Baseball

A Cold Day for Clemson Baseball in Rhode Island

A Cold Day for Clemson Baseball in Rhode Island (and an Excellent Day for Gamecock Basketball in New York City)

Yesterday, March 24, the fourth day of Spring, I drove to Kingston, Rhode Island, from New Canaan, Connecticut, to watch Clemson University play Boston College in baseball. Boston College’s home field was a mess, we were told, so the game was moved to the University of Rhode Island.

As a Clemson fan and a baseball fan, this was close enough for me, a two-hour drive, each direction. I took the day off and headed up I-95 to watch a 1 p.m. game. We were having a warm spell, about 39 degrees with a wind chill making it 30ish. I wore long underwear, a beautiful orange and white checked Clemson Tiger Paw shirt nobody ever saw, a pullover Clemson jacket, an L. L. Bean outer coat, a Scottish wool scarf with some orange in it, a Clemson baseball hat, a Clemson stocking cap, and some New England rated winter gloves. It was not enough.

The University of Rhode Island has 16,000 students compared to Clemson’s 21,000. The town of Kingston is much smaller than Clemson, however. You must drive on a sorry two-lane road to get there. Intended ironically, considering the size of the state, the campus theme was BIG, as in “Think Big.”

My buddy Larry Abernathy, who was Mayor of Clemson for 28 years, went with Clemson City Council members to other small towns (with major Universities) around the US to compare town and gown experiences. I’m glad he never wasted time in Kingston. Clemson does town-and-gown about as well possible, thanks to a good mayor and fine Clemson Presidents, especially R. C. Edwards, Jim Barker and Jim Clements.

The baseball game was scheduled for one p.m. but was mysteriously postponed for an hour because of weather. So I walked around the hilly Rhode Island campus to get in a three-mile walk. Much smaller campus than Clemson, but with a very traditional quadrangle and granite buildings. A few modern buildings. Nothing very exciting. Not very Big.

The baseball “stadium” was a joke, not Big, so I can’t imagine how bad the Boston College field must be to have the game transferred to Kingston. The smallest high schools in South Carolina have more seating. The field was green and nice enough, but one small set of movable aluminum stands was all that existed for the fans. A few brought their own folding chairs and the rest of us stood and walked around to stay warm.

When the sleet finally started (yes, you read that correctly) at 2 p.m., the umpires said, “Play ball,” and the game was on. Clemson is the better team, ranked number six in the nation right now. The collegiate national player of the year, Seth Beer, is an outfielder for Clemson. I met his parents who were there in the cold to cheer their son and Clemson. We had two runs after four batters. After two innings we had five runs. Final score was 8-2. Attendance was announced as 107 but that may have included both teams.

After the game, I found a beautiful, old, local bookstore and bought a couple of John D. MacDonald novels, then drove to the coast, just a few miles away, for some seafood. The bookstore owner had called ahead for me to make sure her favorite restaurant was open: Champlin’s. It was. This is a fish-camp, picnic-table type establishment, and, since March is off-season, I had the entire place to myself. I watched the fish and lobster boats return to the Galilee Port in Narragansett. I ordered fried oysters and fried scallops, more grease than I’ve had in six months. I paid for it on the two-hour drive home with a tummy that was desperately unhappy.

When I retuned to my apartment, my day ended with watching the University of South Carolina Gamecocks obliterate the Baylor Bears. It was a nice ending to a cold winter New England day.

Categories: Baseball, Holiday, Humor, South Carolina, Travel | Tags: , , , , , , , , | 5 Comments

Take My Breath Away

“The most completely lost of all days is that in which one has not laughed.” Nicolas Chamfort

Birthdays with a Zero in them are fine times for reflection. February 11, 2017, I turned 70.

I’ve enjoyed hundreds, thousands of moments that have taken my breath away. I’ve fallen in love and married. We’ve celebrated 44 anniversaries. I’ve watched the birth of two daughters. I baptized both of them.

I’ve been blessed to participate in the spiritual growth of many folks. I’ve helped alcoholics get sober. I’ve seen people whose lives were pure chaos find order, salvation and peace. I’ve watched rigid, self-righteous people discover grace. More importantly, I discovered grace for myself and for others.

