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Mama Bear, Contraceptives & the Cubs

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Friends of Padre Steve’s World,

The late, great, Chicago Cubs broadcaster, Harry Caray, made a darkly humorous comment that once again seems to have come true. Caray said, “What does a mama bear on the pill have in common with the World Series? No cubs.”

The Chicago Cubs under the direction of former Tampa Bay Rays skipper Joe Maddon had a great season. They reached the playoffs as a Wild Card team, and knocked out the St. Louis Cardinals in the National League Division series.

I kind of hoped that they would have won the World Series this year, even though I believe that should the Cubs ever win the World Series that Jesus will return. I am a big fan of Cubs starter Jake Arietta who I know from his time in the Orioles organization and time in Norfolk, and I do have a soft spot for the Cubs. In fact about six years ago I wrote, “it all comes down to baseball, just as everything else in life. My belief is that when the Chicago Cubs win the World’s Series that we’d better start looking to the East, and pronto.” Since the “amazin’ Mets” beat the Cubs in the National League Championship Series I will have to assume that the perousia (the Greek word for the second coming) will again be delayed, at least until next year.

  
The Mets swept the Cubbies in large part due to the hitting of Daniel Murphy who hit his sixth consecutive home run, breaking a playoff record.  It looks like the Mets will now play the winner of the Kansas City Royals and Toronto Blue Jays American League Championship Series, which the Royals now lead three games to two with the series going back to Kansas City on Friday.

  
So, until we know something else, here is to the Mets, who made my season by defeating the evil Los Angeles Dodgers in their National League Division Series last week. As a diehard San Francisco Giants fan I have to salute the Mets, who have been amazing this year. As for the Cubbies, there is always next year. They have nothing to be ashamed of this season; they are a young team, they made the playoffs and beat the only team to win 100 games. It is not the World Series, but it is not bad.

Peace

Padre Steve+

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GIANTS WIN SERIES! The Amazing Madison Bumgarner

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Madison Bumgarner and Buster Posey Raise Their Arms in Victory

Photo: Carlos Avila Gonzalez, The Chronicle

Hall of Fame Baltimore Orioles manager Earl Weaver once said “The key to winning baseball games is pitching, fundamentals, and three run homers.” 

The San Francisco Giants didn’t get many home runs this season, but timely hitting, amazing defense and the pitching of a young man named Madison Bumgarner who did something that no pitcher has done since the dead ball era.

Bumgarner won two games in the this World Series, giving him four career World Series wins, and he earned the save tonight in game seven, pitching five innings of shutout ball. He had a World Series Record 0.43 Earned Run Average over 21 innings pitched in the series. He allowed just one run in his three games, of which he had a win in game one going seven innings, a complete game shutout in game five and coming back on short rest to pitch five innings of scoreless relief in game seven. In an era where pitch counts have ruled, Bumgarner defied the odds. During the regular season  he pitched 219 innings. He then pitched 48 and 2/3rds innings in the playoffs, he won two games in the NLCS against the Cardinals and had a complete game shutout of the Pirates in the Wild Card. His only blemish was a loss to the Nationals in game four of the NLDS. It was one of the most amazing post-season performances, not to mention World Series performances in baseball history.

I grew up with the Giants and I love their orange and black American League counterpart Baltimore Orioles as well. I have loved both teams since I was a child. I was hoping for a total orange and black World Series, but the Kansas City Royals put that wish to rest by sweeping the Orioles in the ALCS.

This World Series has been weird for me. I expected the Giants to win but I also expected the normal amount of “torture ball” from the Giants, who over the past five years have found ways to keep their fans on chewing their fingernails, drinking too much beer and resorting to whatever superstition gets them through. For me it is making sure my trusty Papillon-Dachsund mix Molly, is there with me. When she could still see, she went blind in early 2013, she would sit on “her” bean bag and watch the game with me. Since I was traveling during this post season we didn’t have as much Molly-Daddy baseball time, but tonight during game seven she stayed on the couch with me the entire game. Molly is my good luck charm when watching the Giants torture all of us. But I digress…

I watched game one with friends at Gordon Biersch last Tuesday, saw game two at home before flying to Stockton California for my induction into the Edison High School Hall of Fame meaning that I got no sleep the night before the flight. I watched game three with my brother, missed game four due to the induction ceremony, watch game five on my iPad on my flight home, saw most of game six at Biersch and tonight since we were all tired, stayed home to watch game seven.

Tonight was special. I have had a week of tremendous ups and downs and so my stomach was in a knot the whole game. I was sure that the Giants would win, but after the 10-0 defeat in game six I was a bit nervous, even though I actually felt better with the blowout than had they lost a close game. During the pre-game shows it seemed that many of the commentators were almost cheering for the Royals to win and constantly talking about how the last nine game seven’s have been won by the home team. I knew they were full of crap but nonetheless, it was annoying.

When Pablo Sandoval was in the dugout getting ready to step into the on deck circle in the top of the first, he turned to the camera and winked.

