On Guard

I was watching an old Western recently, I think it was called, Battle at Feather Creek. Maybe it was Feather at Battle Creek . . . No, that one’s about a pillow maker in Michigan . . . No, it was Charge at Feather River. That’s it; the water feature was bigger than I thought. Anyway, this group of soldiers sneaks up on the Indian camp where two guards are posted. Do you suppose that the guards were peering out into the darkness, perhaps wondering why 15 men were crouched behind one rock? That would be a good thing for a guard to do, but these two were squatting down facing each other! I guess they were talking about a Cleveland-Atlanta World Series or something, but one of them thinks he might hear something and runs towards the danger, at which point and not surprisingly, he is knocked unconscious or traded to Boston or something. Now, if you had graduated from any accredited guard school, you would, having realized your fellow guard had met an unpleasant fate, run away from the danger toward the camp yelling for all you’re worth, “Hey! There are 15 guys crouched behind a rock out there and one of them got Larry! Everybody wake up!!” I guess he was named Larry. He looked like a Larry.

But no, this guard—I think his name was Bruce—runs toward the rock crouchers and is promptly dispatched without so much as a single word of warning to the sleeping Indians in the camp. Not a scream, not a holler, not a sigh, not a cough suggesting that someone might want to look in his direction. Nope, Larry and Bruce got themselves killed or traded or whatever without ever coming close to doing what they were put there to do.

By no means is this an Indian problem. It is a guard problem. I’ve seen American, German, Japanese, Mexican, French, British and Star Trek guards all act in the same way. I bet there’s a movie out there where two Eskimos are guarding an igloo, but are dispatched by 15 angry penguins crouched behind a snowman without so much as a “By your leave, here come the penguins!” mentioned in passing to the igloo’s inhabitants.

It’s really a writer problem. Too quickly do they run out of any intelligent plot, and so, they fill in with a stock, idiot-guard scene. There must be an entire course on this at Screenwriters College.

What we have learned here today is this: If you want your camp properly guarded, find the most cowardly person in your outfit. You want the guy most likely to run away from danger; the guy who will run screaming hysterically into camp at the drop of a hat or at least at the sight of 15 hats sticking up from behind a rock because he is most interested in being the last one killed, not the first.

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Happy Opening Day!

Ah, Opening Day! My favorite holiday of the year. There’s nothing like the first game of the season to symbolize hope.

Opening Day signals the end of winter and the beginning of spring (no matter how much more it might snow.)

On Opening Day, every team is tied for first place.

This summer, records will be broken, new heroes will emerge, and we’ll see at least one play that will elicit the delighted cry of I’ve never seen that before! from even the most veteran of baseball fans, and that wonderful journey through another season begins today.

No one can tell you how any season will turn out, especially in baseball, but I have a homemade formula for predicting team performance that is pretty accurate. Simply add up the number of “ifs” for all the teams in a division and then rank them from least to most. If you say about your team, “If we can find a closer and if that rookie has a decent year in left field, we’ll win our share,” then your team will probably have a very successful season. If you say those two things about your team, plus a dozen more “ifs,” then your team is probably destined for the basement. Some ifs are more important than others, but generally this formula works out. The most exciting summers occur when all of some team’s ifs come to pass and the team enjoys a Cinderella season.

Having said all that, I offer a few observations for a couple of loyal readers as well as observations on our two local teams:

Jerry Lane, despite third baseman Justin Turner’s broken wrist, I look for your Dodgers to win the National League West again. Even if they finish 10 games worse than last year (which I predict) that will still net them 94 wins.

Dick Snyder, your Yankees are being over-hyped. Smart fan that you are, I’m sure you’re nervous about the fact that many have anointed them American League East champs before one pitch has even been thrown. The Yankees’ “ifs” always tend to be overlooked and the East might be more bunched than anyone now imagines.

For all my Nationals fans out there, I say that this may finally be the year. The Mets will be stronger than last year, the Braves have improved, and the Phillies are much improved and this in-season competition will make the Nats a tougher, more resilient team. Because they won’t run away with the division, they will be better prepped for the playoffs.

Finally, my beloved Orioles are going to surprise people as they usuall

Opening Day makes me feel younger. I had this photo taken this morning.

y do. They’ll be better than if for no other reason, they won’t have Jeremy Hellickson, Ubaldo Jimenez, and Wade Miley in this year’s rotation. That Terrible Trio, along with Chris Tillman, combined for a 6.62 earned run average in 2018, which means that even if the Birds slotted Jerry, Dick, and me behind Dylan Bundy and Kevin Gausman, the starting staff would be better. Just don’t ask me to cover first—I don’t think I can run that far anymore.