In Mauritania, I got stuck in the Sahara Desert in a four-wheel drive vehicle. That might have taken my breath away but I found a small tent village and took a nap. You must have priorities!

I’ve watched Clemson win two National Championships in football. Exhilarating!

It’s a rush to hold a book you wrote that’s been published. I’ve had that privilege four times.

I survived two serious car wrecks, one with a fully loaded logging truck.

Sally and I were on a transatlantic flight when one of the plane’s engines blew. We heard it. No doubt about what had happened. Potentially breathtaking experience. Literally. When we landed, two dozen emergency vehicles followed our plane down the runway.

My two best friends died. Soul-crushing experiences. Even at their memorial services, we found ways to laugh.

I’ve listened to Ella Fitzgerald in concert. Magnificent.

I’ve seen Greg Maddux pitch. Incredible.

In Kenya, I’ve seen elephants, lions, giraffes, zebras, and ostriches in their natural habitat. Wow!

On Folly Beach, South Carolina, I watched loggerhead turtles bursting from their brittle eggshells and clawing their way across the sandy beach into the Atlantic Ocean. Awe-inspiring.

With my grandson, Lake, we peered over the edge of the Grand Canyon, then rafted on the Colorado River.

With my daughter, Julie, we watched whales and caught lobsters off the coast of Massachusetts. Incredible.

With my daughter, Jenna, my grandson Lake, and my wife Sally, we climbed to the top of Machu Picchu. Then, we hiked in the Amazon Rain Forest. Mindboggling experiences.

Two pieces of advice I got from Jerry and Jane Howington when I was a teenager: “Keep on keeping on” and “Hang in there.”

“I’m so excited. I’m about to lose control and I think I like it.” The Pointer Sisters

Categories: Baseball, Faith/Spirituality, Family, Football, Humor, South Carolina, Travel, Writing | Tags: , , , , , , , | 15 Comments

Reading in New Hampshire

With cold weather and free time, I may have been reading even more than usual. Of course, I have recommendations.

Fiction I’ve enjoyed:

All the Light We Cannot See, by Anthony Doerr, a World War II story about a blind girl as she experiences the war. Very fine New York Times bestseller and deserving winner of the Pulitzer Prize.

Slaughterhouse Five, by Kurt Vonnegut, another World War II story, usually ranked in the top 100 novels of all time. I’d never read it. I try to catch up every year by reading some of the classics I’ve missed.

Three Spenser novels, all of which take place in the Boston area and all of which I’m re-reading for the second time. Since I’m visiting my daughter Julie and her husband Tom in the Boston area nearly every other week, more or less, it’s fun to read these for local color. Robert Parker does not write Great Literature but he is fun and easy to read. Spenser’s sidekick Hawk is one of the three best in all of literature, along with Sherlock Holmes’ Dr. Watson and Travis McGee’s Meyer.

Non-Fiction I’ve enjoyed:

When Breath Becomes Air, by Paul Kalanithi, is the autobiography of a neurosurgeon who dies from cancer as he is writing his story. A Number 1 New York Times bestseller.

The Class of ’65, by Jim Aychmutey, is the story of a boy my age who grew up at Koinonia Farms in Americus, Georgia (where Habitat for Humanity was founded), in a radical, pacifist, integrated commune founded by Clarence Jordan. For anyone raised in the segregated schools of the Deep South, this is a fascinating and painful read. Stories of apologies that came to the author before his fiftieth class reunion are particularly poignant.

The Pine Barrens, by John McPhee. I’m taking a course on nature writing here at Dartmouth and have been introduced to the clear prose of McPhee. I’ve also read Encounters with the Archdruid by McPhee. I like his writing. I also enjoyed Henry Beston writing about Cape Cod in The Outermost House. I’m less impressed with E. O. Wilson, In Search of Nature.

Bill Bryson has written books I didn’t enjoy, but I liked most, including his latest, The Road to Little Dribbling, his latest walk across England, Scotland, and Wales, with amusing anecdotes of his travels.

Bob Gibson’s Pitch by Pitch gave me a baseball fix in the dead of a New Hampshire winter. This is his account of the first game of the 1968 World Series.

I was already reading The Heart of Buddha’s Teaching by Thich Nhat Hanh when I arrived in New Hampshire, but I finished it and I’m glad I did. It’s a religious classic that can help a Baptist from the South understand a faith system practiced by millions.

