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Padre Steve’s Look Back at 2012: The Year that Was and Still Can Be if You Have Access to Time Travel

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“For last year’s words belong to last year’s language
And next year’s words await another voice.
And to make an end is to make a beginning.”
~T.S. Eliot~

Well my friends it is my time to look back at 2012, the year that should have been the end of the world had the Chicago Cubs won the World Series. However the Mayans couldn’t see that possibility and life goes on. With that in mind I decided to look back at the more that 300 articles that I have written since the the babe wrapped in Champagne soaked clothes and lying in Times Square gutter belched out his first words… “Is this live?” 

If we lived in the Star Trek World things could be different. We could find an alternate universe, find a time portal at the City on the Edge of Forever or if need be whip the Enterprise around the Sun to throw us back in time.

However we don’t have that ability yet and the year of our discontent began in January. It was a year filled with political carnage, war, man made and natural disasters including the BCS Championship, the athletic drama of human competition, the thrill of victory and the agony of defeat.

Much of the year was consumed by the American 2012 General Elections and Presidential primaries and campaigns. It was a year where we thought things might be different but sages like me looking back on the wisdom inscribed in my Bloom County Comic Strip Collection knew was not.

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Back to the Future in Iowa: A Bloom County Redux

It was not just politics as usual it was also media as usual something again that I predicted was the case by looking back at history.

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Doing the Sidestep: The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas and American Politics and Media

But as the campaign season snaked its eerie course through the hills, dales, bayous and valleys of our fair fruited plains the rest of the world experienced joy and pain, triumph and tragedy.

It began in this country as all things do when the University of Alabama, a fully accredited school of higher learning won the BCS College Football Championship game, something that the University of Phoenix will never do.

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Alabama wins the Boring Pseudo-National Championship Game…aka the BCS BS Championship Game

Not to be outdone the Italian Merchant Marine got into the act when Captain Francesco Schettino while joy riding in hie massive 115,000 ton Cruise Ship, the Costa Concordia  managed to hit a rock and sink the ship.

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Sinking the Costa Concordia: A Lesson in Hubris and Cowardice

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In February we saw the renewal of of love affair with television commercials as the Super Bowl XLVI: Commercials, Madonna and a Football Game as Madonna lip synced between the halves as the New York Football Giants defeated the New England non-Tea Party Patriots in Super Bowl XLVI, pronounced “Exlivy” in the original Latin.

Politics continued in March with the indecisive “Super Tuesday” Primaries:

Super Tuesday Agony: Indecisive, Inconclusive and a Portent of Things to Come

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But thankfully for all baseball returned in April bringing some sense of normalcy back to a world gone mad. Opening day brought me back to an even keel and the fact that it coincided with Holy Week made it more special to me. Opening Day and Holy Week and being able to attend a home opener was nice. A Home Opener and thoughts on Rick, Ozzie and George

But even in the midst of this there was perfection, in fact perfection done several times in Major League Baseball one of those being when Matt Cain of the San Francisco Giants pitched a perfect game on June 13th.

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The Mark of Cain: Matt Cain Pitches 22nd Perfect Game in MLB Historyand Johann Santana did the same for the otherwise hapless New York Mets 8020 Games and Finally….a Miracle for the Mets: Johan Santana Pitches First No-No in Mets Historyand “King Felix” pitched his first perfect game for the Mariners The Perfect King: Felix Hernandez Pitches Third Perfect Game of 2012while Phil Humber of the Tigers threw a perfect game against the Mariners Perfect! Phillip Humber Joins Legends as He Pitches Perfect Game against Mariners

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Baseball produced other surprises this year but probably none bigger than that of the Oakland Athletics and Baltimore Orioles, underdog and underfunded teams that surprised everyone with their playoff runs and playoff appearances. September Surprises: O’s and A’s Shake up the American League

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The Major League Baseball playoffs were filled with amazing comeback stories but none more than that of the San Francisco Giants who played on the brink of elimination in both the NLDS ( Giants Sweep Red’s in the River City: On to NLCS ) and NLCS ( Raining on a Parade: Giants Make Giant Comeback to Win National League Pennant ) before sweeping the Detroit Tigers in the World Series. SWEEP! GIANTS WIN SERIES!