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At that point, any doubts faded, but that being said I was still nervous. I watched the game but also did a few things to take the edge off at times. I looked at other news stories on the internet, republished an article about Gettysburg, drank beer and snuggled next to Molly on the couch.

I think that the Giants are one of the most amazing “teams” in the game, and under manager Bruce Botchy they accomplish amazing things in the most unlikely of ways with a team of regular guys. A rotund third baseman called “the Panda,” a wild-eyed right fielder named Hunter Pence, a rookie second baseman named Panik, a solid bullpen, and apart from Bumgarner a starting pitching staff that struggled much of the season. It seems like every year the Giants find another unusual way to win, especially when they get to the post-season.

Tonight was no different. Their starting pitcher Tim Hudson, the oldest pitcher to ever start in a World Series game, didn’t get out of the second inning. So Bruce Botchy brought in Jeremy Affeldt, a lefty who normally pitches in late inning relief. Affeldt had never come into a major league game in the second inning during his career. The crafty left-hander shut down the Royals for 2.1 innings earning the win while Bumgarner, after initially being credited with the win, earned the save. Affeldt and Bumgarner proved Earl Weaver’s wise saying that “The only thing that matters is what happens on the little hump out in the middle of the field.” Affeldt and Bumgarner dominated the Royals from that hill. 

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Joe Panik tossing the ball to Brandon Crawford with his glove to begin the 5th inning double play (AP Photo) 

They were backed up by just enough timely hitting and outstanding defense, especially after Bumgarner came into the game and Second Baseman Joe Panik made one of the most amazing double plays I have ever seen. Panik dove and robbed Eric Hosmer of a hit, tossing the ball with his glove to shortstop Brandon Crawford who threw out Hosmer who was diving head first into first base. Initially Hosmer was ruled safe, but the very first manager’s challenge replay reversal of an on field call in the World Series ended a potential threat.

As the game went on into the seventh inning I began to count down the outs with Molly at my side. When Alex Gordon singled and reached third base after a fielding error by Giant’s Center Fielder Gregor Blanco with two outs in the bottom of the ninth, yet another element of torture ball. I was standing, and when Salvador Perez popped up to Pablo Sandoval in foul territory to end the game I was jumping up and down and screaming for joy, thanking Molly for staying on the couch and not moving, ensuring that nothing that she or I did would jinx the Giants. Yes this is superstitious, maybe even idiotic, but it is the way I deal with the World Series when the Giants are playing in it. 

Congratulations to the Giants, and kudos to the Royals who surprised everyone with their playoff run this year. I expect them to be a force to be reckoned with in the American League for years to come, provided of course that free agency does not rob them of their tremendous late inning bullpen staff.

With that I need to attempt to get to sleep, if I can. For once though if I don’t sleep it won’t be because of anything bad, just the post-game excitement that won’t let me sleep.

Peace

Padre Steve+

 

 

 

 

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Orange and Black is Back

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One might say that I have an obsession with baseball, in fact I would dare say that to me it is closer to a religious faith than any of major revealed religions known to humankind. Since coming back from Iraq it is one of the few things in life that center me, more than scripture, prayer or in fact most traditional spiritual disciplines baseball speaks to my heart more than anything. I can truly understand the words of Annie Savoy (Susan Sarandon) in the classic baseball film Bull Durham: 

“I believe in the Church of Baseball. I tried all the major religions and most of the minor ones. I’ve worshipped Buddha, Allah, Brahma, Vishnu, Siva, trees, mushrooms and Isadora Duncan. I know things. For instance, there are 108 beads in a Catholic rosary and there are 108 stitches in a baseball. When I learned that, I gave Jesus a chance.” 

Please do not get me wrong, I am not depreciating religion or my own Christian faith in the slightest by saying this, but it is true that Jesus, I like him very much, but he no help with curveball…

This year my two favorite baseball teams are in the playoffs and look like that have a strong chance of moving on the the National League and American League Championship series. Of course I am talking about the only teams whose uniforms fully are appreciative of the month of October, the Baltimore Orioles and the San Francisco Giants whose orange and black uniforms are distinctive. Entering the playoffs many experts consider them underdogs, and while neither has won their divisional series yet, the odds are that both will.

Last night I was watching the Giants play their usual brand of torture ball against the Washington Nationals in a record setting epic 18 inning playoff game that went longer than any post season game in the history of baseball. As is usual with this kind of game I could not leave it for anything. I remember the 2005 National League Championship Series between the Atlanta Braves and Houston Astros, and the 2005 World Series game between those same Astros and the Chicago White Sox which both went 18 innings. I couldn’t stop watching those games either, but with the Giants and the Orioles it is different. The Orioles like the Giants are really tough in close games and during the regular season were amazing in extra innings games, but I digress…

John Leonard wrote in the New York Times in 1975 that Baseball happens to be a game of cumulative tension but football, basketball and hockey are played with hand grenades and machine guns.” Last night was amazing, that cumulative tension that built throughout the game was high was palpable. Jordan Zimmerman put down 18 Giants in a row before walking Joe Panik with two outs in the top of the ninth, and the rest is history. Buster Posey singled and Pablo “the Panda” Sandoval doubled in to tie the game  It went another nine innings before the appropriately named Brandon Belt “belted” a home run into the second deck in right field at nationals Stadium to give the Giants the winning run.