Happy Opening Day, everyone!

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Taking it All to Heart

I mentioned at the end of yesterday’s post that there is a definite emotional component to having heart-surgery. I could write at length about several strong emotions that I have experienced already, but one is fully formed.

That I was the recipient of such outstanding professional care is humbling in a way that I never imagined it could be. Even more humbling is the personal care of everyone with whom I came in contact at WVU Medicine Ruby Memorial Hospital, from Dr. Badhwar and his team to Paige, Ashley, and Crystal my ICU nurses and on to Barbara, Nancy, and Makenna who continued such care on the cardiovascular ward. They encouraged me, they conversed with me, and by doing so they made sure that I was never alone even when they were absent from the room. Even at the outset, Danielle, the cardiac surgery coordinator always spoke to me, the person and never me, the patient. Dr. Badhwar took very seriously my desire to complete the surgery and get me a long ways on the road to recovery before the Big Swing Thing in York, PA at the end of April.

Even more humbling is the unconditional love that I have received and continue to receive from my family, and those many whom I consider family. It is so remarkable to me that you each gave the best that you had, whether it was humor, encouragement, perspective, a simple but kind word, or an actual deed. Much of it was expressed without words or form, but it was received as clearly as if a telegram had been placed in my hands. I have no doubt that this love prepped me for a positive outcome to the surgery and that it continues to fuel my recovery. You have been quite the surgical team yourselves, albeit while operating on a different level.

Being the recipient of such love makes me wonder what I did to deserve it, but then I realize that that question is fraught with error, not the least of which is that unconditional love cannot be earned in any case. Whatever the question may be, I think the answer, at least for me is this: I have been given an incredible gift in the form of a repaired heart, and a sacred gift in the form of such unconditional love. Such gifts one does not own—one distributes. It’s as if I am this radio station which now has a vastly upgraded signal that will allow me to focus your gifts on others who need it.

As I said yesterday, it’s been quite the interesting week, and to think—life after surgery has just started.

Half of me is about this hairless once more. The ole ticker was flawed even then, according to the doc, but since it was a young ticker, it took a while for the flaw to surface.

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A Heart-felt Week

Well. This has been an interesting week. On Tuesday morning, an incredibly skilled surgeon, Dr. Vinay Badhwar, was snipping at a floppy flap in my heart using a robot, then placing a titanium ring around the problematic valve to keep it functioning as it should. And now, here I am on Saturday morning, sitting on my couch, telling you about it. Mind-boggled doesn’t begin to cover the way I feel.

That Tuesday morning began with surgical preparation, which itself began with the statement, “We’re going to shave you from your neck to your ankles.” I thought that this was some hospital hyperbole, but it turns out they were rather literal–to a point. They shaved my legs, but only on the tops, so now my shin bones look like two tonsured, Medieval monks.

When they wheeled me into the operating room, I expected to see Princess Leia washing her hands because that was the whitest, most futuristic place in which I have ever been. At that point, I remember having a pleasant and very detailed conversation with one of the anesthesiologists. Then I remember being in ICU with tubes and needles stuck in me and some gadget sutured to my neck. Once the chest drainage tube came out on the afternoon following surgery, the recovery really began to accelerate. Of course, they kept sticking me at all hours of the day and night in order to thin my blood, measure blood sugar, and inject anti-biotics, among other things that I remember. I was stuck so much that I even winced when we got stuck in a little bit of traffic on the way home.

In any case, the medical population that I fit into is “unique” as one of my excellent nurses, put it. I have a very healthy heart, which happened to have a mechanical flaw, “since birth,” according to Dr. Badhwar.

Star Wars surgery Tuesday morning, home on Friday afternoon. Beyond mind-boggling, this experience is already producing an interesting set of emotions, but more on that tomorrow. In the meantime, here’s a really cool photo. It’s like a heart-selfie.

Dr.  You can see the robot arms, center left and lower right. The one on the left has just snipped part of the valve, resulting in the slight crescent in the white tissue at center.


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Play by Play the Old-Fashioned Way

I love my high-definition television, especially when it comes to watching baseball games. I like replay and all the different camera angles and I like seeing it all from the comfort of my couch.

