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Baseball, Perspective and Life

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Well my friends Opening Day is upon us after a long and at times brutal winter, and for that I am glad. So tonight after a very long day moving furniture and books getting ready for the contractors to come and install the tile on my living room floor I am basically doing a re-run but not calling it that. I was working on another article but it is too late and I am too tied to finish it, so I am reprising this article from 2011. Have a great night and catch you tomorrow.

“I think about the cosmic snowball theory. A few million years from now the sun will burn out and lose its gravitational pull. The earth will turn into a giant snowball and be hurled through space. When that happens it won’t matter if I get this guy out.” Bill “Spaceman” Lee

Bill “Spaceman” Lee is a funny guy. A Major League pitcher who has long since retired Lee somehow in an often convoluted way was able to keep things in perspective. I love this quote because it is a reminder that a lot of the stuff that we take very seriously in the long run isn’t that important. In fact it reminds of just how little control we have and why it is such an exercise in futility to be anxious and worry about things that we cannot control. I’m pretty sure that Jesus had a word or two about this as well which his disciples thought was important enough to put in the Gospels.

Anyway, last night was another night where for the most part I took the night off from looking at the news about Japan and Libya. I watched for a while as I ate dinner and did laundry but when I began to put my platform bed together I decided I didn’t need to keep listening to newscasters, commentators, talking heads, politicians and pundits as they pondered, puzzled and piddled about the problems of the day. Let’s face it unless big news breaks in the middle of any news channels’ programming it is all the same information being repeated repeatedly by people who many times are paid huge amounts of money to sound ignorant. I guess that it beats real work. Oh well I have continued to take a mental break from this things because they will be there in the morning and will probably be worse than they are now. But to paraphrase what I said last night what is going on now needs to be kept in perspective because this nation and the world have been throw worse during the 20th Century then we are going through now.

Since I wrote about some of those things in my last essay night I won’t re-hash them. But I will say that our media machine both the old established media and the new media are the greatest producers of anxiety that the world has ever seen. These people have created an industry where news is packaged to create anxiety and keep views hooked wondering what terrible calamity will befall them, because if it happened somewhere else it will probably happen here too even if all the facts on the ground are different. David Brinkley said it well when talking about television news: “The one function that TV news performs very well is that when there is no news we give it to you with the same emphasis as if it were.” Thus even hypothetical issues become objects which are used to drive up anxiety, anger and fear and I think that pundits of all types and stripes are the worst offenders in this. It is simply shameful but I digress.

If we look at American History we see that while the media since day one has promoted anxiety and fear in one form or another that we have for the most part been able to keep things in perspective. When Franklin Delano Roosevelt said “we have nothing to fear but fear itself” he was absolutely on the money. Our problem today is that we live in a world where our ability to communicate information especially about bad things both real and imagined exceeds both our ability to absorb it and to cognitively and emotionally respond to any real threat vice the imagined threats. Branch Rickey once said “thinking about the Devil is worse than seeing the Devil.”

In such a tumultuous environment it is hard to keep to keep events in perspective. As I said in my previous article I was tired from hearing the constant barrage of bad news. Now I am pretty good about keeping perspective but even if I can cognitively deal with the news it can be hard to maintain a non-anxious presence if I am being constantly bombarded with disasters and tragedies of the magnitude that we have witnessed the past several weeks. Thus I turned off the news and put on baseball movies and decided to do the same last night.

Since I am tying baseball into the whole issue of keeping one’s perspective I want to mention the great baseball comedies Major League and Bull Durham. While they are comedies told through the lens of baseball they are great movies about life and keeping one’s perspective. I love both of these movies, they are not the emotional and spiritual tales like Field of Dreams and For the Love of the Game they are great in using the medium of a baseball comedy to give life lessons.

Major League deals with a Cleveland Indians team that has not won a world series in over 40 years and whose owner is trying to lose so many games that she can move the team to Miami. The team is made up of has been players, cast offs and rookies of uncertain ability and maturity. In the movie which was set before the Indians renaissance of the 1990s dealt with a losing team that the owner purposely built to lose, but finds its pride to spite their nefarious owner and win the American League East. The character that I can relate to is the old catcher called up from the Mexican League, Jake Taylor played by Tom Berenger who is the field leader of the team helping the young players to mature while holding the Indians together as they go through difficult times and then go on to win the East against the Yankees and in the process rediscover a love that was lost due to his own mistakes.

Bull Durham is another one of my favorites and once again my favorite character is the journeyman catcher, Crash Davis played by Kevin Costner who is sent back to “A” Ball to assist a young pitcher named Eby Calvin “Nuke” LaLoosh played by Tim Robbins. In the process Crash helps LaLoosh, assists his teammates as they go through hard times and discovers love even at the end of his playing career.

What I like about these films is how they show how to keep perspective in life. In the movies both Jake Taylor and Crash Davis are guys on the down side of their careers. They play on losing teams which they help lead back into contention and help the young players mature into winners. They simply concentrate in the things that they can influence.

Of course baseball is taken deep into the future in Star Trek Deep Space Nine.

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The way I figure is that in life we can worry about stuff that we can’t control and ignore the things and people around us that really matter that we can have some influence upon and that is not just a baseball thing. That is a life thing; it is a faith thing and a relational thing. Are these characters perfect examples? By no means, they are regular guys in situations that are not the greatest to be in and they make mistakes, sometimes on the field and a lot of time in relationships. That is why I think that they are good examples; they are real not some kind of untouchable perfect hero. I can relate to guys like that.

I know that I’m a Mendoza Line* kind of guy in a lot of ways. I’m a journeyman who has been able to be successful enough to hang around a long time in my chosen profession. I think that is how I keep my perspective, I’ve been around long enough to make lots of mistakes, experience a lot of bad times and having come through a really bad time after Iraq realize that no matter what happens things will work out. That was like being in a major slump but somehow despite everything I made it through those hard times.

So when I now talk about keeping perspective on life I talk about it from a vantage point of having failed in different ways but also having succeeded in others sometimes even in the same endeavor. So my perspective is now I know that I can’t control what is happening in all the world’s crisis points or for that matter almost anything, I need to take care of the people and things that I have a little bit up influence upon.

I think that is a lesson that baseball teaches us. It teaches us that so much of life is beyond our control and that just because everything isn’t okay doesn’t mean that we need to live in fear and in a constant state of anxiety. As Walt Whitman so eloquently put it “I see great things in baseball. It’s our game – the American game. It will take our people out-of-doors, fill them with oxygen, give them a larger physical stoicism. Tend to relieve us from being a nervous, dyspeptic set. Repair these losses, and be a blessing to us.”

Peace

Padre Steve+
*The Mendoza Line is named after Mario Mendoza who played for the Pittsburgh Pirates. He hit for a career batting average of .215 and the Mendoza Line is considered to be a .200 average which is the line below which players can pretty much be assured that they will not remain in the Major Leagues.

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Modern Baseball Magic: Chin Music by Lee Edelstein Padre Steve’s Review for TLC Book Tours

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Chin Music, Lee Edelstein Sela House Publishers Boca Raton Florida 2012

“I’ll promise to go easier on drinking and to get to bed earlier, but not for you, fifty thousand dollars, or two-hundred and fifty thousand dollars will I give up women. They’re too much fun.” Babe Ruth

I don’t read much in the way of fiction but when I do there is a good chance it has something to do with baseball. In fact someday I hope to publish my own baseball fiction fantasy novel someday but I digress….