So tonight, the Orioles who came back against the Detroit Tigers in the bottom of the eighth inning to shock the Tigers and Detroit fans play what might be the deciding game of their divisional series against the Tigers. I think that the Orioles have a strong chance at closing the series out tonight. So be assured I will be watching.

So until tomorrow,

Peace

Padre Steve+

 

 

 

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Baseball and My Spiritual Journey

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Note: I have been working hard this week with contractors in the house making repairs to the damage caused when our water heater blew out on February 3rd. Thankfully, despite being so tired I have been able to make a couple of baseball games at Harbor Park here in Norfolk. I have been too tired to make it all the way through either game despite the fact that they were good close games. Tonight I only made it to the top of the 7th inning. At the time the Tides were up 2-1 but had blown a number of opportunities to blow the game open. I got home and found they had lost 3-2. Thankfully I am beginning to see the light at the end of the rebuilding and renovation tunnel and it is not the train. Depending how I feel tomorrow I may try to take in part of the final game of this series. Unfortunately I still have much work that needs to be done around the house…but I digress… on to Baseball and my spiritual journey.

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“Baseball is a curious anomaly in American life. It seems to have been ingrained in people in their childhood…. Baseball is, after all, a boy’s game, and children are innocent of evil. So even adults who are prejudiced revert to their childhood when they encounter a baseball player and they react with the purity of little children.” Jackie Robinson Baseball Has Done It

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I feel closeness to God at the ballpark that after Iraq is hard for me to find in many other places.  For me there is a mystery, magic about a ballpark that just isn’t there for the other sports.  With the opening of baseball season I am soaking in the pleasantness of the game.  The past two nights I have had the television on with baseball games.  It is so much more peaceful and edifying than the deluge of political talk and reality shows that are the staple of entertainment now days.

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For me the other sports can grab my momentary attention but because of their nature cause them to be merely ordinary and occasionally interesting.  Baseball is another matter, it is more than a game. As George Will said “Baseball, it is said, is only a game. True. And the Grand Canyon is only a hole in Arizona. Not all holes, or games, are created equal.” For me baseball is a metaphor for life, a spiritual experience and a game that mirrors life and faith in many ways. For me this goes back to childhood.

As a kid my dad made me learn the fundamentals of the game and whether we were attending a game in person, watching one on television or playing catch, pepper or practicing infield or pitching in the back yard or in a park, dad was all about the game.  Of course he was the same way with football, hockey, basketball and golf, but the sport that he seemed most passionate about was baseball.  As a kid dad was a Cincinnati Reds fan and as we moved West he became a solid San Francisco Giants fan.

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My mom went along to many games while we were in Anaheim and she lives and dies with the Giants. My mom was a Navy Wife and back then there were not nearly the support structures that we have today and Navy wives had to be wear many hats.  One of those hats was being my chauffeur and number one fan. When my dad was deployed to Vietnam when we were in Stockton she would take me to my Little League games and shuttle me and my friends to Billy Herbert Field to see the Stockton Ports.

My dad’s mother, my grandmother who hailed from the hollers of West Virginia was a die hard Los Angeles Dodgers fan. I still wonder how a woman from West Virginia became a Dodgers’ fan but she was incredibly independent.  My grandfather was killed in a trucking accident when my dad was a small child leaving Granny a widow with two young boys to raise.
She was a single parent and for a while lived with family as she established herself. It was the late 1930s and she went to work, raised her two boys and bought her own house.  Unlike most people in West Virginia at that time she was a Republican. This was long before West Virginia ever voted for a Republican either President or statewide office. True to form Granny was a Dodgers fan in a land of Reds, Indians and Pirates fans, fierce and independent.  I have to admire her perseverance but as a Giants fan I cannot fathom her being a fan of the Evil Dodgers. Despite having fallen under the spell of the Dark Lords of Chavez Ravine Granny was a real baseball fan. Any time you went to Granny’s house and there was a game on, the television was tuned in to it. When she visited us in Texas in the early 1990s we went to a Texas Rangers game but it was called because of tornadoes and severe thunder storms.

I can say that thanks to my dad, mom and grandmother that I was immersed in baseball from an early age and when we got to a place where dad could take us to ball games on a regular basis he did.

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Dad always made sure that we got to see baseball wherever we lived. In 1967 he took us to see the Seattle Pilots during their first and only season in that fair city before they went to Milwaukee and became the Brewers.  In the elementary schools of those days many our teachers would put the playoff and World’s Series games on the TV as many of those games were played during daylight hours.  I remember watching Bob Gibson pitch when the Cardinals played against the Red Sox in the 1967 series.  It was awesome to see that man pitch.   I remember the Amazing Mets upsetting the Orioles in 1969 and the Orioles take down the Reds in 1970. I will never forget the 1970 All Star Game where Pete Rose ran over Ray Fosse at home plate for the winning run and the great dynasty teams of the 1970s, especially the Reds and the Athletics who dominated much of that decade and the resurgence of the Yankees in the summer that the Bronx burned.

