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.

***

[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

Posted in Life is Weird | Tagged , , , | 10 Comments

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

The Ballplayers of WWII Did Their Part

All of you know of my passion for baseball and of my deep interest in World War II. Today—on this Day of Infamy—I thought all of you would find interesting the reaction of the ballplayers to this national crisis.

My mom saved this bit of history dated, Monday Evening, December 8, 1941

My mom saved this bit of history dated, Monday Evening, December 8, 1941. Early White House casualty estimate was low by 900.

Future Hall of Famers Bob Feller and Hank Greenburg enlisted on December 9, 1941. Greenburg had been drafted, served in the Army, and had just been discharged earlier in the year. Feller enlisted in the Navy and insisted on serving in combat and not on an “entertainment squad.” In all, 35 future members of the Hall of Fame, including umpires, executives, and Negro League players served in the military, including, besides Feller and Greenburg, Ted Williams, Joe DiMaggio, Yogi Berra, Warren Spahn, Hoyt Wilhelm, and Jackie Robinson among others.

So many players left for the service that the number of minor leagues fell from 44 in 1940 to 12 by War’s end. It was this “man”-power shortage, of course, that led to the formation of the All-American Girls Professional Baseball League, featured in the film, A League of Their Own.

The lack of ballplayers became so acute that the both the young and the old were pressed into service. Joe Nuxhall pitched 2/3rds of an inning (giving up 5 runs) for the Cincinnati Reds in 1944—at the age of 15. He still holds the record for the youngest player ever to appear in a MLB game. Older players who were well past their prime were also called back to the big leagues. Pitcher Paul Schrieber, appeared in 10 games for the 1922-23 Brooklyn Robins, which was seemingly the end of his major league career. He was a coach and batting practice pitcher for the Yankees beginning in 1935, but in 1945, at age 42, he was activated, pitching in two games in relief. Schrieber holds the record for the longest stretch—22 years—between big league appearances.

Those players still playing contributed to the war effort in their own ways, particularly by raising money for War Bonds. One such effort, held June 26, 1944, has come to be known as the Tri-Corner Game. Almost 50,000 fans jammed the Polo Grounds to see the Yankees, Giants, and Dodgers play each other in a nine-inning, round robin contest. Each team batted six times with the Dodgers tallying five runs and the Yankees one while the Giants were shut out. Admission was the purchase of a war bond. Between program and outfield fence advertising, and admissions $4,400,000 was raised, the equivalent of $59 million in 2014 dollars.

500 former, current, or future major leaguers would serve in the military and almost 4,100 minor leaguers were part of the armed forces. To learn more about who these guys were, visit Baseball in Wartime, a magnificent website that features many of the professionals who served, as well as articles on service teams, service games, a timeline of baseball during the war, and several other interesting features. (It was created and is run by Englishman Gary Bedingfield, and has been expanded from its original focus on WW II to include ballplayers who served across all of America’s wars.)

It was a fearful time. Immediately after the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, the United States government issued .22 caliber rifles and ammunition to citizens so that they could take part in repelling an invasion which many expected. Submarine watch towers were built along the beaches of the Atlantic Coast, towers that still stood when I was a boy. It was a time when boys from a different generation put down their bats and balls and took up rifles and learned to fly bombers or in the case of my dad, became radiomen aboard destroyers patrolling the Pacific. Their female counterparts in the WAVES and WACS and factories—my mom sewed WAVE  blouses at Butler Brothers in Baltimore—put their dreams on hold, and together, they saved the world. We should be especially thankful today that they overcame both the national fear, and the personal fear they all felt, and made sure that their grandchildren have the unencumbered luxury of Life’s little joys, such as playing baseball.

U. S. Marines playing ball, probably on Guam, 1944. From Boots Poffenberger's collection.

U. S. Marines playing ball, probably on Guam, 1944. From Boots Poffenberger’s collection.

Posted in Baseball in General | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | 8 Comments

Heart of the Beholder

This is the story of two men, one rich, one poor whose paths crossed once, but for a moment.

***

Marty Sawyer leaned on a fence post, his eyes meandering across the field before him. Marty was still sweating from his morning’s work of setting drainage pipe that would run to a new subdivision that was soon to be built. He was tired and dirty, but satisfied with his efforts and with the lunch he had just devoured. It was just about time to get back to his shovel.

The wildflowers growing in this field had caught his attention as he had worked and whenever he paused to straighten and stretch his back, he turned his gaze towards them. Pale blue chicory was growing in several clumps near one rock outcropping while the purple and white of dame’s rocket, said to be Marie Antoinette’s favorite flower, grew along the banks of a small run that trickled through this field, bubbling up from some unseen spring. The entire pasture itself was lush with the whispy white flowers of Queen Anne’s lace. The field had been allowed to go fallow as boundary stakes also sprouted among the grass and flowers. On the road the marked the far side of the field, he spotted a black limousine.

Inside the speeding limousine, Jeremy Wynston slid open the tinted door which separated him from his driver.

“Exciting day, O’Rourke! You know what were about to pick up?”

“If I remember correctly, the Rothschild Slipper Orchid.”

Mr. Wynston laughed an approving little laugh, pleased that his chauffeur had paid such careful attention.

“That’s right! The Rothschild Slipper Orchid, the rarest, most expensive orchid in the world. Had it flown in all the way from Malaysia, and now there will be one in my greenhouse. I’ll be the envy of every member of the American Orchid Society.” Mr. Wynston slid the door closed again.

O’Rourke made a left, but soon brought the limo to a halt at which time, the door slid open again.

“What’s the hold up, O’Rourke?”

“Construction, sir. It won’t be long though. What do they look like, anyway?”

“What does what look like?”

“Your new orchid, sir. What’s it look like?”

Mr. Wynston paused for a second. “Well, it kind of looks like a garden spider.”

“A garden spider?”

“Yeah, it’s striped and it’s kind of shaped like a spider. Trust me, for as expensive as the damned thing is, it’s beautiful.”

O’Rourke and the cars behind him were given the signal that they could now proceed and Mr. Wynston, took a mental inventory of the equipment that chugged up and down the shoulder of the road. He noticed Marty Sawyer standing leaning on the fence post.

“Look at that guy just staring at a bunch of weeds,” remarked Mr. Wynston who shook his head and closed the window partition once more.

***

This is the story of a rich man and a poor man. I’ll leave it to the reader to decide which was which.2014-08-18_14-47-51_528

Posted in Five Minute Fiction for Free | Tagged , , | 2 Comments