I guess that it is fitting that I am watching the Semi-Final game of the World Baseball Classic between the Netherlands and the Dominican Republic on television and that my brother Jeff and nephew Nate are in attendance at AT&T Park as I write this tonight. Baseball is a big part of my life as anyone that is a regular reader of this site knows.

Chin Music by Lee Edelstein is actually the first work of fiction of any genre that I have reviewed. Thus I found that reviewing it was a different task than biographic, historic or policy books that I have done in the past.  I write about baseball a lot and do a lot of reading regarding baseball history. To me baseball is something of a religion. To quote the irrepressible Annie Savoy (Susan Saradon) in Bull Durham “the only church that truly feeds the soul, day in, day out, is the Church of Baseball.”

It is hard to compare this book to other great works of baseball fiction such as W P Kinsella’s Shoeless Joe Comes to Iowa, which became the Kevin Costner film Field of Dreams or his less known but perhaps more metaphysically interesting The Iowa Baseball Confederacy; Bernard Malamud’s The Natural or Michael Shaara’s Pulitzer Prize winning novel The Perfect Game which became the Kevin Costner film For the Love of the Game.

Those books are all classics in their own right; Edelstein’s work has the potential to become a classic in its own right. Now days a book becoming a baseball classic may be harder than in previous times. It is sad to sad but Baseball is no longer America’s game. Baseball is timeless but somehow it seems that for many Americans the sport is neither violent or “fast” enough to warrant their attention. The long season and intricacies of the game seem beyond a society addicted to speed, violence and instant gratification. To me that is sad, but this book though a modern look at baseball fiction and fantasy reaches back to a time when it was the dream of almost every American boy to be a professional Baseball player.

Edelstein weaves together the stories of the legendary Babe Ruth, a notorious drunk and womanizer and the Buck family over a period of 85 years.

It is a story that begins in St Petersburg Florida in 1926 when a young woman becomes a barber and ends up with one of the most famous men in America as a customer. The relationship, without concludes in a hotel room, the only records of which are the young woman’s diary, a couple of pictures of her with the Babe in the barber shop and a fair amount of unique and highly valuable baseball memorabilia.

The woman, turns out to be the great grandmother of a gifted but underperforming young high school baseball player named Ryan Buck. The book begins with a motor vehicle accident in which Ryan’s father dies, his brother loses a leg and he suffers what we understand as a Traumatic Brain Injury. Ryan suffers from survivor’s guilt and does not live up to his full potential. His mother, now a working mom and widow embarks to sell her grandmother’s Babe Ruth memorabilia at a baseball card show to help pay the bills and to pay for the costs of Ryan’s brother Michael’s prosthetic leg replacements.

Now I am well acquainted with baseball card shows and memorabilia. My house, much to the chagrin of my wife Judy is filled with objects, none as valuable as original Babe Ruth merchandise portrayed in the book, but for me just as valuable if for nothing else because of my love for the game.

The story that Edelstein paints is fascinating and I do not want to give away too many spoilers because unlike the biographical and historical works I have previously reviewed my audience does not know the ending. As such I will limit the discussion of the plot. I will simply note that it deals with a young man’s miraculous climb from high school to the Major Leagues and reconnection with his late father, the healing of the soul of a woman who has lost her husband who has seen the struggles of her children and held on to the hopes of her late grandmother; a woman considered by her mother a tramp and whore. It includes their interaction with an elderly widower who saves the mother from a bad deal at the card show which leads to the discovery of her grandmother’s diary and other items that lead to an interesting search, not just for memorabilia but also for a family heritage. If you don’t get my drift look back at the Babe Ruth quote that begins this review.

Edelstein did what I did not think possible. He got me interested in a fictional work about baseball that was not already a classic. It grew on me as I read it and even though I began to anticipate the ending about three quarters of the way through I had to keep reading and in doing so was captivated by the story.  No it is not Shoeless Joe, The Perfect Game, or The Natural. Those books stand on their own as classics, but Chin Music has the potential to become a baseball classic for a new generation. It is a story of redemption, healing and hope, something that among all sports that baseball seems to embody. As Walt Whitman said:

“I see great things in baseball.  It’s our game – the American game.  It will take our people out-of-doors, fill them with oxygen, give them a larger physical stoicism.  Tend to relieve us from being a nervous, dyspeptic set.  Repair these losses, and be a blessing to us.”

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I hope that it does and hope that in reading it people will regain their love for what is rightly called “America’s game.” I highly recommend Chin Music by Lee Edelstein to my readers.

Peace

Padre Steve+

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The Mark of Cain: Matt Cain Pitches 22nd Perfect Game in MLB History

Celebration by the Bay (Photo: Jason O Watson/Getty Images)

I was just about to go to bed but had the MLB Channel on when I began to pay attention as Harold Reynolds began to say in the top of the 5th inning of the Giants-Astros game “to Call your friends because history is being made by Matt Cain.” On a night were Met’s pitcher R A Dickey pitched a one-hitter and in a season that had already seen 4 no-hitters including a Perfect Game by Phil Humber, this was more than amazing.

Matt Cain on firing Strikes:  (Photo: Jason O Watson/Getty Images)

The first Cain was not known for his pitching skills and ended up with a mark that remained with him the rest of his life, not mark any of us would want. Tonight another Cain, Matt Cain now has a mark, but not like the biblical Cain, Matt Cain pitched the 22nd Perfect Game in MLB history and the first in the 130 years of the Giants Baseball Club.

I have been a Giants fan since I was a kid. Back on August 24th 1975 my dad took my brother and me to Candlestick where we saw Ed Halicki no hit the New York Mets. In 1976 John “the Count of” Montefusco no-hit the Braves in Atlanta. It was almost 33 years before the Giants got another when on July 10th 2009 Jonathan Sanchez no-hit the Padres facing 28 batters, one more than a perfect game due to a fielding error.  Hall of Fame pitchers for the Giants to pitch no-hitters have included Christy Matthewson, Carl Hubble, Gaylord Perry and Juan Marichal.  But no Giants pitcher had ever pitched a perfect game.

Melky Cabrera’s Leaping Catch at the Wall  (Photo: Jason O Watson/Getty Images)

The perfect game is one of the most miraculous and magical moments in all of sports simply because anything, a bad pitch or an error or a bad call can end the bid, who can forget the call by Umpire Jim Joyce that kept Armando Galarraga from a perfect game in 2010. The novel The Perfect Game which became the Kevin Costner film For the Love of the Game does such a wonderful job of portraying the miracle. It seems that nights like this, the pressure, the miraculous and unbelievable catches made in the field and the ability of a pitcher to get out after out. Cain understands this, he has taken 5 no hitters into the 7th inning during his career and never got the no-hitter.

Gregor Blanco Making his Diving catch in the 7th  (Photo: Jason O Watson/Getty Images)

Cain is one of the best pitchers in the game. During the 2010 World Series Cain pitched 21 1/3 innings without giving up a run. This year he is 8-2 with a 7 game winning streak and a 2.18 ERA.  The performance was one of the best ever even in a perfect game. Cain dominated with 14 strike outs tying the Major League mark set by Sandy Koufax in 1965. Cain helped his cause by getting a hit and scoring a run. The first pitcher since Dennis Martinez to get a hit in a Perfect game since Dennis Martinez in 1992.  Cain threw 125 pitches, the most in a perfect game in MLB history.

