Sprinkles

I just finished reading a marvelous baseball book entitled, Where They Ain’t: The Fabled Life and Untimely Death of the Original Baltimore Orioles, The Team That Gave Birth to Modern Baseball, by Burt Solomon. It is a wonderful story about players, such as John McGraw and “Wee” Willie Keeler and Hughie Jennings who loved the game, and the fans who loved the players, and the owners who loved a profit. The last page was in fact, moving and I’m sorry that I came to this book too late to discuss it in Fathers, Sons, & Holy Ghosts: Baseball as a Spiritual Experience. I won’t quote any of that last page and ruin it for anyone who reads it, but I will say that clearly, Solomon understands the hold that baseball can take on its fans.

There was another passage toward the end that got me to thinking beyond baseball. (I do that occasionally.) Of Joe Kelley, an old Oriole, future Hall of Famer, and manager of the Boston Beaneaters (as the Braves were then known) Solomon wrote, that Kelley “assailed the quality of the modern ballplayers, compared with the old-timers.” This was in 1908. The year in which Ty Cobb turned 21. In researching my various books, I’ve come across similar sentiments expressed by every past generation of ballplayers about the current generation of ballplayers.

All “old-time” players are better than “modern” players. The old-timers played when we were young.

As adults, we see ballplayers as fellow human beings who happened to possess an incredible skill. As children, however, they were our heroes who performed feats almost beyond our imagining. They did what none of our fathers or adult neighbors did, that’s for sure. Their job was (and is) to play baseball. They got paid to actually roam that magically green grass when summer was on and school was out. That’s why Shoeless Joe, upon discovering the diamond cut into the cornfield in the movie, Field of Dreams asks, “Is this Heaven?”

You bet it is.

It’s not just the ballplayers, of course. Nothing was as good as the “good old days,” which is a fascinating human concept. I used to hear my parents and their friends talk about the good old days, which seemed strange because they were talking about the Great Depression and World War II. What was so good about that? Youth, it seems, can even over-power world-wide calamities.

First ballgame, first car, first kiss; all treasures of our youth and they glimmer with the polish that only Innocence can provide, even if our team lost, that car was a rust bucket, or the realization that the first kissee (or kisser, depending) is now, in fact, just as old as we are.

Since we can’t relive the good old days, our only alternative is to keep right on manufacturing new ones, and the only way to do this is to stay young. Play catch. Order sprinkles. Laugh loudly, cry hard, and get up in Friday’s and dance in the aisles because a great song came on and, well, why wouldn’t you?

One of those old Orioles, John McGraw was known for his competitiveness, for living and dying for every game, for every pitch. There’s no clock in baseball, but there is in this Game that we’re all playing.

Play it to win.

Go on—order the sprinkles.

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Fathers, Sons, & Holy Ghosts

Fathers, Sons, & Holy Ghosts: Baseball as a Spiritual Experience is now available in both print and electronic forms! Ordering and download links can be found on the Book Information page, and I am also happy to say that the good folks at the Winchester Book Gallery, on the Old Town Mall in Winchester, have already scheduled a book signing for Saturday, March 18 from 11:00-1:00 p.m.

I am very excited about this book. It’s a love story and a coming of age story and a quest story. It’s my story, or at least it represents a big chunk of my story, and it’s been two and a half years in the making.

The cover, on the other hand, was about an hour and a half in the making, and if you don’t f-s-hg_editedbelieve my passion for baseball has existed since the beginning, note that on the left is the ticket to the first game that I ever attended in 1965 (well, maybe, but that story is in the book). There is also a ticket from a collegiate summer league game out in Indiana in 2015, six days shy of exactly 50 years after I attended my first game. The birthday card in the upper right corner was from my parents who had saved such things, and which I discovered in going through my parents’ effects. In fact, every birthday card from age 7 through about age 12 featured a baseball theme.

 

The photo of the distinguished looking gentleman is Maynard G. “Mo” Weber. This card was from the early ‘80s when Mo served as the General Manager of the Peninsula Pilots, then an A league affiliate of the Chicago White Sox. Mo is now in his early 90s and his eyes still twinkle whenever the conversation turns to baseball. Actually, that isn’t quite accurate because almost always the conversation starts with baseball and doesn’t turn much from that subject. Mo and I speak the same language, again as I explain in the book.