When we were stationed in Long Beach California dad had us at Anaheim stadium all the time.  I imagine that we attended at least 20 games there in 1970 and another 25-30 in 1971 as well as a couple at Dodger stadium that year.  We met a lot of the Angel players at community events and before the games. I entered the “My Favorite Angel” contest and my entry was picked as a runner up. This netted me two seats behind the plate and having Dick Enberg announced my name on the radio.  I wrote about Jim Spencer a Gold Glove First Baseball who later played for the Yankees.  I still have a hat from that team with numerous autographs on the inside of the bill including Sandy Alomar, Jim Spencer, Jim Fregosi, Chico Ruiz, and Billy Cowan. It was a magical time for a 10 year old boy.

When we moved to Stockton California dad took us to see the A’s dynasty teams including a number of playoff games.  But he also took us across San Francisco Bay to watch the Giants.  I got to see Ed Halicki of the Giants no-hit the Mets a Candlestick on August 24th 1975.  In Anaheim, Oakland and San Francisco I got to see some of the greats of the era play in those stadiums, Catfish, Reggie, McCovey, Garvey, Vida Blue, Harmon Killebrew and so many others.

I became acquainted with Minor League Baseball when we moved to Stockton in1971. At the time the Stockton Ports were the Class A California League farm team for the Baltimore Orioles.  I remember a few years back talking to Orioles great Paul Blair who played for the Ports in the early 1960s about Billy Hebert Field and how the sun would go down in the outfield blinding hitters and spectators in its glare.  I became a closet Orioles fan back then and today I have a renewed interest in the Orioles because of their affiliation with the Norfolk Tides.  The retired GM of the Tides, Dave Rosenfield has told me about his young days in the California League and time at Billy Hebert Field in the 1950s.

As I have grown older my appreciation for the game only deepens despite strikes and steroids and other problems that plague the game at the major league level.  I am in awe of the game and the diamond on which it is played.  I have played catch on the field of dreams, seen a game in the Yankee Stadium Right Field bleachers, seen a no-hitter, playoff games and met many players. I’ve watched the game in Japan, seen historic moments when deployed to combat zones in and have thrown out the first pitch in a couple of minor league games.

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I am enchanted with the nearly spiritual aspects of the game. The foul lines theoretically go on to infinity, only broken by the placement of the outfield wall.  Likewise unlike all other sports there is no time limit, meaning that baseball can be an eschatological game going on into eternity. The Hall of Fame is like the Calendar of Saints in the Catholic, Orthodox and Anglican Churches.  There are rituals, the exchange of batting orders and explanation of the ground rules, the ceremonial first pitch, players not stepping on the foul line when entering and leaving the field of play, no talking about it when a pitcher is throwing a no-hitter and the home run trot. The care of a field by an expert ground crew is a thing to behold, especially when they still use the wooden box frames to lay down the chalk on the baselines and the batters box.

Likewise I am enthralled with the Americanness of the game. Michael Novak wrote:

“Baseball is as close a liturgical enactment of the white Anglo-Saxon Protestant myth as the nation has. It is a cerebral game, designed as geometrically as the city of Washington itself, born out of the Enlightenment and the philosophies so beloved of Jefferson, Madison, and Hamilton. It is to games what the Federalist Papers are to books; orderly, reasoned, judiciously balanced, incorporating segments of violence and collision in a larger plan of rationality, absolutely dependent on an interiorization of public rules.”

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My kitchen and much of my dining room are as close to a baseball shrine as Judy will let me make them.
Since I returned from Iraq the baseball diamond is one of my few places of solace. When I was stationed in Norfolk I had season tickets behind home plate at Harbor Park.  At the end of the 2010 season I was transferred to Camp LeJeune and was able to take in a good number of Kinston Indians games but since that team was sold and moved at the end of the 2011 season I didn’t get to see many games in the flesh. Thankfully with my return to the Hampton Roads area I have my season ticket back at Harbor Park and life is coming back into balance.

As I do that I can hear the words of James Earl Jones in the great film Field of Dreams:

“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.”

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In a sense those word say it all to me. In the midst of war, economic crisis and deep political division they are also a prayer of hope of what once was good, and what be again.

Peace

Padre Steve+

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A No Hitter a Wild Card Playoff and an exciting End to the 2013 MLB Regular Season

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“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

Well I do love baseball and even when my favorite teams don’t make the playoff there is something magical about the game. Baseball is an amazing game and today some six months and 162 games after opening day the drama that is baseball continued to amaze.

Yes I know that the United States is now “football nation” but that doesn’t mean that baseball is not the game that most represents the spirit of the country.