Buster Posey celebrates with Matt Cain  (Photo: Jason O Watson/Getty Images)

Several great defensive plays helped bring on the magic. Melky Cabrera made a leaping catch at the left field wall in the 6th inning and Gregor Blanco who came out of nowhere to make a diving catch going toward the wall on the warning track on a hit that looked as if it would be the first hit and go for extra bases.

The Giants also set a record by scoring 10 runs in a Perfect Game.

Matt Cain left his mark on Baseball tonight and hopefully he will continue to give those that love the game more of these memories.

Now I need to try to calm down enough to get some sleep.

Peace

Padre Steve+

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No I will Not Grow Up: Some thoughts on my 51st Birthday

“It takes a long time to grow young.” Pablo Picasso

“I want to thank you for making this day necessary” Yogi Berra

Today is yet another anniversary of being forcibly evicted from my mother’s womb where I had taken a three week extension on my nine month lease. Ever since that time I have not acted my age….well maybe that’s not quite correct.  I think it is better said that I am aware of my age and pretend to act my age when the occasion requires that I do but deep inside I am still an incorrigible adolescent.  My brother who is six years my junior was 40 years old by the time that he turned eight.  He was always the serious one and when Judy and I took him on a toilet paper raid during my junior year in college he was scandalized.  Now that we adults he is still the serious one, I only get serious when I write about a serious subject or I’m in trouble.

Now when I was young in body as well as spirit I always was amazed and saddened to see people grow old. I don’t mean growing old in body because no one can get around that, but I mean growing old in spirit and losing their youth and joy in life.  It was sad for me to see people who really were not that old dressing and acting like they were older than their years. It made me want to never grow up, I didn’t want to be that way and as the people that know me can attest I am yet to grow up.  I still find the humor and irony in so many things and have to keep my humor in check sometimes in things like Board of Directors meetings and stuff like that; I do have a sense of decorum as misplaced as it often is.

I remember my paternal grandmother, “Granny” who when I was 5 years old and she was not much older than I am now was talking about how it wouldn’t be long until she was dead and gone. When she was 85 I pissed her off to ask if she was moving when she said it one too many times.  I think I got a call from my mom and dad about that one because Granny really got pissed.  I had an algebra teacher in junior high school named Mr. Nichley.  He looked really old then and dressed it and acted it. That was in 1974.  He just died a couple years back and was in his mid 80s, which meant that he was just in his 40s back then, he was a man too old before his time.  I saw so many people who lived their lives in that way that I rebelled against the thought of it.

Since I was born back in 1960 I can say that I was part of the 60s and that my views on life do not always square with my rather serious friends.  I really think that a lot of our political and ideological divisions in this country are because far too many people take everything too seriously. I know that we have a lot of serious issues that need serious answers but we have lost any sense of humor, levity and irony to face them well. Sometimes when I am around a lot of overly serious people I hear James Earl Jones telling Kevin Costner in Field of Dreams “Out! Back to the sixties! Back! There’s no place for you here in the future! Get back while you still can!”

We’ll I can’t go back to the 60’s but I can stay young.  I have resumed collecting baseball cards, still occasionally build model ships, tanks and aircraft, and try to stay active and I hope I can get on our hospital’s baseball team, if not this year maybe next. I do not own a suit. I have a few sports jackets (why they call them that I’ll never know because I have yet to see anyone playing baseball or football in one) and a few pairs of nice pants to go with my clerical shirts but only wear them when the occasion absolutely demands. For years Judy has tried and failed to get me to dress more upscale but I’d rather wear my wide array of baseball jerseys, fleeces and warm up jackets.  I try not to wear long pants after baseball season begins and until after the final game of the World Series unless absolutely necessary.  I always dreamed of being in the military as a kid and I am still in the military coming up on 29 years of total service despite being about as serious as Hawkeye Pierce and studious as Von Molkte the Elder. As Will Rogers said “Do the best you can, and don’t take life too serious.”

Tommy Lasorda said “I love doubleheaders. That way I get to keep my uniform on longer” well I have gotten to keep my uniform on a lot longer than most of the people that I have served with and still enjoy staying in the game. Life is good even when its not.

For me learning is part of staying young, I think that when we stop learning we start dying. This means that I will probably take up another advanced academic degree, not so much to increase my job opportunities after the Navy but because it keeps me young and engaged. The other part of remaining you is to know, love and believe in what you are doing in life.  In fact Will Rogers said that such was the secret of success. I think that so many people lose their joy because they have forgotten that little truth and that is another reason why we are in such a mess.

I try to stay fit and my doctors tell me that my blood pressure, cholesterol and other important measurements of health are those of people a lot younger than me.  My blood pressure is consistently about 105 over 70, not bad at all.

Finally I really believe that part of staying young is to live life to the fullest because we don’t know when we will breathe our last breath. Life is too short not to live it fully and at the tender age of 51 I want to get every bit out of life that I can in all aspects of life to include my faith as Francis of Assisi said “It is not fitting, when one is in God’s service, to have a gloomy face or a chilling look.”  After all who can stand to be around gloomy, judgmental and overly serious Christians or for that matter those kinds of people in any religion?  In my chosen vocation of being a Priest and Navy Chaplain I decided to be true to who I am long ago. I won’t be something that I am not. When I was on the USS Hue City one of my sailors, Tommy Byrne nicknamed me “the Anti-Chaps” simply because I did not fit the mold of what most people expected, I think it was when I bought him and some of our shipmates a couple of pitchers of beer at a bar when on liberty.

Life is to be lived and Abe Lincoln said it so well put it “the end, it’s not the years in your life that count. It’s the life in your years.”

I am grateful for my life and am blessed that neither Judy nor my little dog Molly look or act their ages either. I have many friends and today have been so blessed to hear from so many of them through the medium of Facebook.

I want to thank you all of my friends for being a part of my life. May you and your live long and prosper.

Peace and Blessings

Padre Steve+

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Baseball and Life: The Importance of Perspective

It’s all about Perspective

“I think about the cosmic snowball theory. A few million years from now the sun will burn out and lose its gravitational pull. The earth will turn into a giant snowball and be hurled through space. When that happens it won’t matter if I get this guy out.” Bill “Spaceman” Lee

Bill “Spaceman” Lee is a funny guy. A Major League pitcher who has long since retired Lee somehow in an often convoluted way was able to keep things in perspective.  I love this quote because it is a reminder that a lot of the stuff that we take very seriously in the long run isn’t that important. In fact it reminds of just how little control we have and why it is such an exercise in futility to be anxious and worry about things that we cannot control. I’m pretty sure that Jesus had a word or two about this as well which his disciples thought was important enough to put in the Gospels.

Anyway, last night was another night where for the most part I took the night off from looking at the news about Japan and Libya. I watched for a while as I ate dinner and did laundry but when I began to put my platform bed together I decided I didn’t need to keep listening to newscasters, commentators, talking heads, politicians and pundits as they pondered, puzzled and piddled about the problems of the day. Let’s face it unless big news breaks in the middle of any news channels’ programming it is all the same information being repeated repeatedly by people who many times are paid huge amounts of money to sound ignorant. I guess that it beats real work.  Oh well I have continued to take a mental break from this things because they will be there in the morning and will probably be worse than they are now. But to paraphrase what I said last night what is going on now needs to be kept in perspective because this nation and the world have been throw worse during the 20th Century then we are going through now.

