Bat Droppings

I am always curious about language and how certain terms originate and the journey that those terms usually take before coming to mean what they do. I recently heard the term, bats**t crazy [see note below] and it occurred to me, why bats? What is it about their guano that we associate with being not just a little crazy or temporarily insane, but full-blown nuts? As one might expect, there is no precise answer to this question, but it seems to be related to the phrase bats in the belfry which most definitely means a person is off his or her rocker. presents an excellent discussion on bats**t crazy which may have developed its current definition as recently as 2001. Or it may have originated with the Vikings. One contributor suggests that it may have something to do with the fungus Histoplasma capsulatum which is present in bat droppings and produces a “psychotic effect” in anyone infected. I urge you to read this discussion if, like me, you are etymologically curious.

Of course—although perhaps I should say of coarse—our society has this on-going linguistic relationship with the droppings of various barnyard animals. For example, bulls**t generally means that something is wrong or incorrect as in “Professional wrestling is totally unscripted!” to which one would reply “Bulls**t!” (On a historical note, the term did not come into widespread use until World War I.)

Horses**t, is not quite synonymous with its bovine equivalent, as it usually refers to something stupid or annoying, but not necessarily incorrect. For example, you are barely moving through a construction zone on the highway only to find at the end of six tortured and tedious miles that no one is constructing anything; they just left the signs and the cones out overnight. That’s horses**t.

The piles of poop produced by horses are just too large to reference when describing the smaller annoyances in life to which we apply the term, chickens**t. For example, you go to your doctor, the same one you’ve been seeing for 25 years, and you’ve had the same insurance for 25 years, but every year for 25 years, that nasty woman who sits behind the glass and pretends that she’s invisible, asks you to fill out yet another insurance form even though none of the information from the last 25 forms has ever changed. That’s chickens**t.

What I really don’t understand is why pigs**t isn’t a commonly used expression. Maybe because it actually smells so foul that it would send shudders through even the most hardened utterer of profanity.

Language is dynamic and almost as old as human kind. Of course, s**t is as old as human kind and was probably the subject of the first joke, but that’s another essay altogether.

Note: My father, who was the son of a Methodist minister never cursed in his life. (He never smoked nor drank, either; how he survived three years in the United States Navy without picking up at least one of those habits is a bit mind boggling.) In deference to Dad’s memory, and to others who may be offended, I have refrained from spelling out the word in question. After all, everyone can recognize the word from its shadow. You don’t have to step in it to know that it stinks. So to speak.

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , | 8 Comments

This Post Is Totally Self-Serving . . .

. . .  but informative and entertaining!

I will be presenting an illustrated talk on Boots Poffenberger: Hurler, Hero, Hell-Raiser on Monday, October 5 at 7:00 p.m. in the Fletcher Library in Hagerstown. This talk is part of the Robert McCauley Lecture Series and will last for approximately one hour including a question and answer period. Naturally, I will be signing copies afterwards, so come on out and learn a little something about baseball’s most colorful character, Williamsport’s own, Boots Poffenberger!


It’s always interesting to see who likes certain posts on Facebook, especially when the “likes” come from a variety of friend-circles. Two of my biggest circles include my baseball friends and my dance friends, and it occurs to me that one group may not be familiar with my involvement in the other activity. So, for my dance friends, I am posting this slide show featuring highlights of my first year of full-time webcasting for the New Market Rebels with my partner, Charlie Dodge.

And for my baseball friends, here’s a little something that my instructor, Danielle Beaulieu and I did at the grand opening of the new Social Graces Dance Studio:

I wonder if I could get a job doing play by play at a dance competition?


Posted in Boots' biography, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

Questioning Assumptions in a McDonald’s Bathroom

Quite often, we don’t know what we think we know. I was reminded of this recently while trying to dry my hands under one of those pathetic air dryers in a McDonald’s bathroom. In theory, these things shoot a blast of air and you rub your hands in this personal wind tunnel until they’re dry. In reality, however, your hands aren’t dry until you pull out your shirt tail and wipe them on that. Anyway, as this particular machine was huffing and puffing, I noticed the decal on it that proudly pronounced that I was saving all kinds of trees by using a hand dryer.