A Sense of Style by Steven Pinker was recommended as a good book about writing. It’s not as good as I thought it might be. It goes back on the shelf.

That’s some of what I’ve read. I’ve just purchased Kill ‘em and Leave ‘em, a biography of James Brown by James McBride. Since Brown and I grew up near each other, I’m anxious to read that. And I’ve purchased The Legends Club by John Feinstein, about the Dean Smith, Mike Krzyzewski, Jim Valvano world of college basketball in North Carolina. Looking forward to that.

And I’m always open to good suggestions.

Categories: Baseball, Book Review, Faith/Spirituality, Humor, Race, South Carolina, Travel, Writing | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

The Lifeyness of Life—Holy Week Reflections

If I had my druthers, I suppose I would spend most hours of most days doing what I love—quality time with family, reading, eating fine food, enjoying scintillating conversation with friends, walking in the woods, traveling to exotic places, napping in the afternoon, going to baseball games, writing.

But life intervenes, and I must do a bit of or a lot of what I don’t exactly enjoy—getting an oil change, buying underwear, vacuuming, filing income taxes, installing software, putting gas in the car, getting a haircut, enduring political shenanigans, driving from one place to the next. But those ordinary everyday activities are also what make life. I was still a teenager when someone told me you don’t have to take out the garbage. You get to take out the garbage.

These days leading up to Easter are called Holy Week on Christian calendars. I’m glad we set aside time to pay attention to matters of ultimate value—love, grace, sacrifice, humility, transformation, resurrection, celebration. But those can happen on a Tuesday in February or a Monday in October. I have a minimalist theology of sacred days and sacred space, because I also believe God can speak out of a burning bush when we’re taking a walk, or through an animal that is aggravating us, or through a misadventure on a journey. The Bible is full of such stories.

This nitty-gritty stuff is the texture of human existence—ordinary life made holy.

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I believe…

I believe…

…America will still be here when I die.

…Baseball is a great game.

…Books are important.

…Deserts and wildernesses exist.

…Easter will arrive this spring as usual.

…Education is better than ignorance.

…Friends are worth the effort.

…God is good. The Universe is good. Life is good.

…Humor is a gift.

…I will love my family and they will love me—forever.

…Life is a pilgrimage.

…Listening is almost always better than talking.

…Love and Justice are bottom line values.

…My cat is a bundle of fun.

…Progress is more realistic than perfection.

…Religious Doctrine is overrated.

…There is a time and season for all things.

…Waterfalls are beautiful.

Marion D. Aldridge

mariondaldridge@gmail.com

 

Categories: Baseball, Book Review, Faith/Spirituality, Family, Humor, Lists/Top Ten | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 9 Comments

I Loved High School

These days, it’s cool for people to say they hated their high school years. They will often add that the other students didn’t like them and they didn’t like the other students. Nothing could be further from my experience.

High school was a feast of football and basketball games, sock hops, field trips, proms, cheerleaders and summer camps.

At North Augusta High School, graduating in 1965, we told bad jokes when we were dissecting frogs, and made bad rhymes when we discovered limericks. We enjoyed some quality educators who made learning fun.

I also remember the day we all hid in a closet to confuse our physics professor who was late to class. When we weren’t there, he turned around and left. Of course, even when he wasn’t late, he was confused. Terry Bodiford and I played spitball basketball during his class. That could explain my grades in that class.

I remember the coach whose most memorable counsel was, “Do something, even if it’s wrong.” During the Cuban Missile Crisis, those of us at baseball practice started drilling with our bats. Not long after, each of us has an exact memory of where we were when we heard President Kennedy had been shot.

High school was a time of discovery, some of which happened in the classrooms, but more took place in the hallways, on ball fields, in locker rooms, and on afternoons and weekends.

Happy Days!

Categories: Baseball, Family, Football, South Carolina | Tags: , , , , , , , , | 17 Comments

Take Me Out to the Ball Game

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During my childhood, the three great influences of my world were family, church and sports, in varying order, depending on the season and the day of the week. The first open rebellion of a lot of seventh-graders was sneaking portable radios into school so we could listen to the 1960 World Series between the Yankees and the Pirates.

Not having money for new bats and balls, we fixed what we had with electrical tape until the abused equipment could be repaired no longer. If we were alone, we hit rocks with a stick.