Today Henderson Alvarez of the Miami Marlins, who lost 100 games this year pitched a no-hitter against the American League Central champion Detroit Tigers. Alvarez pitched nine no-hit, no-run innings but was saved from going out to pitch a tenth inning when Tiger’s reliever Luke Putkonen served up a wild pitch with 2 outs in the bottom of the ninth with the bases loaded. The wild pitch by Putkonen to pinch hitter Gregg Dobbs scored Giancarlo Stanton giving the Marlins a walk-off win on the final day of the season. It was the first walk-off no-hitter on a wild pitch and only the fourth no-hitter on the final day of the season.

Elsewhere after a long hard fought season all play off-berths except one, the American League 2nd berth were decided. That remains the case tonight as the Texas Rangers and the Tampa Bay Rays meet tomorrow in a one game sudden-death playoff the winner will move on to take on the Boston Red Sox.

Among the interesting features on the 2013 MLB Playoffs is that the reigning World Series Champion, the San Francisco Giants are not in them, nor are the New York Yankees nor the Anaheim Angels. However the Pittsburgh Pirates returned to the playoffs as a Wild Card team, their first post-season appearance in over 20 years as did the Red Sox, the Los Angeles Dodgers, the Atlanta Braves and the Cleveland Indians. Surprising to some but not to me was the success of the Oakland Athletics, who for the second straight year won the American League West. Though they didn’t make the playoffs the Baltimore Orioles had a very respectable showing in the American League East, arguably the toughest division in baseball.

There were a lot of great moments this season, three no-hitters as well as some amazing performances by young and up and coming players like Chris Davis of the Orioles who led he majors with 53 home runs and 138 RBI.

Baseball remains alive and well and i expect that the 2013 playoffs could be ones for the ages.

After all, with all the foolishness in Washington we need something to “repair these losses and be a blessing to us.”

Peace

Padre Steve+

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The Return of “The Freak”: Tim Lincecum Pitches Second No-Hitter of 2013 MLB Season

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“It’s pretty surreal for me to be a part of that, obviously I’ve gotten to see a couple of those, but to be in the middle of one is a little different. I’m still kind of pinching myself right now.” Tim  Lincecum 

Last night in San Diego San Francisco Giants pitcher Tim Lincecum added another accomplishment to his career. The two time National League Cy Young Award winner and Most Valuable Player pitched his first no hitter against the San Diego Padres.  It happened 11 days after the Giant’s were the victims of the first no-hitter of the season pitched by Homer Bailey of the Cincinnati Reds.

I tuned in late to the MLB channel when I saw a tweet that Lincecum was pitching a no-hitter through 6 innings. Watching Lincecum, his shirt drenched in sweat shut down the Padres over the next three innings was nothing short of amazing. Now shorn of the long hair that was a part of his image since his first year in the majors Lincecum showed his mettle and with each batter dominated the Padres, striking out 13 during the game.

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It was good to see. Lincecum, a pitcher who is a class act and well liked around the league had fallen on hard times since helping lead the Giants to their first World Series title in San Francisco in 2010. In 2011 he went 13 and 14 despite keeping a respectable 2.74 ERA but in 2012 he struggled, eventually being regulated to the bullpen when to the surprise of many he went about his business in a stellar fashion pitching middle relief including during the playoffs and World Series where he was a key part of the Giant’s success in winning their second World Series title in three years.

He has struggled again as a starter in 2013 but has begun to break out of his funk through dogged perseverance. Last night Lincecum, nicknamed “the Freak” no-hit the Padres on 148 pitches. It was the second highest number of pitches served up by a pitcher completing a no-hitter since Edwin Jackson did so with 149 pitches for the Diamondbacks in an inter-league game on June 25th 2010 and the second highest pitch count total in a no-hitter since 1988.

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Hunter Pence makes a Diving Catch to Save the No Hitter in the 8th Inning

I am hoping that this really marks the return of the “old” Tom Lincecum, both for his sake and that of the Giants. No matter what it was a magical night where “the Freak” made history and was backed up by the outstanding defense of his team, especially Hunter Pence who made the defensive play of the game to end the 8th inning snagging Alexi Amarista’s sinking liner with a full dive to end the inning. Lincecum said “I thought for sure it was a hit. You see Hunter flying out of nowhere making the flying grab. That was a really impressive big play for us.”

Coming off their 2012 World Series title the first half of the 2013 season has been miserable to say the least. Yet despite a being in 4th place with a 43-51 record the Giants are only 6.5 games behind the NL West leading Arizona Diamondbacks. If Lincecum and his fellow starting pitchers can get back to their old form the Giants could still take the West.

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If nothing else last night was something to celebrate, and I like many if not the vast majority of Giants fans hope that this signals the return of “The Freak” to greatness.