Mo is my baseball father, and of course, I have done my best to pass along my love of the game, and its meaning, to my girls. Sarah once remarked that “Baseball is my second sibling,” which was quite insightful even if spoken with a hint of jealousy. In any case the girls are on the cover as well. Becky, aged 13 in this photo, is on the left while Sarah, 8, is on the right. They are flanking the number of their father’s hero, Brooks Robinson. Every number that the Orioles have retired has been cast in aluminum and placed in a courtyard just outside Camden Yards. These monuments mark the entrance to sacred space. In flipping through the album in which this photo is stored, I see one of Becky and her husband Jesse. At some point, I guess the newly arrived Riley Harper Dice will have to have her photo taken by #5 as well. (For those of you without a scorecard, Riley is Becky and Jesse’s daughter and our first grandchild.)

That’s a quick “tour” of the cover. For a more extensive tour, you’ll just have to buy the book and read it! And a big thank you to everyone who is helping me get out the word about Fathers, Sons, & Holy Ghosts: Baseball as a Spiritual Experience.

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This Will Explain A Lot

If you ever wondered about me–and if you’re reading this, then I know you have–then I encourage you to read my latest book, Fathers, Sons, & Holy Ghosts: Baseball as a Spiritual Experience. This is my explanation as to why baseball people are so passionate about their sport. It is largely a memoir (with a little science and some serious theology thrown in) and as such, it will explain a great deal about me. In fact, this photo back-2graces the back cover. Taken at my great-uncle’s farm in Cecil County, Maryland when I was ten or eleven, it captures the spirit of this book. That boy, who posed this photo to make it look like a baseball card, is still in here–slower, and far less agile, but just as thrilled to run across the summer grass after a baseball.

If you have a Kindle, you can find the download for Fathers, Sons, & Holy Ghosts here. If you have a different e-reader (a Nook, for example) you can go to your respective e-book store or go to Smashwords and download the file that is appropriate for you. All e-versions are only $0.99. The print version will be available from CreateSpace (Amazon) in another couple of weeks and lists for $5.49.

If you are interested in a personalized copy and are local, I will be signing books on March 18 from 11:00-1:00 at the Winchester Book Gallery in Winchester’s Old Town Mall.

The “official” description of Fathers, Sons, & Holy Ghosts: Baseball as a Spiritual Experience:

No other sport, and indeed few other activities evoke as much passion as does baseball. It is a passion that unites generations and genders, laborers and lawyers, Republicans and Democrats. Baseball serves as a common language, a unified way of perceiving the world, a means to greater understanding. Baseball’s shrines, rituals, myths, and heroes certainly give it a religious aura, but many activities may be pursued “religiously.” Baseball is beyond religion. It is a living myth that puts us in touch with Eternity, with the Infinite. Its Miracle is not some long-ago act that contradicts the laws of physics. Its Miracle is the scrubbing away of cynicism to reveal the fresh-faced child within who is ready to believe, eager to believe, who does believe. Fathers, Sons, & Holy Ghosts: Baseball as a Spiritual Experience is an examination in memoir form of how baseball nourishes the spiritual side of those who are part of the game.

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Streep Throat

A personal note before I begin: I have not reacted to 99% of the rants that I see on Facebook, rants from friends who should understand—but don’t—that they are making this election quite personal, even if they aren’t naming people. Since silence is often misconstrued as acquiescence, I felt compelled to respond and have been encouraged to do so. Apparently, the editor of the Winchester Star whose editorial in this morning’s (January 18, 2017) paper deals with the same theme as this post, feels the same. We didn’t consult each other ahead of time, but then we’re friends—who happen to think alike. For all my friends who don’t, please stop giving me cause to write about politics.

The Left is outraged over the outrageous things that Donald Trump has said. In fact, many such folks from Congress to Facebook are apoplectic over some of his statements. The irony is that Trump is the culmination of outrageous statements from the Left; statements that have barely drawn a rebuke over the years, much less any outrage from those same people on the Left, especially the media.