This got me to thinking, just how many trees am I saving?

I searched the internet and a constant figure that pops up is that it takes “17 trees” to make one ton of paper. There seems to be an image in our society that those 17 trees are taken by evil logger-business men who, in the middle of the night, sneak onto the village green and mercilessly cut down 250-year-old oaks under which, not only did George Washington pin a medal on the proud chest of the town founder, but on which your grandfather carved your grandmother’s initials. We know (well, most of us know) that’s not where those trees come from, but if we stop and think a minute further, there are all kinds of questions that need to be asked about those 17 trees: Where do they come from? How big are they? What kind are they?

According to a multi-citation Wikipedia article, it actually takes a mix of 24 hardwood and softwood trees, 40’ tall by 6-8” in diameter on average, to make one ton of writing paper, and 12 such trees to make one ton of newsprint. Therefore, we can conclude that the figure of 17 trees needed to make paper towels sounds about right. The article also states that 16% of those trees come from forests specifically planted for pulp production and 9% come from old growth forests. The other 75% come from “second and third and more generation forests.”

Much of the “wood” that comes from trees not planted specifically for pulp is actually the byproduct of the lumber industry, i.e. sawdust and wood chips. This is the claim on industry websites, but it also stands to reason since no one is going to cut down the old oak tree for pulp when they could cut it down for lumber and make a much greater profit. [Interesting side note: The wood shavings and sawdust produced in the making of Hillerich & Bradsby baseball bats is collected and sold to an Indiana turkey farmer for bedding.] In other words, we are saving few, if any trees, by using those air dryers.

We accept certain statements as true because they have been repeated so often that we assume they are true or because we want them to be true in the first place. It would be nice to think that by using an air dryer we are doing something for the Earth, but are we? Especially if I have to use 12 napkins to dry my hands after “drying” them under that confounded wheeze box. I am all for good stewardship of the land and I am all for paper producers making money. Those things do not have to be mutually exclusive, but what I am really for is a constant review of our own assumptions.

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , | 4 Comments

Epithetical Technology

I wonder how often the word computer is accompanied by an adjective? You know, as in, “Why is this #$%^%$computer so slow?” or “Why did this #$%^&^ computer just change its own settings?” or “I hate this #$%^&^% computer!” My guess is that it’s way north of 50%. In fact, if someone were smart, he or she would form the Damn Computer company and then collect royalty fees every time someone uttered the registered name of their company. Most of us, however, have bolted right past such mild epithets into much more colorful territory whenever we have to deal with these electronic wizards. Indeed, computers are much like Merlin: They are very helpful to a point and then all of a sudden, Sir Lancelot is sending you error messages that no normal human being understands.

Of course, when you do get an error message you can paste it into a search engine and read the threads on how to fix this; threads that again, no normal human being understands. I think we can all agree that the people who do actually understand these incantations are not normal.

A friend of mine recently dealt with the issue of trying to get her new computer to run her old printer. After several futile calls for help on Facebook, she finally opted to simply buy a new printer, which was much cheaper than investing in psychiatric sessions which is where she was headed if she kept trying to get the new computer to run the old printer. This experience was just about enough to make her lose her religion, which is bad because she is an ordained minister. Clearly then, the power of prayer is not enough to overcome malfunctioning technological interfaces–whatever those are.

My phone recently caught a virus, one that made it nauseated, which in turn made it puke up its guts. The guy at U. S. Cellular said the only treatment was to do a “factory restore.” I wanted to boil the phone in chicken noodle soup, but he insisted on the factory restore and so, I spent the next four days reinstalling contacts, apps, and dates in my calendar.