Since I wrote about some of those things in my last essay night I won’t re-hash them. But I will say that our media machine both the old established media and the new media are the greatest producers of anxiety that the world has ever seen. These people have created an industry where news is packaged to create anxiety and keep views hooked wondering what terrible calamity will befall them, because if it happened somewhere else it will probably happen here too even if all the facts on the ground are different. David Brinkley said it well when talking about television news: “The one function that TV news performs very well is that when there is no news we give it to you with the same emphasis as if it were.” Thus even hypothetical issues become objects which are used to drive up anxiety, anger and fear and I think that pundits of all types and stripes are the worst offenders in this. It is simply shameful but I digress.

If we look at American History we see that while the media since day one has promoted anxiety and fear in one form or another that we have for the most part been able to keep things in perspective. When Franklin Delano Roosevelt said “we have nothing to fear but fear itself” he was absolutely on the money. Our problem today is that we live in a world where our ability to communicate information especially about bad things both real and imagined exceeds both our ability to absorb it and to cognitively and emotionally respond to any real threat vice the imagined threats. Branch Rickey once said thinking about the Devil is worse than seeing the Devil.”

In such a tumultuous environment it is hard to keep to keep events in perspective.  As I said in my previous article I was tired from hearing the constant barrage of bad news. Now I am pretty good about keeping perspective but even if I can cognitively deal with the news it can be hard to maintain a non-anxious presence if I am being constantly bombarded with disasters and tragedies of the magnitude that we have witnessed the past several weeks. Thus I turned off the news and put on baseball movies and decided to do the same last night.

Since I am tying baseball into the whole issue of keeping one’s perspective I want to mention the great baseball comedies Major League and Bull Durham. While they are comedies told through the lens of baseball they are great movies about life and keeping one’s perspective. I love both of these movies, they are not the emotional and spiritual tales like Field of Dreams and For the Love of the Game they are great in using the medium of a baseball comedy to give life lessons.

Major League deals with a Cleveland Indians team that has not won a world series in over 40 years and whose owner is trying to lose so many games that she can move the team to Miami.  The team is made up of has been players, cast offs and rookies of uncertain ability and maturity. In the movie which was set before the Indians renaissance of the 1990s dealt with a losing team that the owner purposely built to lose, but finds its pride to spite their nefarious owner and win the American League East. The character that I can relate to is the old catcher called up from the Mexican League, Jake Taylor played by Tom Berenger who is the field leader of the team helping the young players to mature while holding the Indians together as they go through difficult times and then go on to win the East against the Yankees and in the process rediscover a love that was lost due to his own mistakes.

Bull Durham is another one of my favorites and once again my favorite character is the journeyman catcher, Crash Davis played by Kevin Costner who is sent back to “A” Ball to assist a young pitcher named Eby Calvin “Nuke” LaLoosh played by Tim Robbins. In the process Crash helps LaLoosh, assists his teammates as they go through hard times and discovers love even at the end of his playing career.

What I like about these films is how they show how to keep perspective in life.  In the movies both Jake Taylor and Crash Davis are guys on the down side of their careers. They play on losing teams which they help lead back into contention and help the young players mature into winners. They simply concentrate in the things that they can influence.

The way I figure is that in life we can worry about stuff that we can’t control and ignore the things and people around us that really matter that we can have some influence upon and that is not just a baseball thing. That is a life thing; it is a faith thing and a relational thing. Are these characters perfect examples? By no means, they are regular guys in situations that are not the greatest to be in and they make mistakes, sometimes on the field and a lot of time in relationships. That is why I think that they are good examples; they are real not some kind of untouchable perfect hero. I can relate to guys like that.

I know that I’m a Mendoza Line* kind of guy in a lot of ways. I’m a journeyman who has been able to be successful enough to hang around a long time in my chosen profession. I think that is how I keep my perspective, I’ve been around long enough to make lots of mistakes, experience a lot of bad times and having come through a really bad time after Iraq realize that no matter what happens things will work out. That was like being in a major slump but somehow despite everything I made it through those hard times.

So when I now talk about keeping perspective on life I talk about it from a vantage point of having failed in different ways but also having succeeded in others sometimes even in the same endeavor.  So my perspective is now I know that I can’t control what is happening in all the world’s crisis points or for that matter almost anything, I need to take care of the people and things that I have a little bit up influence upon.

I think that is a lesson that baseball teaches us. It teaches us that so much of life is beyond our control and that just because everything isn’t okay doesn’t mean that we need to live in fear and in a constant state of anxiety.  As Walt Whitman so eloquently put it “I see great things in baseball.  It’s our game – the American game.  It will take our people out-of-doors, fill them with oxygen, give them a larger physical stoicism.  Tend to relieve us from being a nervous, dyspeptic set.  Repair these losses, and be a blessing to us.”

Tonight is another baseball and life movie night with Game 6. The film stars Michael Keaton who plays an actor struggling with cancer, divorce and his relationship with his teenage daughter. He is a diehard Red Sox fan during the 1986 World Series. If time permits I’ll see what else I have on the shelf.

Peace

Padre Steve+
*The Mendoza Line is named after Mario Mendoza who played for the Pittsburg Pirates. He hit for a career batting average of .215 and the Mendoza Line is considered to be a .200 average which is the line below which players can pretty much be assured that they will not remain in the Major Leagues.

 

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Putting the World back in Order: Baseball Movies Tonight

“Baseball is reassuring. It makes me feel as if the world is not going to blow up.” Sharon Olds

“Don’t tell me about the world. Not today. It’s springtime and they’re knocking baseball around fields where the grass is damp and green in the morning and the kids are trying to hit the curve ball” Pete Hamill

“I see great things in baseball. It’s our game – the American game. It will take our people out-of-doors, fill them with oxygen, give them a larger physical stoicism. Tend to relieve us from being a nervous, dyspeptic set. Repair these losses, and be a blessing to us.” Walt Whitman

At long last I have my DVD player hooked up and the news is not on in my island hermitage. The past few weeks we have seen the world going crazy. Earthquakes, tsunami, nuclear crises, wars and revolutions, political and economic instability are driving me fricking crazy.  I’m sorry but I don’t know about you but this constant torrent of bad news is really getting old fast and it probably isn’t going to get any better any time soon. That my friends is reality and reality can suck like a Hoover, or what the hell a Dyson or Kirby for all I care, it sucks.

But guess what friends we have seen times and events like this before, hell the 1920s, 30s and 40s were as bad or worse. That my friends is reality and it sucked then too. And you know something somehow we as a people got through it. We dealt with the collapse of Empires, revolutions, Communism, Fascism, Nazism, the Great Depression, World fricking Wars, natural disasters, Hitler, Stalin, Mussolini and Tojo and then to top it all off the beginning of the nuclear era and the Cold War with the ever present threat of Mutually Assured Destruction between the United States and the Soviet Union. But somehow the world survived, don’t ask me how but it did, not without a hell of a lot of pain, suffering and distress mostly brought on by people but occasionally nature but it still survived despite our best attempts to blow it all up.

Somehow as insanely sucky as things are right now with all the hate, turmoil and catastrophe unless the Cubs win the World Series in 2012 the apocalyptic asses prophesying doom and the end of the world in 2012 be it secular, religious or some convoluted theory about why the world will end because the Mayans ran out of rock for their calendar I don’t buy it. Now if the Cubbies win the 2012 World Series all bets are off and you better look to the east because there is a good chance that Jesus is coming. Now was that a hell of a run on sentence or what. That was almost as good as a German theologian.