“It all depends on what the definition of is is.”

“We have to pass this bill to see what’s in it.”

“To just be grossly generalistic, you can put half of Trump supporters into what I call the basket of deplorables. Right? Racist, sexist, homophobic, xenophobic, Islamaphobic, you name it.”

Those are three good examples of outrageousness on its face and that barely drew acknowledgment from the media.

“Bush is Hitler,” is another one that comes to mind.

All of which brings us to Meryl Streep and her comments at the Golden Globe awards during which she chastised Trump for not only making fun of a reporter,[i] but also of a general lack of tolerance on the part of all the deplorables. Of course, it was Meryl who led the standing ovation in 2003 at those same Golden Globe Awards when child-rapist Roman Polanski was named the best director for The Piano. “Child-rapist” might be a bit harsh; he did plead guilty to statutory rape in a plea bargain and then fled the country, but I guess some “women’s issues” aren’t as important as others.

Meryl also noted that, “This instinct to humiliate when it’s modeled by someone in the public … by someone powerful, it filters down into everyone’s life because it kind of gives permission for other people to do the same.” Ummm, yes; yes it does. Could be the reason why some people cling to their God and their guns, that is to protect themselves against elitist bullying. You know, the bullying that says based on my principles I refuse to cater Donald Trump’s inauguration, but your principles don’t count when you refuse to cater a gay wedding. (And please–I’m all for gay weddings. In fact, I’m for the government getting out of the wedding licensing business all together, but if we’re talking about the right to exercise one’s principles . . .)

To Meryl and Hillary and Bill and all the foaming ranters on Facebook: Don’t expect Trump supporters to be outraged by Donald Trump. They can’t hear his outrage for all of your hypocrisy. You drove them to this point, a point at which they were determined to do whatever it took to begin successfully combating your outrageousness. As it turns out, voting for Donald Trump was what it took.

Right now, the best way for Leftists to facilitate communication is to stop talking. In fact, we should ALL stop talking, then commence the conversation once we actually have some results or non-results to talk about. I would hope that results are what all of us root for, but I’m beginning to have my doubts.

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[i] In fact, this reporter is clearly not “handicapped” as he indeed is capable of functioning as a reporter. In that same vein, he is not disabled; he has the ability (the “ableness” if you will) to do his job in spite of the fact that he suffers from “arthrogryposis, which according to the National Institutes of Health, can impact the function and range of motion of joints and can cause muscles to atrophy.” Let’s give Serge Kovaleski some credit for being able to do his job in spite of his condition. We need a new word.

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This Grandpa Thing

As many of you know, I am now officially a grandpa. Riley Harper Dice debuted on the same day as did 2017. People have asked me if I feel any different now and the honest answer is no, at least on the outside; however, the warm spot inside me is warmer now, the joy inside me has grown, and my wonder at the world has increased.

We tend to miss that stuff when we become parents. Raising kids often crowds out reflecting upon them. This is why parents cry at graduations and weddings and even 7th grade Christmas concerts, because Mom and Dad finally have a chance to sit still and think, “Wow, it seems that I just brought her home from the hospital and now she’s sitting up there playing the clarinet!” Of course, they will also reflect upon how very few seventh graders sing well, especially as that white-shirted gaggle makes its assault upon “Silent Night,” but I digress.

A prime responsibility of a grandparent is to encourage our own children to savor every moment of theirs.

I find myself smiling every time I see Riley blink open her eyes and look around (okay, that’s maybe like six times so far, but it’s still 100% of the time) and I can read her little mind. Aunt Sarah questioned whether babies have any thoughts at all, but of course, they do. And they all think the same thing:

Zzzzz . . . milk, milk, milk . . . poop, poop, poop . . . zzzzz, milk, milk, poop . . . zzzzz . . . Oh boy! A nice warm bath and a fresh diaper! POOP, POOP, POOP . . . zzzzz

Babies keep it simple like that. They’re just alive and that’s more than I can say for many adults who mistake being busy for living. They mistake worrying for concern, and rigidity for consistency, and habit for actual thinking. So many people don’t dare stick a foot out from under the blanket and wiggle their toes in the world. Babies are wise.