I’m convinced that tiny gremlins live in the computer and cause all this mischief. How else do you explain the fact that quite often you are told to simply unplug your computer for 10 seconds so it can reset itself? I’m typing on a machine that is more powerful than the one that sent men to the moon and I’m supposed to just unplug the thing to make it better? Maybe if NASA had simply unplugged Mission Control during the near-disaster of Apollo 13, all that trouble would have been avoided. My guess is that when the computer is unplugged it is a signal to the gremlins to stop laughing and get back to work. Gremlins are well-known pranksters.

Right now, the gremlins are randomly changing the size of my internet windows. I thought it was me, but I took both hands off the touch pad mouse and it still just randomly changes size.

I have my father’s old slide rule in my desk and it’s never changed a thing about itself. It’s never needed an update and it isn’t incompatible with the printer which we used to call a “typewriter.” Come to think of it, I never heard Dad curse that slide rule, either. Perhaps, the real investment into which Bill Gates and Steve Jobs and those people have sunk their money is in drug companies that specialize in hypertension medication. It would explain quite a bit. . . . Oh, I just got an error message. I think I’ll just download that slide rule several times across this computer and see if that fixes things. If not, into the pot of boiling chicken noodle soup it goes.

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , | 4 Comments

Finding a Diamond in the Corn

One of the most enjoyable stops on our recent baseball sojourn to the Midwest was visiting League Stadium in Huntingburg, Indiana, home of the Dubois County Bombers of the Ohio Valley League (OVL). The OVL is a summer collegiate circuit as is Virginia’s Valley Baseball League.

The ballpark itself is a delightful time machine that whisks fans back to the 1940s as you’ll see in the video below. The producers of A League of Their Own certainly thought so when they discovered, and then refurbished the park, using it as the home field of the Rockford Peaches. The World War II era atmosphere is given a big boost by the Bombers’ uniforms which are classic to say the least. Furthermore, the concessionaires and attendants wear replica Rockford Peaches uniforms, adding further to the vintage ambiance.

Local fans certainly embrace their ballpark and their team as 2,003 of them made their way through the turnstiles for what was the final regular season game the night Al and I attended. This is a very impressive figure, especially considering that the population of Huntingburg is approximately 6,000.

The game we witnessed began as a tight, well-played, contest that somehow transformed into a crazy, base-hit filled affair that ended inn a wholly unique way. The home-town Bombers lead 3-0 through five innings over the Madisonville Miners, when the latter suddenly struck a vein of singles. The Miners scored six in the sixth and five in the seventh, ultimately taking a 13-4 lead into the ninth. Three walks and two singles plated two runs in the bottom of the ninth and the Bombers had the bases loaded with two outs when the Minersville manager, lineup card in hand, came strolling out to the plate umpire. Dubois County had brought their right fielder in to record the final out in the top of the inning, thus sacrificing their designated hitter. However, the new right fielder batted in the old right fielder’s spot who was still in the game as the pitcher. The game ended when he was declared out for batting out-of-order, a run came off the board, and the Bombers lost 13-5 in a game that featured 31 singles out of 34 total hits. Neither Al nor I (nor it seemed anyone in the stands) had ever seen a game end in such a fashion.

(Note: As it turns out, the Dubois County Bombers won their first OVL championship, defeating those same Madisonville Miners by winning the final two games in a best of three series on July 31st.)

As was the case, however, seemingly wherever we went on this trip, it was the friendship extended to us that comprised the most memorable part of the experience. Mary and Mike Uebelhor of the Bombers were happy to have us shoot an episode of Off the Beaten Basepaths and gave us the run of the park. Naturally, we enjoyed talking college summer league baseball with them. All of the Peaches were friendly and knowledgeable. It is hard to tell if their excellent sense of fan service is a result of good training or is just their natural Midwestern inclination to hospitality. I suspect a combination of both. Two Peaches in particular, Joyce Lawrence and Alexa Rasche were very gracious in posing for photos. Even the first base umpire came over to the fence along the right field line and chatted between innings.

Knowing that one can drive across the Indiana countryside, through seemingly endless fields of tall and shimmering corn to find a community coming together on a warm summer night to root for their home town team is reassuring. The summer, the game, the sense of belonging bestowed upon two strangers from the East Coast are all reassuring. Some moments are eternal.