So we are bombarded with bad news at a cyclic rate and yes it needs to be reported and it is probably good that we stay informed. However all that we do is tune in to the news 24 hours a day or giving three hours a day every day to some radio talk show host or for that matter never turn our radio dials away from them we will not have peace. If all we do is listen, read and watch what all of them stir up every day anxiety then it is no wonder that we are so anxiety ridden and hate each other so much.

I know what constant exposure to this can do for a person, because before Iraq I was consumed by this insanity. However, I came back from Iraq and reprioritized when I found that I could no longer do three hours a day every day or for that matter three minutes with any of these monsters of the airwaves.

Let’s face it Americans have come to loathe each other because all we focus on is how bad everything is and how it is someone else’s fault be they a liberal, a conservative, a Socialist, a Tea Party Patriot, a Christian, Moslem, Jew, Atheist, Republican, Democrat, Libertarian or God forbid a Dodgers’ fan. We’ve divided ourselves in ways that haven’t been seen since the days before the Civil War, only now those visceral emotions are transmitted instantly through the television, radio and internet. Something has to draw us back to who we are as a people.

Unfortunately many can’t even find our peace in their faith because nutty extremists with all sorts of agendas from across the political spectrum have hijacked them so that preachers often have messages little different than pundits or politicians. As such we have become cynical, bitter and have lost faith in our political, social, economic and religious institutions and given them all into the hands of those whose chief desire is power.

So all that being said I am enjoying the hell out of two baseball movies tonight. The first was Mr. Baseball starring Tom Selleck as a New York Yankee slugger who is cut from the team and gets picked up by a Japanese team.  It’s a great flick and really shows some of the differences in the way Americans and Japanese approach this beloved game and how despite the different approaches how deeply it is ingrained in both cultures. Japan has suffered great calamity and we seem to teeter on the edge of our own calamities consumed in angst and for some anger.

The other movie that I am watching even as I write this little article is Field of Dreams a fantasy and allegory of baseball and life. It is a story that always gets me a story of redemption, second chances and hope, a hope that says “if you build it he will come.” We need to start building again; we have been tearing each other down for so long that we have left a tangled mess for our children.

I know for me that baseball is one constant that even when I experienced a loss of faith that left me a practical agnostic for two years after I returned from Iraq that brought peace to my troubled soul. The Church of Baseball, Harbor Park Parish was one of the only places that I could regain a sense of balance and life.

Yes there is a lot of tragedy and crisis in the world but in nine days it is opening day and the “Boys of Summer” will again step onto the lush green diamonds as the regular season begins. It is not a moment too soon. As Terrance Mann, played by James Earl Jones said so eloquently to Ray Kinsella played by Kevin Costner in Field of Dreams:

“Ray, people will come Ray. They’ll come to Iowa for reasons they can’t even fathom. They’ll turn up your driveway not knowing for sure why they’re doing it. They’ll arrive at your door as innocent as children, longing for the past. Of course, we won’t mind if you look around, you’ll say. It’s only $20 per person. They’ll pass over the money without even thinking about it: for it is money they have and peace they lack. And they’ll walk out to the bleachers; sit in shirtsleeves on a perfect afternoon. They’ll find they have reserved seats somewhere along one of the baselines, where they sat when they were children and cheered their heroes. And they’ll watch the game and it’ll be as if they dipped themselves in magic waters. The memories will be so thick they’ll have to brush them away from their faces. People will come Ray. 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.”

Things can be good again, we just need to pull together and persevere and believe again. I think that baseball, this wonderful game that has bridged the gap between East and West, this game that is timeless in an age of real and imagined deadlines, this game that still inspires millions around the world, this game that allows us to gain dip in the magic waters of hope and life can be as Walt Whitman said:

“I see great things in baseball. It’s our game – the American game. It will take our people out-of-doors, fill them with oxygen, give them a larger physical stoicism. Tend to relieve us from being a nervous, dyspeptic set. Repair these losses, and be a blessing to us.”

We need to “hear the voice” again see what can be, we need to find our Field of Dreams and make it real.

Well the movie is ending and I have tears in my eyes, tears of joy as I watch Ray Kinsella “have a catch” with his father John on that magical diamond and long for the day I can do so with my father who is somewhere in that cornfield waiting to come out and play ball.

Peace

Padre Steve+

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Filed under Baseball, faith, History, movies, philosophy, Political Commentary, Religion

Padre Steve’s Favorite Baseball Movies

I love all things baseball as my regular readers can tell you. In fact God speaks to me through baseball, even baseball movies when I cannot get to a ball park.  Of course as most readers know I am also a big fan of comedy and when baseball and comedy get together it is like beer and pizza, two great tastes that go great together.  Yeah, you were thinking I would say peanut butter cups, what a waste of calories, but I digress.

I love baseball movies, comedies for sure but also serious films.  Here are my favorite baseball movies in no particular order, although I’m sure that the order I place them has some subconscious meaning or maybe it doesn’t.  But whatever, these are some of my favorite baseball movies with a few reason why I like them.

Bull Durham


Ebby Calvin LaLoosh: How come you don’t like me?
Crash Davis: Because you don’t respect yourself, which is your problem. But you don’t respect the game, and that’s my problem. You got a gift.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_-mBb8Fyup0

I guess my favorite baseball movie of all time has to be Bull Durham starring Kevin Costner, Susan Sarandon and Tim Robbins. Set in the Single-A Carolina League the film is about a journeyman minor league Catcher named Crash Davis played by Kevin Costner. Davis is a journeyman but was playing in Triple A at the beginning of the season and is sent down to Durham to help a top prospect pitcher named Ebby Calvin LaLoosh get ready for the major leagues.  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ppBt1Igsg-U&feature=related

In the process Davis meets Annie Savoy (Susan Sarandon) a part time junior college English instructor and baseball guru that hooks up with a player on the team for 142 games.  The movie is a great sports and life movie as it deals with transitions. For Davis it is the transition from active ball player to life and love after baseball, for LaLoosh who goes from minor league prospect to the majors and Annie Savoy who falls for a man for more than a season.  For the past ten years or so I have identified with Crash Davis, the journeyman who ends up mentoring young players.  In fact I recommend this movie to young chaplains that seek out my counsel simply because many are wild like “Nuke” LaLoosh and simply need a blunt and honest veteran at the end of his career to bring them along. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ppBt1Igsg-U

One of my favorite scenes in this movie is when Crash gets throw out of a game. It reminds me of when I got thrown out of the Army Chaplain Officer Advanced Course in October 1992. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IHZhDdcE2Iw&feature=related

Major League


“Jesus, I like him very much, but he no help with curveball.” Pedro Cerrano

The film Major League is another of my favorites. Set in Cleveland in the late 1980s the film as about a perpetually losing team with a new owner who wants to move the historic franchise from Cleveland to Miami.  Her instruction to the team’s General Manager is to lose enough games to ensure that so few fans will come that she can legally move the team.  A team of misfits is put together veterans who have seen their best times, overpaid free agents that don’t perform and unknown rookies.  Once again there is the veteran but somewhat washed up catcher this time Jake Taylor played by Tom Berenger who is the glue on a team that includes a Cuban defector who can’t hit a curve ball named Pedro Cerrano played by Dennis Haysbert, a underperforming veteran Third Baseman named Roger Dorn played by Corbin Bernsen http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1X8552DxqOk and two rookies and outfielder Willie Mays Hays played by Wesley Snipes and pitcher Ricky Vaughn played by Charlie Sheen.  As the team has everything taken from them by owner Rachel Phelps played by Margaret Whitton they embark on a journey from cellar dwellers to American League East Champions.  Once again I relate to the veteran catcher but I also have an affinity for the rebellious rookie Ricky “Wild Thing” Vaughn.