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But around the world and away from the rich green baseball diamonds there were other events. In April Kim Jong Un #1 the new dictator for life in North Korea shot a rocket in the air, and where it landed he knew not where Missile Impotence: Kim Jong Un’s Rocket Launch goes Splat even as an American preacher turned fake historian became the star of the Religious Right Faux Fact Factory: The Twisted World of Fake “Historian” and “Hero of the Faith” David Barton  Not to be outdone a Roman Catholic Bishop made his own bad history comparisons Bishop Jenky’s Obama and Hitler, Stalin, Bismarck and Clemenceau Comparison: Bad History, Bad Theology and Bad Politics

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Meanwhile in the background Europe and the European Union faced their own problems. Economic and political crisis engulfed the continent. Europe on the Edge: France and Greece Point to Dangerous Times Ahead

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The Middle East was not to be left behind in the the political tumult. Syria continued its post-Arab Spring plunge into the abyss of full out civil war. Fear and Loathing in Damascus eventually bringing the deployment of NATO Patriot Missiles in Turkey. NATO Patriots to Turkey as Syria Teeters on the AbyssIn the broader Middle East War threatened on almost every front The Gathering Storm: Shades of 1914 as War Threatens in the Middle East and the Arab Spring heated up again Arab Spring Fever: The Revolution Begins Anew in Egypt as Syria Begins to Melt Down

In June the United States saw something akin to what our European cousins were going through when my home town, Stockton California declared Bankruptcy. When City Dreams Become Nightmares: Stockton California to Declare Bankruptcy

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But Britain was able to celebrate as Queen Elizabeth marked her 75th year on the throne in June  The Diamond Jubilee: All Glory is Fleeting and hosting the XXX Olympic Summer Games in London in July and August

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British Humor: Bond, Bean, Poppins and The Queen Kick Off XXX Games , Always Look On The Bright Side Of Life” Goodbye London: XXX Olympics End on Musical Note

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After a bitterly contested primary campaign Republican Presidential nominee Mitt Romney lost the General Election to President Obama. Obama Wins….Now the Real Work of Healing the Wounds Must Begin However that healing didn’t begin and as of today the nation stands at the brink of political and economic crisis that could harm everyone in this country and sink the world economy. Fiscal Cliff Notes: There are Always Results

Then there was the senseless violence of massed murders, some obviously motivated by some kind of insanity while others simply due to hatred of people different.

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The Hatred of “the Other”: White Supremacists, Neo-Nazis, Politics and the Oak Creek Massacre

Man of Murderous Mystery: James Egan Holmes and the Aurora Dark Knight Massacre

The worst of these was just a couple of weeks ago in Newtown Connecticut A Cry in Newtown: Anguish after a Massacre

The War in Afghanistan dragged on while no politicians really addressed the subject even though the toll in American lives passed the 2000 mark and casualties at the hands of our Afghan allies rose to unthinkable levels. Likewise the crisis in the rise of suicides among active duty and reserve troops as well as Veterans continued unabated.

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The Afghanistan Quagmire and the Escalation of “Green on Blue” Attacks

Why Aren’t Any Politicians Talking About the War and Why don’t Voters Care?

Padre Steve Remembers 9-11 and the Forgotten War

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Natural disasters were not absent from the news this year, the biggest as far as the news went was Hurricane Sandy which struck the week before the US Presidential Election and devastated large parts of New Jersey, New York, the Mid-Atlantic and New England. A Massive and Deadly “Freak” Storm: Sandy Hits the USA while in the forgotten country of Bangladesh a fire at a clothing factory claimed over 100 lives A Juxtaposition of Contradictions: Thanksgiving, Black Friday and the Bangladesh Clothing Factory Fire

There were deaths of noted people this year:

Disgraced former Penn State College Football Coach and legend Joe Paterno died in January barely 2 months after his final game.

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The Death of a Tarnished Legend: Joe Paterno dead at 85

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Singing great Whitney Houston died of what appeared to be an accidental overdose One Moment in Time: Rest in Peace Whitney Houston 1963-2012 

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Neil Armstrong, the first man on the Moon passed away in August One Giant Loss for Mankind: Neil Armstrong Dead at 82

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1972 Democratic Presidential nominee, war hero and Senator George McGovern died in October A Loss for the Country and the World: A War Hero and Prophet of Peace George McGovern Dead at 90

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Iconic General H Norman Schwarzkopf, victor of the First Gulf War died just this week The Loss of an Icon: General Norman Schwarzkopf dies at 79 

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Of course much more happened over the course of 2012 including the end of the world that didn’t happen The Failed Mayan End of the World Prediction and the Chicago Cubs 

There are other things that I might have or should have written about but looking back over the past year if I was a full time writer. However I don’t think that I did too bad for being just one person who has a day job and who is maintaining two residences in different states. Besides as much as I want I still don’t have access to Warp Drive, transporter beams or time travel.