Having the title of grandpa does make me feel a bit older, but I am quite sure that being a grandpa will make me feel younger. So, that’s the deal, Riley. I’ll help you become an adult, you help me become a child.20170102_161138

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Allow Me to Point Out Something

A friend and I were recently talking about cell phones and I said something to the effect of “We’re a long way from the days of dialing”—and then, I stuck out my finger and rotated an imaginary dial. As if she didn’t know what “dialing a phone” meant.

Within the same week, I was talking to another friend who could not come up with the word, bellows. I realized the word that she wanted and pumped my hands together. The problem was, this conversation took place on the phone so I’m pretty sure that my visual aid did her no good.

It occurred to me that there must be some instinct toward gesticulation because we seem to do it even when it is totally unnecessary or even totally useless. (Gesticulation is one of my favorite words because it has a nice rhythm and sounds both sophisticated and dirty at the same time, so it could be that this post is really an excuse to type gesticulation three times. Which I just did.)

If you ask an Internet search engine, “Why do we talk with our hands?” you will get a fascinating number of articles explaining the phenomenon, which apparently takes place for myriad reasons. According to Annie Murphy Paul, author of Brilliant, there is growing recognition that our gestures “constitute a kind of back-channel way of expressing and even working out our thoughts.” There is also increasing recognition that our thoughts are not generated nor expressed in isolation up in the brain; rather thinking is a full-body process and our gestures are a by-product of that. In fact, psychologist Art Markman states in a Psychology Today article that while some gestures such as pointing, are clearly designed to communicate, others seem to benefit only the speaker. Hence, it isn’t crazy to imitate pumping a bellows while on the telephone. In other words our gestures are part of our thought formation.

Markman cites a 1996 study in which two groups of participants watched a Road Runner cartoon. Both groups were then asked to describe the action, but one group had their arms strapped to a chair. The group that was unable to gesture had a more difficult time verbally describing the action they had seen. The main point here is that I want to be paid to be in a study in which I’m shown Road Runner cartoons, but I digress . . .

Paul cites a study indicating that third-graders who were asked to gesture while studying math were three times as likely to solve a problem correctly as those who didn’t, indicating that indeed, movement is important to thought-formation. Perhaps this also explains the link between ballroom dancing and the prevention of dementia.

It is amazing how many gestures all of us make. Gestures are so pervasive that the description of certain gestures has even permeated our language. I hope you give a thumbs up to what I’ve pointed out about gestures, and don’t just wave it off. (See what I did there?)

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Cute Christmas Babies, Free Stuff, and More!

Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays to all!

Everyone likes free stuff, especially at this time of the year, and I’m happy to say that I have established a “Free Stuff” page. “Their Glorious Summer” is there of course, but so, too, is “The History of the World!” Yep, if you look around and wonder how we got here, this will explain it, and all in only three pages, too. New visitors to this site will receive “The History of the World” in exchange for their email addresses, but for those of you already on the list, you are receiving it now and with much appreciation for your readership. And yes, that is Hobbes on the cover.

Ask your friends to sign up so that they can receive it, too.

As for my Christmas present, you can give me a review (I’ll take any size), particularly of Time Is A Pool. It seems that Amazon’s magic number for reviews is 50, at which point the algorithms will include a book in the “You Might Like This Also” banner. Only 41 to go, so please, if you would, submit a few good words. If you haven’t read it, then buy it, read it, and then review it!

With a release date of December 23rd–Riley Harper Dice–will debut as our first grandchild. Mom is in the final editing phase right now. I just might have a photo or two or ten in these pages once she does arrive, but in the meantime, here’s a Christmas baby from a little while ago. . . . A long while ago.

Austin E. Gisriel, Sr. introduces 9 month old Austin E. Gisriel, Jr. to that whole Christmas stocking thing.

Austin E. Gisriel, Sr. introduces 9 month old Austin E. Gisriel, Jr. to that whole Christmas stocking thing.

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