For the Love of the Game


“And you know Steve you get the feeling that Billy Chapel isn’t pitching against left handers, he isn’t pitching against pinch hitters, he isn’t pitching against the Yankees. He’s pitching against time. He’s pitching against the future, against age, and even when you think about his career, against ending. And tonight I think he might be able to use that aching old arm one more time to push the sun back up in the sky and give us one more day of summer.” Vin Scully playing himself in For the Love of the Game

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nAIixu-wL2I&feature=related

Another of my favorites is For the Love of the Game based on the Michael Shaara novel The Perfect Game. This is a film about a pitcher at the end of his career named Billy Chapel played by Kevin Costner. Chapel has been with the team 19 years and has seen good times and bad, pitched in the World Series and suffered a grievous injury to his pitching hand in the off season. He is a man who has struggled with love yet forged lasting friendships with teammates, even those now on other teams.  The movie is set at Yankee Stadium with Chapel pitching in a meaningless game for the cellar dweller Tigers against the playoff bound New York Yankees.  The game revolves around Chapel and his relationships with his catcher, Gus Sinski (John C. Reilly), his lover Jane Aubrey (Kelly Preston), her daughter Heather (Gina Malone), former teammate and current Yankee Davis Birch and the team owner Gary Wheeler (Brian Cox) who is in the process of selling the team. The new owners are looking to deal Chapel to another team, likely the San Francisco Giants when the season is over and Chapel has to decide if he is going to be traded or retire.  With all of this swirling in his mind Billy Chapel pitches a perfect game and with every pitch the audience is introduced to the people and events that shaped his life.  One of the most poignant moments is toward the end of the game when the pain of his injured hand is killing him and his is tired that his catcher Gus pays a visit to the mount and says “the boys are all here for ya, we’ll back you up, we’ll be there, cause, Billy, we don’t stink right now. We’re the best team in baseball, right now, right this minute, because of you. You’re the reason. We’re not gonna screw that up, we’re gonna be awesome for you right now. Just throw.” http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WLrqdqBfqcw&feature=related

The team which had nothing to play for finds its heart and soul backing up their pitcher making great plays and getting the all critical hits.  I relate to Billy Chapel a lot because of my long career with all of its ups and downs.  The game is a microcosm of life and tells a story through baseball that runs deeper than the game itself. It is about life, family, friendship, love, commitment, good times and bad.  I cannot watch this movie without being moved to tears. Of course having Vin Scully call the game as if it were a real game makes it all the better.

The Natural


Iris Gaines: You know, I believe we have two lives.
Roy Hobbs: How… what do you mean?
Iris Gaines: The life we learn with and the life we live with after that.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NS0Q9sI-wuo&feature=related

The Natural adapted from the 1952 novel by the same name by Bernard Malamud.  In the film Robert Redford plays Roy Hobbs a hot prospect that is badly wounded by a female admirer who shoots him.  After years away from the game he returns to the game as an old rookie.  The novel is a tragedy while the movie was changed to make Hobbs triumph over adversity.  Hobbs has to battle his past, the press and his age and the ever present affects of his injury as he plays a game that he loves all the while kindling a relationship with Iris Gaines played by Glenn Close.  After a remarkable season Hobbs is sidelined by after effects of the shooting and the press publicizing past.  Going to bat out of his sick bed Hobbs plays in the deciding game of the pennant. He comes to bat with 2 on and 2 out in the bottom of the 9th inning bleeding from his side due to the injury. Hobbs crushes a pitch that goes just foul and breaks his bat which had been carved from the wood of a tree struck by lightning. He asks his batboy for a bat saying “Pick me out a winner Bobby” and goes back to the batter’s box.  As the catcher attempts to exploit Hobbs injury call for an inside fastball which Hobbs takes yard into the lights causing them to explode as he rounds the bases as the Knights win the pennant.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=54-6yimtjtA

Field of Dreams


“The one constant through all the years, Ray, has been baseball. America has rolled by like an army of steamrollers. It has been erased like a blackboard, rebuilt and erased again. But baseball has marked the time. This field, this game: it’s a part of our past, Ray. It reminds of us of all that once was good and it could be again. Oh… people will come Ray. People will most definitely come.” Terrance Mann (James Earl Jones)

You know we just don’t recognize the most significant moments of our lives while they’re happening. Back then I thought, well, there’ll be other days. I didn’t realize that that was the only day.” Dr. Archibald “Moonlight” Graham (Burt Lancaster)

The last film that I will discuss in this post is Field of Dreams. This is one of the three films that I call the Kevin Costner Baseball trilogy and like For the Love of the Game was adapted from a novel, in this case Shoeless Joe by W. P. Kinsella. The film is a baseball fantasy about a novice farmer named Ray Kinsella (Costner) the son of a baseball player who during the 1960s walks away from his father and baseball. While in his fields he hears a voice saying “If you build it, he will come.” He has a vision of a baseball field and plows under some of his crops to construct a field. Nothing happens at first but the next summer “Shoeless Joe Jackson” (Ray Liotta) shows up and after meeting Ray brings with him the seven other players from the 1919 Chicago White Sox implicated in the “Black Sox” scandal and banned from baseball.  The film is a fantasy, a search for redemption by Kinsella who tries to make sense of the voice and the ball players.  Eventually goes to Boston to find 1960s author and activist Terrance Mann (based on J. D. Salinger) played by James Earl Jones after he hears the voice say “ease his pain.” He meets with the reclusive and somewhat unfriendly Mann and it does not go well.

Ray Kinsella: [being rushed out of Mann’s loft] You’ve changed – you know that?
Terence Mann: Yes – I suppose I have! How about this: “Peace, love, dope”? Now get the hell out of here!

He finally gets Mann to go with him to a Red Sox game but even that does not go well. Ray thinks that he has wasted his time when Mann stops him and the pair drives to Chisholm Minnesota to find a former ballplayer named Archibald “Moonlight Graham.” They discover Graham, the beloved town doctor died 16 years before.  As Kinsella walks the street he finds himself transported back in time and meets the old Doctor Graham.  He cannot get Graham to come with them but on the road back home he and Mann pick up a young hitch hiker looking to play baseball, named Archie Graham. They arrive back home and while the players who have grown in number they find that his farm is being foreclosed on be foreclosed on by a group of businessmen and bankers headed up by his brother in law.

http://www.hulu.com/watch/12384/field-of-dreams-people-will-come

During the argument between Ray and his brother in law the daughter fall off the small set of bleachers and appears to be severely injured.  Young Archie Graham walks off the field, becomes old doctor Graham and saves the girl’s life. The brother in law is transformed by what happened and sees the ballplayers for the first time. He stops the action against his Ray who after thinking Ray was crazy finally sees the magic of this diamond as Archie Graham becomes the elderly Doctor Moonlight Graham and saves the Kinsella’s daughter’s life after she fell from the bleachers.   Mann gets to go with Shoeless Joe and the others into the mystical cornfield and a young ballplayer, Ray’s father John Kinsella is introduced. Ray recognizes him introduces him to his family without identifying him as his father or admitting that he is his son. The classic exchange between the two explains the essence of the film.