Peace

Padre Steve+

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30 Years of Marriage: Marriage the Definitive Icebreaker in an Ever Changing World

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A long time ago in a galaxy far, far away…

Luke Skywalker has returned to his home planet of Tatooine in an attempt to rescue his friend Han Solo from the clutches of the vile gangster Jabba the Hutt. Little does Luke know that the GALACTIC EMPIRE has begun construction on a new armored space station even more powerful than the first dreaded Death Star. When completed, this ultimate weapon will spell certain doom for the small band of rebels struggling to restore freedom to the galaxy…

Cut! Wrong galaxy…

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The year was 1983 and a newly commissioned Army Second Lieutenant was marrying the love of his life in an old Presbyterian Church in Stockton California. The wedding was done on a shoestring but was quite nice, you would never have known that on that warm but not too hot day in Stockton California, only 89 degrees at game time with almost no humidity. Since the groom’s 1975 Chevy Monza didn’t have air conditioning that was a good thing.

Other things were going on in the world that day and that year.

Yasir Arafat was expelled from Syria after his accusations that President Hafez al-Assad was behind the anti-Arafat rebellion among Palestine Liberation Organization troops in Lebanon.

Prince Charles and Princess Diana had just had their first son, William.

Evita closed on Broadway after 1568 performances.

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Flashdance…What A Feeling by Irene Cara was the Billboard top single.

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Michael Jackson’s Thriller music video became the biggest video hit of all time and he would die on our 26th wedding anniversary in 2009.

In sports an Indian team led by the legendary Kapil Dev overcame the mighty, two-time champion West Indies at Lord’s to win the Prudential World Cup.

The Orioles lost to the Tigers 9-3, the Giants lost to the Padres 3-2 and the A’s lost to the Rangers 8-3. The O’s would go on to win the World Series.

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Superman III was the top box office draw but would be de-throned by Star Wars VI, Return of the Jedi on the 26th. The top ten box office hits for 1983 were: Star Wars Episode VI: Return of the Jedi, Terms of Endearment, Flashdance, Trading Places, WarGames, Octopussy, Sudden Impact, Staying Alive, Mr. Mom and Risky Business.

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M*A*S*H had ended its epic run as one of the favorite television shows in the United States.

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The Car and Driver Magazine Top Ten Best list included the 1983 Pontiac 6000STE, 1983 Porsche 944, 1983 Toyota Celica Supra, 1983 Volkswagen Rabbit GTI, 1983 AMC/Renault Alliance, 1983 Chevrolet Caprice Classic, 1983 Ford Mustang GT 5.0, 1983 Honda Accord, 1983 Mazda RX-7 and the 1983 Mercedes-Benz 380SEL. Pontiac and AMC are no more and we now own a 2013 Mustang.

Ronald Reagan was President and Yuri Andropov the Soviet Premier as the Cold War began to reach its crescendo even as both countries were enmeshed in wars or attempts to subvert each other’s allies, the US in Nicaragua and the Soviets in Afghanistan even as Reagan proposed the Strategic Defense Initiative or Star Wars program.

The Polish Pope, John Paul II was making waves in Poland as the Solidarity movement continued to confound local Communist authorities and the Soviet Union, helping to set the stage for the eventual collapse of the Soviet Union and the Warsaw Pact.

Nelson Mandela was imprisoned in then a repressive and racist apartheid South Africa.

Iran and Iraq were locked in a bloody struggle, Israel had invaded Lebanon and become  involved in a quagmire and Saddam Hussein was considered to be our friend. Osama Bin Laden was supported by the United States in Afghanistan.

The Space Shuttle Challenger returned to earth after a historic mission with Sally Ride the first woman to go into space.

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It is hard to believe that all of that was going on. In fact since there was no internet yet and even cable news was still in its infancy most of us lived in a world that was not so complicated. In light of the current concerns regarding privacy which make Orwell’s 1984 seem all too real, that novel was merely interesting.

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Who would have thought then that the world would be where we are today. Likewise who would believe that Judy and I are still married after all these years? Sure I think that most people enter into marriage with the intent of it lasting the rest of their lives but tragically so many don’t. In light of all the failed marriages out there I almost wonder if 30 is the new 50 as far as anniversaries are concerned. I guess that we are rather fortunate. We have done the whole sickness and in health, for richer or poorer deal a number of times already, seen our shares of joys and heartaches and since I have been in some type of military service our whole marriage endured many separations.  So far we still love each other.

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One of my favorite movies about marriage is the classic Four Weddings and a Funeral. There is a great sequence in the film which sometimes I wonder might just be true:

Gareth: I’ve got a new theory about marriage. Two people are in love, they live together, and then suddenly one day, they run out of conversation.

Charles: Uh-huh.

Gareth: Totally. I mean they can’t think of a single thing to say to each other. That’s it: panic! Then suddenly it-it occurs to the chap that there is a way out of the deadlock.

Charles: Which is?

Gareth: He’ll ask her to marry him.

Charles: Brilliant! Brilliant!

Gareth: Suddenly they’ve got something to talk about for the rest of their lives.

Charles: Basically you’re saying marriage is just a way of getting out of an embarrassing pause in conversation.

Gareth: The definitive icebreaker.

Peace

Padre Steve+

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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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Thanksgiving Memories Then and Now: Padre Steve’s Humorous Look at Our National Day

 

It is better to give than to receive so it is time to give thanks for all the blessings that I have received since last Thanksgiving, but before I do I have to philosophize just a bit.