So I write today hoping for a good end to 2012, a better 2013 and peace on earth.

Peace

Padre Steve+

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Seven: Homer Bailey of Reds Pitches 7th MLB No-Hitter of 2012

Sometimes records are broken, sometimes they are not, and sometimes they are tied. Tonight, Homer Bailey of the Cincinnati Reds became the 7th pitcher of 2012 to pitch a no-hitter tying the record of no-hitters pitched in a season shutting down the Pittsburgh Pirates 1-0. The no-hitter ties a modern record set in 1990 and 1991. It was the first no-no pitched by a Red’s pitcher in over 24 years, the last being on September 16th 1988 by Tom Browning.

Bailey who has been with the Reds throughout his Major League career walked just one batter and struck out ten Pirates. He joined Matt Cain of the Giants, Felix Hernandez of the Mariners, Phil Humber of the White Sox, Jared Weaver of the Anglers, Johan Santana of the Mets and six pitchers of the Mariners who combined on a no-hitter.  Cain Hernandez and Humber all pitched perfect games.

With the win the Reds improved to 95-62 and the Pirates (76-81) continued their death spiral guaranteeing themselves of their 20th straight non-winning season after being 16 games above .500 on August when they were 63-47 and leading the NL Central.

The 2012 season continues to surprise and pitching has been a big part of it. Will there be yet another no-hitter in the last 5 games of the season? Who knows, but whatever it will be exciting.

Peace

Padre Steve+

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The Perfect King: Felix Hernandez Pitches Third Perfect Game of 2012

“I don’t have any words to explain this…I’ve been working so hard to throw one and today is for you guys.” Felix Hernandez 

Felix Hernandez is beloved by the fans of the mostly hapless Seattle Mariners. The Mariners have fallen on hard times since the days when Randy Johnson led them to the World Series.

Hernandez pitched the third perfect game of the 2012 Season, a record number of perfect games in a season. He joins Giant’s All-Star Matt Cain and Philip Humber of the White Sox. The record had been two perfect games set in 2010, a record which would have been merely tied had umpire Jim Joyce made a bad call that cost Armando Galarraga a perfect game on June 2nd 2010.

This is also the sixth no-hitter of the season approaching the record of seven recorded in 1990.  If there is such a thing as the year of the pitcher, or a pitching era we are now in it. The era of steroid enhanced hitting is definitely over.

In today’s game against a Tampa Bay Rays team that had won 8 of their last 10 games before facing King Felix. However the Rays are no strangers to being victimized by perfect pitchers. This is the third time in the past four years that the hard hitting Rays have been shut down, the previous times against Mark Buerhle of the Tigers on July 23rd 2009 and Dallas Braden of the Oakland Athletics on May 9th 2010.

Today Hernandez threw 113 pitches, 77 for strikes, striking out 12 batters and striking out the side twice. It was a magnificent achievement against a solid team. Hernandez was dominant and in control of the game throughout.

I had the pleasure of watching Hernandez pitch in April 2005 when he was with the AAA Tacoma Rainiers of the Pacific Coast League.  I sat behind home plate as is my custom and was amazed as I watched the then 19 year old phenom dominate.  It was quite a show and I knew that the things that I had read about him were absolutely correct.

The now 26 year old three time All-Star and 2010 Cy Young Award winner has pitched his heart out for his team and the fans of the Mariners. He is revered by them, known as “the King’s Court” at Safeco Field they love him, especially because of his loyalty to the team in signing a contract with the Mariners in 2010 when he could have gone anywhere for a lot more money.

He is a special pitcher and one cannot be happier to see a pitcher like him win a game like this. He was perfect today. Hopefully he will be again.