John Kinsella: Is this heaven?
Ray Kinsella: It’s Iowa.
John Kinsella: Iowa? I could have sworn this was heaven.
[John starts to walk away]
Ray Kinsella: Is there a heaven?
John Kinsella: Oh yeah. It’s the place where dreams come true.
[Ray looks around, seeing his wife playing with their daughter on the porch]
Ray Kinsella: Maybe this is heaven

The two end up “having a catch” as the lights of cars wind across the Iowa farmlands heading to this little ball field.  The movie has a special place in my heart because of the father-son relationship. When my dad returned from Vietnam I had emotionally moved away from him and baseball. I kept an interest in the game but for a number of years it was not a passion.  The exchange between Ray Kinsella and Terrance Mann still gets me, now later in life my dad and I reconnected as father and son and I came back to baseball.

Ray Kinsella: By the time I was ten, playing baseball got to be like eating vegetables or taking out the garbage. So when I was 14, I started to refuse. Could you believe that? An American boy refusing to play catch with his father.
Terence Mann: Why 14?
Ray Kinsella: That’s when I read “The Boat Rocker” by Terence Mann.
Terence Mann: [rolling his eyes] Oh, God.
Ray Kinsella: Never played catch with him again.
Terence Mann: You see? That’s the sort of crap people are always trying to lay on me. It’s not my fault you wouldn’t play catch with your father.

In 2004 while going to a reunion of my Continental Singers tour in Kansas City Judy and I made a few stops watching minor league games in Louisville and Cedar Rapids before making a trip  to Dyersville Iowa where she indulged me by playing catch with me on the Field of Dreams. If you build it he will come…I did.

I could go on about other baseball movies as there are many more but these above the others are the ones that I find a connection with.

Peace

Padre Steve+

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Filed under Baseball, film, sports and life

Highs and Lows: Baseball versus Alzheimer’s and Mass Murder at Fort Hood

field_of_dreamsField of Dreams

This has been a weird week.  There was some great baseball in the World Series and I even nailed the prediction for it.  Just take a look back if you don’t believe me.  I have never gone public with a World Series prediction and I am pretty pleased that my predictions were pretty good considering that I am neither the Prophet nor the Son of the Prophet.  Neither am I infallible like the Pope being that I am just a miscreant Priest and member of the Church of Baseball, Harbor Park Parish where I have my season ticket in Section 102, Row B, Seat 2.

The Series was good for me, I really didn’t care who won, except that I predicted the Yankees in six based on match ups, statistics and numbers.  I’m a Giants, A’s and Orioles fan and as I sit here in my O’s hat and sweatshirt I can honestly say that I didn’t have a dog in the fight.  However to be right in analyzing the playoffs and World Series is pretty cool.  Maybe someday I will be a real sportswriter or broadcaster and get to sit opposite Jay Mariotti and Woody Paige on Around the Horn.

However, the series helped distract me in some ways for my trip home to see what I can do to help my brother with my parents.  I don’t look forward to the trip; the airports get to me now.  Thankfully I’m not going through Atlanta or Washington Dulles.  At least O’Hare has decent food and beer.  I guess the thing that gets me the most about going home this time is that my mom wants me to help go through possessions, not paperwork.  I’m thinking about years of memories that she has kept; family heirlooms and the just plain shit in some cases.  The stuff really doesn’t matter to me but it will be taxing.  Likewise the thought of seeing my dad again in his decrepit state, shrunken and mostly demented from Alzheimer’s disease is painful to think about.

johnlithgow

Yesterday morning after my on call shift I went up for my weigh in.  I gained 25 pounds since the spring, I knew that going in, I knew that I would not make the weight.  Most of the weigh came from stopping by Krispy Kreme on the way home from Harbor Park, picking up a dozen hot and fresh glazed and downing 3-4 or more with a beer before going to bed.  Of course the reason I did this was because I was emotionally spent, couldn’t sleep and couldn’t pull myself away from work.  Add stress, anxiety, no sleep, overwork, bad diet and little exercise  together and you get fat…well I get fat, I don’t know about you.  This is the first time in 28 years in the military that I have been officially fat.  I’ve always been close to the limit because the Deity Herself did not endue me with a couple of additional inches of height to help me as the military is run by the tall skinny mafia and the standards reflect that.   Until yesterday I had always made it sometimes by the skin of my teeth, but always made it.  When I was in better shape I would crush the physical fitness part of the assessment even if I was close to the weight limit.  Today after sleeping through my alarm and barely making it in to work I did the Physical Readiness Test and despite having only done 3 sessions of PT since the end of April I did better than a lot of young people, I passed, not to my usually standard of near perfection, but passing.  My diet has already been adjusted; my work schedule and duties have been rearranged to help me recover from Iraq and my return.  I’m doing more supervisory and administrative work vice the heavy clinical work in ICU.  This will give me the time that I need to do what I have not done since my return from Iraq that is to take care of me.  So I do have a sense of humor about this, I’m not going to stay fat and I am going to get my physical edge back.  I’m old but not done.  After the weigh in I thought about the episode of Third Rock from the Sun where Dick Solomon, played by John Lithglow gets fat and joins a weight loss organization called the Fat Losers. I have included the links to the episode on You Tube here:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OgP2h1x2EZc

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-x0kzALQPU4

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Q2tYkwhqqxs

I will keep you abreast of my journey to take this off and turn myself into a bald version of Arnold.  If anyone wants to take that journey with me let me know.  We’ll be the real “Fat Losers” and kick some ass.

fort hood shootingsGrieving Soldiers at Fort Hood

The shooting at Fort Hood yesterday shook me and the Abbess pretty bad.  For me it hit my sense of safety and security was rocked as a Moslem Army Major brutally attacked and killed 12 soldiers and an Army civilian and wounded 30 more soldiers.  I’ve mentioned in my Fort Hood updates more about how it hit me so I won’t rehash that here except that I started emotionally melting down a bit as I watched the coverage which I could not let go of.  I thought of friends that I know there and my times about Fort Hood when I was in the Army, and the thought that an officer who swore the same oath that I have committed such an atrocity in the name of his religion really got me.  If he had been an enlisted man I think my reaction would have been different, somehow when I learned that it was an officer, a psychiatrist and a Moslem floored me.  Frankly in my world officers don’t do this.  Today I was able to get with Elmer the Shrink and talk. That helped. My boss and our deputy helped take care of me today and yesterday.  On the way home I stopped by Harbor Park to take in the view of the field and relax.  Thankfully the good folks in the office allow me to do this.  It helped a lot.

harbor park opening dayMy Field of Dreams: Harbor Park

After a nice dinner with the Abbess at Gordon Biersch I did what I almost always do after such a couple of days and retreated into the world of magic that is baseball.  I put on For the Love of the Game and Field of Dreams.  Somehow those help me.  The lead character played by Kevin Costner, Billy Chapel pitches a perfect game and reminisces about his life and career.  It reminds me of possibilities even for me and Field of Dreams reminds me of all that is good, even in spite of all the evil that the world.  The baseball season may be over, but the game reaches me when nothing else can.  I looked at the diamond surrounded by the cornfields and remember when I drove to Iowa and made the trip to Dyersville just to play catch on the Field of Dreams.  I hope that when I go home that somehow I can help ease my dad’s pain in some way, and maybe just maybe have him back for a few minutes.