You see while I am thankful for much I generally find that Thanksgiving Day leaves much to be desired. Not that I am adverse to giving thanks or being extremely grateful but I am really more of a Christmas kind of guy. I’m also not a big fan of getting up early to watch parades on TV, or for that matter especially in person.  I’d rather watch the man made disasters of when the big balloons that got away on the news or on You Tube.

I think it would be more fun since we are becoming a police state if we mounted surveillance cameras and Hellfire missiles on the floats. Could you see the surprise in the faces of terrorists and even law abiding citizens when they realized that Snoopy, Garfield and the Cat in the Hat were targeting them. If we have to live in a police state I think it should it might as well be fun.

Enough about parades, after all who cares about parades anyway when you can watch what are historically some of the worst professional football games of the season.  Today the 4-6 Detroit Lions will find yet another way to lose on Thanksgiving as they play the 9-1 Houston Texans as they play in the Sacrificial Lamb Bowl. The 5-5 Dallas Cowboys play the revived 4-6 Washington Redskins in the Mediocrity Bowl. In a third game on prime-time the 7-3 New England Patriots will play the 4-6 New York Jets in the I Hate You and Everything that You Stand For Bowl.  I have no idea how we ended up with those teams year after year on Thanksgiving but I guess for Cowboys fans, Jets fans and all 964 Lions fans it works well, not that there is anything wrong with that.

While the professional football players ready themselves for combat the professional bargain hunters are preparing for their own form of mortal combat where no prisoners are taken and the weak to do not survive. Yes it is “Black Friday Eve” and though many will sacrifice by camping outside of stores in abominable weather, deceiving potential rivals to get a better place in line and if need be resorting to violence to make their Christmas wishes come true.  As for me I will avoid big retailers like the plague and do almost all of my shopping online where I feel safe in my virtual world.  The sad thing in this is that so many employees of the big stores are already at work preparing for the Black Friday deals and sales that they will not be with their families, friends or other loved ones today. But who cares about them? If we can get a big HDTV made by slave laborers in China at big savings  isn’t it worth it?

I like the times to get together and spent time with family and friends, though due to my military career it has been years since we have spent Thanksgiving with family.  There is something about a 3000 mile buffer zone that comes with being in the military that makes it hard to get to and from the West Coast. My brother will be hosting this at his home this year with his family, my mom and his in-laws. He’s a better man than me. Of course as many can attest even in the most loving and functional families holiday get-togethers were not always the most enjoyable occasions.  It is the stuff that movies are made of when after the mandatory grace was said and tempers flared and people stormed outside while the children found new ways to get under their parents skin. I was especially good at the latter.

Stephen Colbert says it this way: “Thanksgiving is a magical time of year when families across the country join together to raise America’s obesity statistics. Personally, I love Thanksgiving traditions: watching football, making pumpkin pie, and saying the magic phrase that sends your aunt storming out of the dining room to sit in her car.”

But food is the centerpiece of any true Thanksgiving celebration is the Thanksgiving Dinner and the source of many pleasant memories as well as those we would like to forget but due to the trauma cannot. Most of these dishes were prepared by certain elderly relatives including my Granny who could tell you the history of any dish that appeared on the table, to include who gave it to here how many weeks prior to the event.

There was the ever present green bean salad frequently bathed in something that might have been mayonnaise or possibly Cool Whip.  Now the fact that it was spruced up a bit with Chernobyl Onions, boiled potatoes, slimy mushrooms or other additives that remain a mystery to this day didn’t make it any better, just more challenging to wonder who came up with the idea.

Another positively scary dish was the puke green Jell-O salad which I think was made of Jell-O, mayonnaise and would have canned pineapple or dry cat food thrown in just to make sure that there was something real in this unearthly concoction.  Of course one cannot forget the times that the Turkey didn’t turn out quite right being underdone or charred beyond belief.  The stuffing stuck to everything like a chunky primordial slime or mashed potatoes resembled Potato soup or were so chewy and dry that you had to add more of the 40 weight Pennzoil gravy just to get them down.  My late mother in law had a delicacy that we called Brown and Burn rolls and my late paternal Grandmother “Granny” who I have previously mentioned had something white, which might have been meat in white gravy but has never been identified despite the best efforts FBI forensics investigators.

Of course in many household the children serve a purpose akin to that of a Persian Emperor’s official food taster.  I can remember as a kid being forced to eat something from almost every dish on the table just to make sure that Aunt Betty Lou Who or Grammy Sue Who (the names have been changed to protect their memories) would not be offended if no one ate what they prepared.