Despite the visual splendor that modern technology may bring to a ballgame, there is nothing more splendid than listening to the game on the radio, especially from the comfort of one’s porch. That’s how most of us of a certain age, consumed our baseball–via the masters of the microphones, those play-by-play guys who night after night, season after season brought the exploits of our favorite teams to life. We saw it all through their words and our imaginations. In my house, Oriole announcers Chuck Thompson and Bill O’Donnell were part of the family and to this day I get that warm sense of home whenever I hear their voices on old recordings. O’Donnell would sign off every Orioles’ victory with the words, “It’s been a good night, everybody,” words which I appropriated when I was fortunate enough to broadcast New Market Rebel games for several years with my own excellent partner, Charlie Dodge. I digress . . .

All of this is to say that there is a website out there with a catalog of 360 radio broadcasts of various games, including more than a few World Series games, played between 1934 and 1973. That website may be accessed here. If you live in the Mid-Atlantic, I doubt you’ll want to go out on your porch this week to listen! Nevertheless, if you’re a baseball fan or a cultural history buff or even a fan of the way things used to be, I urge you to pick a game and listen in to the days when the story was more important than the statistics and play-by-play men were baseball poets. I’m going to have some downtime this week and it’s certainly what I plan on doing.

Image result for photos of chuck thompson & bill o'donnellImage result for photos of chuck thompson

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In the Mood for a Heart Update

I am happy to say that I have a surgery date to fix my leaky heart valve. That will occur on March 13th and I am excited at the prospects of having my energy restored. I met the surgeon, Dr. Vinay Badhwar, and his team and was quite impressed. They are consummate professionals who are clearly interested in treating people and not merely repairing parts.

You may recall from my previous post that I had hoped to be in the hospital on my

We have something in common!

birthday if for no other reason than it would create a certain poetic symmetry since my last overnight stay in the hospital was when I was born. Close enough!

Indeed, today is my birthday and there is a certain poetic symmetry in the fact that it is one that I share with Glenn Miller. Miller’s music makes me want to move, and that is why I’ve enjoyed his music even at a time when I didn’t know who Glenn Miller was. A group named Harpers Bizarre put out their version of “Chattanooga Choo Choo” in 1967 and I bought the 45. (That’s the little record with the big hole, for you youngsters.) For me, it was just a really cool song; I had no idea about its history. I’ve learned a little about it since then.

One of the highlights of 2017 for me was dancing to the sounds of the Glenn Miller Orchestra at Glen Echo Park in July. I expect it to be one of the highlights of 2018 as well! And I expect to be at full speed when doing it.

Enough “listening” to me. I’m going to turn it over to the other birthday boy.

From the movie Sun Valley Serenade:

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Hearts and Hours

The last night I spent in a hospital was early March of 1957. I checked out of my mother and into the hospital on March 1st of that year and I’ve never been back since. That streak is about to be broken, possibly, and quite poetically on March 1st of this year as I need a valve job. Apparently, I have a severely leaking mitral valve and I’m just not running right. I’m very much looking forward to the operation so that I’m purring on all cylinders.

That’s a personal update, and now on to an update on my 2018 writing projects, in which there are no automobile metaphors.

The as-yet unnamed sequel to The Secret of Their Midnight Tears is in the final stages of editing and I hope to publish it at the beginning of June. I truly appreciate those of you who asked for (in some cases, demanded!) a sequel. The sequel begins on New Year’s Eve 1942 and ends on July 17, 1944. As you may suspect from that ending date, there will be a third book to conclude the story of Elizabeth, Veronica, Buck, and Johnny but that is a ways down the road.

Last year at this time, I told you that I planned to publish a work entitled, A Faith in the

This masterpiece will be on your bookshelves (or your virtual bookshelves) before the year is out! [Don’t question. Just buy it.]

Crowd which is the story of one man’s spiritual journey. Only this journey is a literal one as Sam Cartwright finds himself aboard a jetliner bound for Heaven. Here, he meets Frank Sinatra, Methuselah, “The Boss,” and most importantly, himself. And while some journeys are inspiring or difficult or even tragic, Sam’s is rather comical. Of course, the world is rather comical or perhaps you might say that you may as well laugh because it beats crying.

In any case, because of the number of hours [title allusion] and the effort in publishing both The Secret of Their Midnight Tears and Fathers, Sons, & Holy Ghosts: Baseball As a Spiritual Experience, A Faith in the Crowd never made it to the published page in 2017. At some point this year, however, you’ll have another great piece of literature to place on your bookshelf. You can impress your friends by casually dropping into a conversation, “Oh yes, I know the author.” Impress me by adding, “I own his entire catalog and he has personalized each copy.” In fact, if you do that, I’ll even show up at your next social event to prove that you really do know the author. I’ll even wear a sports coat with elbow patches and smoke a pipe and generally mingle with your guest looking profound and authory.

Thanks in advance for your well-wishes on the heart thing and for your support with the writing thing.

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