The boys in our community played pick-up games. We created a baseball diamond in the woods behind our house. We also played in organized leagues from about the sixth grade until high school graduation. I was a catcher.

We loved baseball cards. We played indoor games with them, hitting what amounted to a spitball with our favorite player’s card. We bent a lot of cardboard that way. We put the cards in the spokes of our bicycles to hear the noise the made. We destroyed a lot of future income that way.

No Major League team had made its way South yet, so everybody picked a random team and said they were his favorites. Always for the underdog, I pulled for the Washington Senators. I read the box scores every morning. Harmon Killebrew was my hero. Augusta had a minor league team, a Detroit Tigers affiliate, and I remember going to their games a few times.

My favorite baseball these days is the college variety. Watching the Clemson Tigers on a spring afternoon feels pretty close to heaven. I get over to a few Atlanta Braves games most years, and when I travel to a Major League city, I try to see a game, thirteen cities so far. I spent a week at Spring Training one year. I’ve been to Cooperstown twice. I’ve been to one All-Star game and to zero World Series games. That could be on my bucket list. But it’s October and I expect to be in front of the television set every night for the next few days watching San Francisco battle Kansas City.

Batter up!

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Fatherhood

 

This thing about a Father “giving the daughter away” at a wedding is a lie. They were never ours to give.  Daughters are not the property of their Dads or Moms any more than a male child is the property of his parents.  My daughters, Jenna and Julie, independent from the beginning, were on loan to us temporarily for nurture and safekeeping.

 Sally and I both changed their diapers and gave them baths, but that was our duty.  They don’t owe their mother or me lifelong allegiance for taking care of them. I stood in an impossibly long line so Jenna could have a Cabbage Patch dolI one Christmas.  Julie’s Big Wish was a bit more complicated, but, when Christmas morning arrived, she had Rainbow Brite sheets.  Those were acts of love, not a deal I made to be paid back later. 

Dance recitals:  I never missed one.  They (and their costumes) were cute and I was proud.

 When one of my daughters was quiet too long, we would discover she had been unrolling the toilet paper or giving her dolls a bath in the toilet.  Sally and I laughed.  We didn’t think or say, “You owe us.”

 Over years, they dealt with bullies, as every kid does. I could not always protect them.  They had to figure some things out on their own.

 When they were teenagers, each asserted her independence and I hated it.  Let them go?  Willingly? Not while I was still breathing.  They were independent nonetheless. 

I took them on trips rather than always sending them off with someone else.  With Jenna, I’ve been to New York City at Christmas, and climbed the Mayan Pyramids in the Yucatan Peninsula.  With Julie, I’ve seen the monkeys on Gibraltar, and roamed the streets of Amsterdam. We toured England and Scotland as a family, Jenna a teenager and Julie a preteen.  They have memories of our time together that will outlast me.

At some point, B. O. Y. S. entered the picture, and that was a challenge.  But, all’s well that ends well.  I approve of Thorne and Tom and I thank God every day for my sons-in-law.

Fatherhood and parenting did not end when they got married.  Conversations about grace, fairness, patience, right and wrong never end.  At least, not yet.  They will always be my daughters and I will always be their daddy.  But make no mistake:  they were and are independent women.  I am proud of them.

 

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A Personal Note: Retirement

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Only five months into retirement, I am no expert on the subject.  In fact, when you only do something once, you are bound to make mistakes.  Metaphorically, the pavement ended.  I was moving into very unfamiliar territory.  Other people have traveled there, but it was all strange to me.

 

When Sally, Julie and I moved into our new home about ten years ago, we bought four Rubber Maid storage units, tall cabinets where you keep fertilizer, tools, Christmas ornaments, etc.  It took me three hours to assemble the first one, two and a half hours to assemble the second one, only 20 minutes to assemble the third, and 15 minutes to assemble the fourth.  That’s a steep learning curve!

 

Nobody in my organization called me in five years or two years before retirement and said, “Here is what you can expect.  Start planning now.”  I was the boss.  I was on my own.  I asked lots of people lots of questions, and received very few answers.

 

Chipper Jones, the great Atlanta Braves third baseman, retired about the same time I did.  He will go into the baseball Hall of Fame.  He played Major League Baseball for 19 years.  Of course, he had been playing ball for ten or twelve years before that as a child and then as a teenager. 