Me and last last picMy last Visit with Dad in May

Thank you for your prayers and encouragement.  Please keep praying for the victims and all those affected at Fort Hood.  Pray that the violent and senseless act of Major Hasan will not beget more violence.

Peace,

Padre Steve+

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Filed under alzheimer's disease, Baseball, PTSD, traumatic national events

For the Love of the Game and the Love of Life; Finding Meaning Life and Love in the Perfect Game

for_love_of_the_gameKevin Costner as Billy Chapel

One of my favorite movies is the baseball story For the Love of the Game which starred Kevin Costner.  This is the film rendition of Michael Shaara’s Pulitzer Prize winning novel The Perfect Game. Both the book and the movie tell the story of “Billy Chapel” a pitcher who played 19 seasons with the same team, in the movie the Detroit Tigers.  The story focuses on the last game of the season in which Chapel is to start.  The game for his team is meaningless; they will not be going to the playoffs as they are a bad team.  Compounding the team’s situation is the uncertainty of the team’s future as the long time owner who signed Chapel out of high school is about to sell the team.  The new ownership group wants to make changes, among the changes a trade involving Billy Chapel to the Giants. The trade would force him to play the next season in another uniform and another city when he wants to finish his career in the same city where it started.  Before the game the owner comes to Chapel to talk about possibilities and then begins to criticize the game, saying that it stinks.  Chapel responds: “The game doesn’t stink, Mr. Wheeler. It’s a great game.”

The book and the movie present a tapestry of the Billy Chapel’s life in between pitches.  Unlike most baseball films this focus’s not on a season, but a game, a single game.  Woven in this rich tapestry of this game are the lives of several people besides the lead character played by Kevin Costner.  The manager of the team has a wife with cancer.  His love, Jane Aubrey played by Kelly Preston is leaving him, going to London for a new job and stands him up the previous night.  She tells him “You’re perfect. You, and the ball, and the diamond, you’re this perfectly beautiful thing. You can win or lose the game, all by yourself. You don’t need me.” It is the classic cry of a woman whose true love is absolutely passionate about what he does well.

costner and preston for the love of the gameBilly Chapel (Costner) and Jane Aubrey (Kelly Preston)

A friend and former team mate now plays for the Yankees who Chapel’s Tigers will play in the last game of the season. Billy’s catcher Gus is not much of a hitter and the manager wants to play a better hitting catcher but Chapel will have nothing of it as Gus is “his catcher.”  As the game goes on Chapel’s arm begins to hurt from an old off season injury, he’s tired and feeling the pressure. Throughout the game Gus helps Billy keep it together and as they go out for the last inning he goes out to the mound and says to Billy: “The boys are all here for ya, we’ll back you up, we’ll be there, cause, Billy, we don’t stink right now. We’re the best team in baseball, right now, right this minute, because of you. You’re the reason. We’re not gonna screw that up, we’re gonna be awesome for you right now. Just throw.” It’s the kind of word that anyone can need when they are exhausted but about to accomplish something great, the team is there for them.

for the love of the gameThe Wind Up

Billy chapel is old.  He has had a mediocre season for anyone else but for him a bad season.  His all star days are past.  His dad who taught him the game and witnessed his greatest moments is dead as is his mother.  He is, with the exception of Gus alone.  It is a story that could end like so many stories in sadness or despair.  Instead it is the story of triumph.  It is the story of how in spite of a whirl of emotions and a lot of pain from past injuries he triumphs.  He does so against an opponent that is going to the playoffs, the always dangerous Yankees in the venerable Yankee Stadium.  Chapel pitches a perfect game against the odds.  Supporting players who had failed during the season make stellar plays.  The team which had nothing to look forward to celebrates one of the rarest of human events, a Major League perfect game. Not just a “no-hitter” which I have been specially graced by the Deity Herself to see in person, but a perfect game of which only 18 have been thrown.  Perfect games are unforgettable and this story gets it right.  The game itself is a story of redemption, in life, love and the pursuit of excellence.  During the game the grandson of the owner is sent to get Chapel’s answer about taking the trade.  Chapel writes his response on a baseball: Tell them I’m through, “for love of the game”, Billy Chapel. Chapel the game is more than a paycheck, it is about life and relationships.

After the post game celebration he pours Gus out in his room and He then goes to find Jane, who due to a flight delay is stuck waiting at JFK in a bar watching the game.  She realizes what she is walking out on.  When Chapel finds out about her leaving the next morning he goes to the airport.  He says something that I think really sticks out to guys who have invested much in their careers but left love behind or had it go stale:

“I used to believe, I still do, that if you give something your all it doesn’t matter if you win or lose, as long as you’ve risked everything put everything out there. And I’ve done that. I did it my entire life. I did it with the game. But I never did it with you, I never gave you that. And I’m sorry. I know I’m on really thin ice but, when you said I didn’t need you… well last night should’ve been the biggest night of my life, and it wasn’t. It wasn’t because you weren’t there. So I just wanted to tell you, not to change your mind or keep you from going, but just so you know, that I know, that I do need you.”

Dundas at HitPadre Steve Doing What He Loves

The story of Billy Chapel is one of finishing well.  So many people start their lives full of promise and somewhere along the way give up. They exist, go through the motions and stop believing in themselves and those who love them.  For whatever reason some people, maybe a lot of people stop living long before they die. The wake up, go through the motions and stop striving for excellence and forget about love, life and friendship. They forget what loyalty means and take for granted the love of people who care about them.  They have lost their love and passion and simply go through the motions of existence.  It happens in all phases of life. In the military we have a slang term called the “ROAD program.”  It means “Retired On Active Duty.  These are the guys who have stopped trying; they know that short of committing a criminal act that they can retire.  They go through the motions.  There are these kinds of folks everywhere, not just the military and unfortunately a decent number in minstry.  Somewhere, somehow they have given up. I don’t want to do that.  I want my last game to be my best.

Billy Chapel is the epitome of a man who gives his all in what he knows will be his final game, a game that for everyone else but him is meaningless.  However in the microcosm of that game everyone finds meaning.  As he pitches and the tension builds, those who had just been along for the ride get caught up in the magic.  His manager, his journeyman catcher “Gus,” his team mates, and even the opposing players and the hostile Yankee fans discover what it is to live again.  People who had given up find inspiration and hope. Billy Chapel creates magic on the mound which in that moment of time makes life right.  Sure it is just a novel, it is just a film, but it is life just as baseball is life, a game played like most of us live, some great performances, slumps, winning and losing streaks, errors, bad calls, trades, being fired and even rain or on rare occasion Colorado fans, snow delays.  In baseball great players are still not perfect the majority of the time, baseball unlike any other sport is humanity at its best and worst.

Judy and Steve[1]_edited-1Me with My Love

I find the story of Billy Chapel in The Perfect Game to be compelling.  I love baseball and for me the story of someone at the tail end of their career achieving the next to impossible is inspiring.  I find inspiration in other old ball players who keep doing well. It is the old guys of baseball who inspire me now, guys like Jamie Moyer of the Phillies and Mike Mussina who retired from the Yankees last year at the top of his game. I could well be finishing my career in the next few years.  I want my time in the Navy to matter in my last few years. If I get promoted and remain a few more, that is okay, but even then I want to finish well.  When I’m done with that I hope that the Deity Herself will give me the grace to continue to strive for excellence in serving people as a priest.  I never want to be on the ROAD program even if I live to be 90. I want my last years, be they a military career, or the rest of my life and ministry to be my best and that means my life.

Peace, Padre Steve+

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