Peace

Padre Steve+

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Minor League Road Trips

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“The one constant through all the years has been baseball. America has rolled by like an army of steamrollers. It’s been erased like a blackboard, rebuilt, and erased again. But baseball has marked the time. This field, this game, is a part of our past. It reminds us of all that once was good, and what could be again.” – James Earl Jones in Field of Dreams (1989)

There is something about baseball that is healing.  It is part of the fabric of our American culture something that somehow overcomes the political and religious divisions that so divide our country right now.  We were at Gordon Biersch watching the last couple of innings of a qualification game for the Little League World series between a team from Peabody Massachusetts and one from Rhode Island.  It was one of those magical games that ended with a walk-off Grand-Slam home run in the bottom of the 6th.  It triggered a flood of memories for me and ait got Judy, the Abby Normal Abbess and I talking about some of our own expereinces travelling the country and watching baseball.

I love the game of baseball especially going to a ballpark and seeing a game.  The experience of this for me has been life-long though difficult to continue from about 1983-1999 due to a tour in Germany with the Army a very difficult four years of seminary followed by residency, my first hospital job where I worked the second shift, a mobilized tour in Germany prior to coming in the Navy in early 1999.  During those years getting to games was a rare event, either due to time or money.  Despite this we as a couple got to a few games and I got in a couple on my own when traveling.  Thankfully, Judy, the Abby Normal Abbess tolerates and even joins me in my own baseball journey.

When I went into the Navy and moved to North Carolina that began to change.  North Carolina of course is the setting of the classic baseball movie Bull Durham and once can visit some of the same ballparks as are shown in the movie. The adventure of going to the ballpark again became a regular part of our lives.  It began in a little town in Eastern North Carolina called Kinston, the home of the Kinston Indians.  Kinston is a town that has seen better times, but the Indians, or the K-Tribe as they are known is part of the lifeblood of the community.  They play in Grainger Stadium, which though an older ballpark is still a great place to watch a game.  The Indians Carolina League which is advanced “A” ball and for a number of years dominated that League. When were stationed in Camp LeJeune we would make the trip to Kinston on a regular basis when I was in town. At the time the Indians farm system was producing a lot of great prospects, many who now are major leaguers, including Grady Sizemore, Jhonny Peralta Shane Victorino and Victor Martinez.  When we left LeJeune we were stationed a brief time in Jacksonville Florida, where we lived very close to the Baseball Grounds of Jacksonville, home of the Jacksonville Suns then the Los Angeles Dodgers AA affiliate in the Southern League.  The ballpark is a great venue to see a game and the Suns management led by Peter Bragan and Peter Bragan Jr. who are part of a great baseball family run a great show, and the Dodgers staff was a class organization.  I got to meet Tommy Lasorda in Jacksonville as well as Steve Yeager.  I have 2 game worn special issue jerseys from the Suns.  When we moved to Norfolk in 2003 the season was already over but beginning on opening day of 2004 I began to worship at the Church of Baseball, Harbor Park Parish.  This if you follow this site is the home of the Norfolk Tides.  Ever since then I have had the opportunity to see the game close up on a very regular basis.

In addition to attending the games near us we would travel and see other games. We would make trips down to Kinston from Virginia.  Once we went to a reunion of a singing group, the Continental Singers and Orchestra that I ran spotlight for back in 1979 which was being held in Kansas City.  On the way we saw a game in Louisville with the Louisville Bats, followed by a game in Cedar Rapids Iowa where we saw the Cedar Rapids Kernels play the Battle Creek Yankees and followed it with a trip to the “Field of Dreams” outside Dyersville, where that film was made.  Judy indulged me by playing catch with me on the field and taking my picture coming out of the cornfield.  It was almost; well it was a spiritual experience.  Occasionally when we visit Huntington West Virginia we try to see the West Virginia Power in Charleston.

Until I went to Iraq Judy and I used to take trips to Minor League ballparks around our Wedding anniversary.  We would take about four or five days and travel city to city to see some of the most fascinating baseball venues around.  We haven’t made a trip like that, even outside the wedding anniversary in a while mainly due to time as my much leave time has been spent going home to assist with my parents, especially the past 18 months where my dad’s Alzheimer’s Disease has progressed to the point of him being in a nursing home on palliative care.  Despite that I would always try to find time to see a game when in Stockton.  Before Iraq we would see the Stockton Ports in Billy Herbert Field.  The Ports now play in Banner Island Ballpark which is a great place to see a game.  If the Ports have not been in town we have occasionally been able to see the Giants, the A’s or the Sacramento River Cats, the AAA affiliate of the A’s.

