing Favorites

I picked up Top of the Order:  25 Writers Pick Their Favorite Baseball Player during the Politics & Prose sale a couple of weeks ago.  Only a handful of the writers were familiar and the inclusion of Michael Jordan (yes, that MJ) and the fictional Crash Davis in the list of favorites indicated this anthology was going to take a different tack from the typical list of baseball’s greatest hits.

Top of the Order is, at best, uneven.  I couldn’t wait to get through some of the self-indulgent essays (see Pat Jordan on Tom Seaver) which were more about the author than I cared to read.  At their best, some of the essays captured the special nature of fandom (see the obsessive Darin Strauss on Mariano Rivera) where you didn’t mind the intrusion of the writer.  Steve Almond leads off with a strong piece on Rickey Henderson that hooks the reader into this quirky collection.  Neal Pollack writes a terrific essay on Greg Maddux that demonstrates how dominant Mad Dog was through so many years in the 1990s.

But then Sean Manning’s piece on Michael Jordan and John Albert’s essay on Jeff Kent’s mustache almost made me want to put the book down.  So readers beware…you will probably find Top of the Order satisfying and frustrating at the same time.

One aspect of the book I found very appealing:  more than a handful of the essays were written by women.  And the best essay – not just by a woman but in the entire anthology – was by Carrie Rickey, film critic of the Philadelphia Inquirer, on Kevin Costner’s Crash Davis from the best baseball film ever – Bull Durham. First of all, she has the good sense to admit that she watches Bull Durham often.  So do I.  Rickey writes,

“Bull Durham” is one of the few (baseball films) to capture fully that catcher/pitcher conspiracy.  “Bang the Drum Slowly” and “A League of Their Own”are others, but they’re not so much about what happens on the field as about what happens in the heart.  “Bull Durham” is about what happens in both places – and why both places matter.

In just a few short pages, Rickey touches on many of the key scenes from the movie.  She opens with her own take of Crash’s “I believe…” soliloquy (including a terrific “I believe that the dramas of Kevin Costner are self-indulgent dreck”), recounts the evergreen of Crash teaching rookie Nuke LaLoosh his baseball clichés (“they are your friends”),  and notes that when we first meet Crash he shows the switch-hitter’s ability to digest, process, and adjust (going from denial, to anger, to acceptance in three sentences that end with “Who we play tomorrow?”)

Rickey’s essay reminds me that some of my favorite writing about baseball has been by women.  In the 2008 anthology Anatomy of Baseball, Elizabeth Bobrick’s “Oriole Magic” is worth the price of the book.  (Click on the link to read some excerpts.)

So on this Father’s Day, when so many baseball fans wax eloquently about how their fathers introduced them to the game, remember that a great many women (including my late mom) understand the game at a level many men miss.  As Rickey writes about Annie Savoy in Bull Durham,

Here is a woman who knows as much about the game as Crash.  Here is a woman for whom baseball is a religion, who sees the ballplayer who loves the game more than it does in return, and who loves him in a way that finally puts Crash’s life into balance.  And he’s evolved enough not to be intimidated by her.

Catch a game of baseball this week…and perhaps if you’re a guy, take a woman with you to help explain what’s going on with the action on the field.

More to come…


An Act of Human Failing Followed by Colossal Grace

The June 4, 2010 posting from Baseball Musings entitled An Umpire’s Perspective led to an article on umpire-turned-poet Herm Card.

The full article is worth reading, but the ending is simply sublime:

We live in a time, Card said, in which people want instant replays, “do-agains,” the quick fix. But baseball has never lent itself to painless answers. “You’ve got to step back,” Card said, “and appreciate the larger sense of what this was.”

It was an act of human failing followed by colossal grace, which Card sees as proof enough of a perfect game.

Perfect indeed.

More to come…