Now not everything was bad as most of the time no matter how badly everything else turned out the pie was good, well at least in most cases.  My favorite pie at Thanksgiving was one that a trio of my Great Aunts made. Now these aunts were really great, when we went to their house on 18th Street in Huntington West Virginia for Thanksgiving or any other occasion they laid out a wonderful spread, but the most delightful dish was their Graham Cracker Pie. This is a pie, well that was a dumb statement, of course it was pie, but this pie had a home-made graham cracker and cinnamon crust, was filled with vanilla pudding, the good stuff, not instant and a meringue top which was encrusted with the graham cracker cinnamon mix.  Thankfully Judy had Aunt Viva, the last of the trio write down the recipe before she passed away and she has made it on occasion keeping this one family delicacy alive.  In addition to the Graham Cracker Pie there was Banana Crème and Chocolate Crème, Pumpkin and Sweet Potato, Apple, Cherry as well as other pies that would make an occasional appearance.

Not Thanksgiving Day but close enough: Dinner with General Sabah in Ramadi

As I noted we have been away from family most of our married life and we have frequently spent Thanksgiving with friends, many times single people that we hosted other times people that would host us and those were always enjoyable. I have also spent a good number of Thanksgivings deployed and those have been special, especially 2007 when I was in Iraq and after a mission to the Syrian border when I helped to serve the troops at the dining facility.  Those times make you very thankful and not in a joking sense about all the blessings that we have in the United States.

As most readers know I am just a tad irreverent at times and nowhere was this more in evidence than Thanksgiving 1991 when we hosted a number of our single friends from work or church since none of us were very well off, I was still in seminary and money was not a great commodity. Judy asked me since I was going into ministry if I would pray for the food. That was not a good way to phrase the question because at times, well most of the time tend to find the dark humor in anything and this time was no exception. I think the prayer went something like this. I’m sure that it was longer than this because there are times when I get on a roll and can’t shut up, but this captures the spirit of that “prayer for the food.”

Dear Lord we ask you to be with the soul of this turkey and all of his or her relatives this Thanksgiving. Relieve them of their pain and comfort the survivors in Jesus name. Amen.

As I prayed I noticed Judy glaring daggers at me as our guests looked on in dismay.  To this day she always keeps a foot ready to kick me just in case I try something like this again. Likewise she is always careful in how she phrases what she wants me to pray for lest I become too literal in my prayer.

This year I have much to be thankful for, my wonderful wife Judy, friends, family and my little dog Molly who over the course of the past year has helped me become a functional part of human society again. Then there is Minnie, our new addition, a 10 month old Papillon puppy who is always happy to drink my beer or coffee should I leave it in her range.

The Giants won the World Series, the Orioles and A’s surprised everyone by rocking the playoffs the 49ers are doing well and UCLA defeated USC.

As  sit here with Molly at my feet and Minnie on Judy’s lap on this quiet and peaceful Thanksgiving.

Have a blessed day! Happy Thanksgiving friends.

Peace

Padre Steve+

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Baseball Season is Over and Only 5 days until the 2016 Presidential Campaign Begins

It breaks your heart.  It is designed to break your heart.  The game begins in spring, when everything else begins again, and it blossoms in the summer, filling the afternoons and evenings, and then as soon as the chill rains come, it stops and leaves you to face the fall alone.”  A. Bartlett Giamatti, “The Green Fields of the Mind,” Yale Alumni Magazine, November 1977

“This country has gotten where it is in spite of politics, not by the aid of it. That we have carried as much political bunk as we have and still survived shows we are a super nation.” Will Rogers

Well my friends it is with heavy heart that I have to admit that the 2012 baseball season is over. Not that I was disappointed at all with the results. My three favorite teams all made the playoffs, the San Francisco Giants, the Baltimore Orioles and the Oakland Athletics. Likewise the fact that the Giants won the World Series added a special touch to the season. However, the 2012 baseball season as it must passed into history and the off season began with player awards as well as trades and other transactions as is the custom.

Back in the spring I shared that baseball would help get me through the 2012 elections and it has. Though the season ended last Sunday night which left nine days before the 2012 Presidential and Congressional General elections I have so far survived. I am not as sure about the country but I have survived and no matter who wins the coming election I know two things that are a certainty:

That the 2013 Baseball season will begin on March 31st with a Sunday Night game and that “Opening Day” will take place on April 1st, with a very non-traditional twist as the Cincinnati Reds play an inter-league game against the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim California or whatever they call themselves this year. Likewise the 2016 Presidential Campaign will begin 0n November 7th regardless of which candidate wins the 2012 election when Newt Gingrich declares himself as a candidate against a to be announced Democrat or primary opponent to Mitt Romney who if he wins the Presidency, Gingrich will abandon for not fulfilling his campaign promises before the last vote is counted.  That won’t be hard because Romney has campaigned on all sides of every issue at one time or another and to say that he has failed to live up to any particular promise will not be hard for Gingrich, Rick Santorum or any other Presidential wannabe to do.

So rest assured my friends be you fans of the American League or National League, Republicans, Democrats, Libertarians or Independents that on November 7th life will go on. Even for Cubs fans. Of course the one election not being talked about is the Baseball Hall of Fame election scheduled for December with the results to be announced in January 2013. That is an election  that I am waiting to hear the results.

Peace

Padre Steve+

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