 

The Braves retired his number.  Chipper was quoted as saying, “I was done.” 

 

I understand that.  By the time I reached my 66th birthday, I was done.  I had been earning an income for over 50 years.  I want to continue to contribute to the world we live in, but I was ready for a transition.  Chipper feels that a year away from baseball will help him “rekindle the flame.”  I understand.  Flames die down, naturally.  After some nostalgia on Opening Day, he said, “I woke up the next morning and was thrilled that I didn’t have to go to the ballpark.”

 

I have just written the sum total of all Chipper Jones and I probably have in common.  But he nailed it for me when he described his retirement.

 

Like Chipper, I had one of the best jobs in the world these past 15 years.  Chipper was paid to play baseball.  I was paid to initiate worthwhile projects with people who valued ideals such as freedom, integrity, grace, faith, courage, compassion, hope.  It was, you could say, a heavenly job.  I loved what I did.

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Now, however, I am glad to be retired.  The pavement ended.  That’s okay with me.  I like narrow paths in the woods.

 

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Baseball Hall of Fame: Cooperstown, NY (Part 2)

            I arrived in Cooperstown about 4 p.m., understanding from all their publicity that the Hall of Fame closed at 5 p.m.  I anticipated a quick hour-long tour on my first afternoon, then Imagegoing back the next day for as long as I desired.  But it was early June, and the Hall of Fame had just begun their summer hours and were open until 9 p.m.  Since I am a dues-paying member of Baseball’s Hall of Fame, I got in free, and began my visit.

 

            First stop was the Hall of Fame itself, the sanctuary where the plaques honoring those who are elected are displayed. One misunderstanding that was settled for me on my first trip to Cooperstown revolved around this question:  “How do they keep from mentioning noteworthy players who have not been enshrined in the Hall?”  Pete Rose, for example, has more hits than anyone else in the history of baseball.  How do they ignore someone like that?  The answer is that Pete Rose’s name and achievements are throughout the museum section of the Hall of Fame building.  He simply does not have a plaque or a place of honor in the primary Gallery or Shrine.  Same with South Carolina’s Shoeless Joe Jackson:  No plaque on the wall.

 

            On my two trips to Cooperstown, I enjoyed looking for the plaques of my favorite players when I was a kid:  Harmon Killebrew, Pee Wee Reese, Roy Campanella, Jackie Robinson, and others from that era.  I collected their baseball cards in the late 1950’s and early 1960’s, great days in America’s national pastime, and in my young innocent life.

 

            The museum’s displays change with some frequency, so there is always something new to see, including, this year, exhibitions about Hank Aaron, Jackie Robinson and even Shoeless Joe Jackson. 

 

            Being a serious fan of Greg Maddux, I was happy to see how often his name and his artifacts had already found their way into the museum’s displays.  I expect him to be elected and enshrined into the Hall of Fame this year, but he is already in the museum in a variety of places.

 

            You can spend a lot of money in the Hall of Fame’s store, and even more money up and down the streets of Cooperstown where purveyors of baseball memorabilia are glad to sell you mint condition baseball cards of Mickey Mantle or real bats used in real Major League games by real Major League players. 

 

            Spending lots of money on memorabilia is not my thing, but memorable experiences are, and I had an idea.        Having decided not to stay at the Otesaga Resort did not prevent me from enjoying their amenities.  Years ago, I learned that you can eat a meal at a World Class Hotel for a fraction of the cost of a room, so I pulled into the parking lot of the Otesaga as if I were Yogi Berra or Greg Maddux and found my way to the Hawkeye Bar and Grill.  Hawkeye is the main character in The Deerslayer and The Last of the Mohicans.   Reservations were required but I was early enough to be seated on the terrace overlooking The Glimmerglass.  I asked the waitress what looked good in the kitchen.  As a result, I ordered French Onion Soup and fried Calamari, two appetizers.  Enjoyed the ambiance for an hour for about $20 plus tip.

 

I loved my time in Cooperstown, but I missed my wife, and I had been gone for two weeks, and I was still 14-15 hours from home.  So, I hit the road.  Stayed at a random motel somewhere in Pennsylvania and drove down the Shenandoah Valley to arrive home the next evening.

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