The anniversary trips took us to some of the most interesting places to see games.  I have already mentioned Kinston where on one of our anniversaries we got to throw out the first pitch.  We have also travelled to Winston-Salem, when they were the Warthogs and Charlotte home of the Knights, the AAA affiliate of the White Sox.  Actually, Charlotte’s stadium is just down the road a way in Round Rock South Carolina.  We got rained out in Winston-Salem as a major storm hit at game time.  To our north we have been up to Frederick Maryland, home of the Frederick Keys, the Carolina League affiliate of the Orioles and Harrisburg Pennsylvania to see the Harrisburg Senators, the Montreal Expos-Washington Senators AA Eastern League affiliate at Metro-Bank Park on City Island.  This park was used in the movie Major League II as the Spring Training facility. There were two really cool things that happened at Harrisburg which was on our anniversary.  First we saw Phillies Slugger Ryan Howard about tear the cover off a ball hitting a double down the right field line and the General Manager had a ball autographed for us by the team.  That was really cool.  Likewise when Atlanta still had its Richmond affiliate, the Richmond Braves, we made a number of trips to “The Diamond” in Richmond.  This was the worst stadium I had ever watched a game in, though the team was always good.  We saw a playoff game there in 2004 between the Braves and the Columbus Clippers, who were then the Yankees AAA affiliate.  Sitting behind home plate I saw Jason Giambi play for the Clippers on a rehab assignment.

I have done some parks on my own when travelling.  Any time I have been on the road in baseball season and have the chance I try to see the local team if circumstances permit.  I have seen a number of games in the Pacific Northwest seeing two Seattle Mariners short season single A Northwest League affiliate the Everett Aquasox and AAA Pacific Coast League affiliate the Tacoma Rainiers.  Everett is an especially interesting place to see a game.  The games are well attended and the team management has some great promotions including “Frogfest” where the team wears tie-dyed jerseys and there is a kind of 1960s hippy theme.  The Rainiers play in Cheney Stadium in Tacoma.  In Tacoma I saw Mariners pitcher Felix Hernandez pitch his first AAA game. Both Everett and Tacoma are nice places to see a game.  While on the USS Hue City at the Maine Lobster Festival I worked a deal with festival organizers to get tickets for our sailors for two games watching the Portland Seadogs the AA affiliate of the Boston Red Sox.  When the Seadogs hit a home run a lighthouse rises up from behind the fence and a foghorn sounds.

However the two most interesting place that we have seen games together are Ashville North Carolina, the home of the Ashville Tourists and Zebulon North Carolina home of the Carolina Mudcats.  Ashville has quite a history with McCormack Field dating back until 1919.  The grandstand was rebuilt a number of years back, but the playing field is the same.  The outfield wall backs up into a tree covered hillside into which home runs hit at night almost seem to dissolve.   Zebulon is another matter.  The stadium is about a mile out of town surrounded by farm fields.  When you drive to it down US 64 from Raleigh the stadium almost seems to emerge from nowhere as if it were beamed down from a orbiting starship.  It is a fairly new stadium and very modern a great place to see a game.  We went there to see the Mudcats, who were then the Marlins AA Southern League affiliate play the Mississippi Braves.  We got to the stadium and found that somehow I had left our tickets at home.  Since the game was in an hour and home was bout a 6-8 hour round trip I knew that going home to get them was not an option.  So I went to the ticket manager and explained the situation.  He had remembered taking my ticket order by phone as we had talked about shared military experiences.  He was able to print us duplicates for the seats that we had previously purchased and we saw the game, as always from down behind home plate.  In this game we saw Braves All Star catcher Brian McCann play the week before he was called up to Atlanta.

I hope that we have some time next year to make at least one trip out to see some other Minor League venues.  They are a lot of fun and part of the fabric of our country and somehow I believe if we reconnect in these locations, watching this timeless game that maybe just maybe we can overcome the emnity of all that divides our country and learn to be Americans again.  We will never all agree on politics, religion, domestic, foreign or economic policy.  No Americans ever have, but we can discover what it means again, through this wonderful game called baseball.  I do think that the Deity Herself approves of all of these local parishes of the Church of Baseball scattered about our land.  At the same time I always have my place in Section 102, Row B Seat 2 at Harbor Park.

Peace, Steve+

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