Posted in 2015 Road Trip | Tagged , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

A Warm Experience in Evansville

On July 18th, Al and I ventured to Bosse Field in Evansville, Indiana, on what may be mildly described as a warn evening. The heat index, which had risen to 113 during the day, was still over 100 degrees at game time, which was 7:05. Naturally, this did not deter us and we happily took our front row seats behind the home town Otters’ dugout.

The entrance to Bosse Field.

The entrance to Bosse Field.

Evansville is one of 14 teams in the independent Frontier League, which is now based in the Mid-West. This night, the Otters were taking on the Joliet Slammers. An independent league, as the name implies, is unaffiliated with Major League Baseball. The players play for the love of the game or for one more chance to get noticed by a major league organization. A league rule sets the team salary at $75,000 and yes, you read that correctly: That’s the salary cap for the entire team and so, these boys average a little over $3,000 per season given the 22 man roster. Players live with a host family each summer. Also by league rule, players must be under 27 years of age with the exception of one player per team who may be designated as a “veteran.” The veteran must be under 30 years of age. (Click here for official player eligibility rules.)


Joliet center fielder, Charlie White, takes a strike in the first inning. Otters’ catcher is JD Dorgan.

Bosse Field, the Otters’ home, is what initially drew us to Evansville. Opened on June 17, 1915, Bosse Field is the third oldest professional ballpark in the country behind only Fenway Park (1912) and Wrigley Field (1914). The park was used as a set in A League of Their Own, the 1992 film about the All American Girls Professional Baseball League in which it served as the home ballpark of the Racine Belles. For a more in-depth look at Bosse Field, click here for a video history of the park, and here for David B. Stinson’s excellent post on Bosse.

Bosse Field is not just an old ballpark; it is a place where the wonderful ambience of ballparks past remains alive not only in the architecture, but also in the buzz from knowledgeable and friendly fans who fill the seats.

We saw an exciting 4-2 Evansville victory by the first place Otters, a team night whose 41-19 record makes them as hot as the night we attended. (The Otters continue to lead the Eastern Division as of this writing nine days later,) Neither the game, nor the ballpark, nor the heat was the most memorable aspect of our visit to Bosse Field, however. What we most enjoyed was warmth of a different kind—that which emanated from the fans with whom we sat. We talked at length with Dave Meyer, a local teacher and athletic director who was there with his dad and his daughter. A well-versed baseball fan in his own right, Dave was eager for us to meet General Manager Bix Branson who in turn was more than happy to take us to his office and show us the photo taken on the day that Bosse Field was officially opened one hundred years ago. Such congeniality was a given on our trip through Kentucky and Indiana, and I know I speak for Al when I say that this is the “souvenir” that we will most cherish whenever we reflect on our trip.


Fans stand for the National Anthem.

Coming soon, a post on League Field in Huntingburg, IN.

Posted in 2015 Road Trip | Tagged , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Our Road Trip By the Numbers

It’s good to be home, although it wasn’t good to be cutting the grass within a half an hour of being home. Al graciously agreed to help and we knocked out that chore. Our road trip to Louisville produced some interesting numbers:

1,468.9 miles traveled

6 times that we crossed the Ohio River

3 states to add to our list of places we have played (Kentucky, Indiana, & Ohio)

3 ballparks visited and 3 games attended

2 barbecue shacks visited (one in Kentucky and one in Indiana)

2 Hooters visited (Of course; they tend to come in pairs, although one was in Indiana and the other in Kentucky.)

1 World War II ship visited.

The Hillerich & Bradsby Factory and Museum

The Hillerich & Bradsby Factory and Museum

1 giant bat found

It became impossible to count the number of friendly, hospitable people that we encountered on the trip, but it is a topic I am happy to blog about at some point. Later in the week, I hope to detail our stop at Bosse Field, and in the near future, I will post a video about League Stadium and our wonderful evening there.

Posted in 2015 Road Trip | Tagged , , , | 4 Comments