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Showing posts from April, 2012

Batting averages, part 4

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(Part 4 of this series got away from me a little bit -- my last post was almost two weeks ago. Click for Part 1, Part 2, Part 3 and an old post detailing my baseball season of 1980.)

I started collecting baseball cards when I was 6. We had just moved into a new neighborhood, and my new friends collected them, so I naturally followed along. I pored over each card, reading the players' stats and the fun facts on the back of each one. In 1980, I probably came closest to a complete collection than I ever did in my youth.

The 1980 Topps cards looked good. Though some debate exists whether action shots make the best baseball cards, this set might have had the best photos -- very few of them posed -- in the four years I had been collecting. The back of the cards included a cartoonish fun fact for every player. With it being 1980, it was simple to deduce the age of the player from his date of birth.

This summer, I really started liking the Brewers. The Cubs were still my favorite team (es…

A chill is in the air

The warm weather of the past several days in Utah was too good to last.

April is an unpredictable month in Salt Lake City as far as weather is concerned.It can be warm one day, cold the next. But this April, it's been mostly warm. Warm enough to put leaves on all the trees a couple weeks early. Warm enough to confuse our spring perennials. Warm enough to feel like summer had arrived.

Alas, it was too good to last. When a front moves through in April, the temperature just doesn't drop a little, it plummets with the accompanying rain. That's what happened over the last 30 hours -- the wind picked up, the rain poured for hours, the temperature dropped. Though the rain stopped, I felt underdressed outside all day, even with a sweatshirt. I was watching Michael's soccer practice, decided I had enough with the breezy chill, and retreated to the car for a half hour.

Temperatures are supposed to climb slowly over the next few days to at least be seasonal. Taking the good with …

Party pavilion

Lori chairs a committee at the boys' school, and tonight she hosted her committee at our house. I'm glad she volunteered for them to meet here, because it drove me to get our patio in order for the coming spring and summer months.

Our patio, which I affectionately refer to as our "party pavilion," took a little bit of a beating over the winter, starting with the crazy windstorm that blew threw last December. I moved everything out of the patio, hosed the furniture down, swept out all the dirt, straightened out all the toys and returned everything to their rightful places. And it was worth it. Lori's meeting was a success, and though we need to find a solution to the bright sunset coming through from the west (the windstorm all but destroyed the long shade that shielded the sun), we are looking forward to entertaining out here all summer. We say we are going to do this every year, and we do manage one or two gatherings. This year, we want to utilize our party pavi…

Slumber party

Michael is having his first sleepover at our house tonight. As I type, he and his friend are trying to stay awake by watching "Phineas and Ferb" on Netflix.

As I type, Ben is at a friend's house for his first sleepover. The two friends are brothers, so we did a prisoner exchange with Ben at their house and Michael's friend here. I'm hoping that as I type, Ben is at least asleep.

I remember my first sleepover, which never made it past 10:30. It was at my neighbor George's house when I was maybe 7, and I got freaked out and went home. Days before I turned 9, I enjoyed my first successful sleepover at my friend Chris' house for his birthday. It was a Friday night, and we ate pizza and watched TV ("The Lords of Flatbush" on Ch. 2 was the late show). The deal was when one person wanted to go to bed, the rest of us had to, and my friends lobbied hard for me to stay awake. In 1979, before Chicagoans had cable, there wasn't much on after midnight, but…

First inning

The boys' baseball season has begun, and so far, not so bad. They are on the Twins, a machine-pitch team for first- and second-graders. I'm helping coach the team again.

We moved Ben, kindergartner, into machine pitch with the thinking that he could handle it after hitting the ball well in t-ball and coach pitch last summer, as well as to make our Saturdays a little easier (just one baseball game instead of two). Since last summer, Ben has forgotten how good his swing was. So, we are working to get that back in order. He doesn't have to hit it far -- just into fair territory and run to first. Though I'm worried that maybe we're overwhelming him (though he's taller than maybe half the team), Ben always picks things up quickly, even if he gets frustrated along the way. Today during practice, he was playing second, and after telling him to cover the base when the ball goes into left field, he was doing it without us reminding him. He sometimes throws the ball reall…

Batting averages, part 3

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Thirty-two years ago, I was playing my first season of non-T-ball. I was reading about baseball. And I wanted to buy a table-top board game that replicated the baseball experience. I almost tried APBA, but my father said I should try Strat-o-Matic.

I had seen ads for Strat-o-Matic in baseball magazines (including the one I was engrossed in that spring), but it never struck me as something that absolutely looked cool. My father's suggestion came from a personal place: He played Strat-o-Matic in his youth. Dad had access to the then current game through some of his friends, and one night, he brought it home. It wasn't the whole set -- just a few times, a red binder that scoresheets, and two charts the game uses. Three dice were easy to find, and for split cards (Strat sometimes needs to generate a random number between 1 and 20; back then, the game used little pink cards with the numbers on them, but today, it uses a 20-sided die), he used a deck of cards, taking out the face car…

Batting averages, part 2

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In the spring of 1980, my mom bought me a baseball magazine that I thoroughly absorbed. The words and the stats weren't the only things in the magazine that captivated me. The advertisements did as well.

Some of the ads I ignored, like the Vitalis ad on the inside cover and the KOOL ad on the back cover (seriously, did every sports magazine once advertise cigarettes on the back?) But others were too good to ignore. The Renata Galasso Inc. ad for 1,000 mint baseball cards for $11.99. An ad for Sportcaster Sports Cards (I swear, we had some of these 30 years back in the day -- oh, no, guess what I'm going to look for on eBay tonight?). The Major League standings board with magnetic team logos. Giant baseball posters for $3 (plus $0.50 shipping) -- alas, Paul Molitor wasn't available in 1980. But what caught my eye the most were the ads for table-top baseball board games.

I already owned All-Star Baseball, which translated stats for real baseball players into a game that would …

Batting averages, part 1

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I blogged about my baseball-crazy 1980 last year, and I'm revisiting that spring and summer in what I'm thinking is going to be three posts. None of these posts will deal with me playing baseball, but the other things that launched me into baseball fever. With the MLB and boys' machine-pitch seasons beginning, the fever is catching me again.

Being a baseball fan today is being able to read, watch and listen to the game almost at will. Websites, blogs, podcasts, MLB Network and more broadcast games than ever today supplement the primary sources of keeping up with baseball in 1980. Those sources for me were watching Cubs and White Sox games (and the occasional national game on ABC or NBC), reading about baseball in the newspaper and magazines, and baseball cards. Baseball Digest was an incredible source of baseball knowledge to the 20th century 9-year-old (and I love looking at old copies of the magazine -- I was never a subscriber then, but I do have a few years' worth I…

Simply a good day

Spring break last week was more tiring than I thought it would be. On Saturday, after going for a run with Popcorn at Liberty Park, I felt like hell -- the little coughy thing the boys had been battling settled into my throat and lungs, and I was stuffier than I realized. Combined with my asthma and a run through a blooming park, and I wasn't breathing well. I went to bed that night at 9 p.m. Yesterday, we didn't do much on Easter before I went to work.

Today, however, was simply a good day.

I got a much-needed haircut. I ate healthier than I usually do. I got a lot of yardwork done, preparing the front lawn for another reseeding that every spring I'm optimistic about (and every July I'm resigned that it didn't work). The boys helped me get some stuff for the lawn at Home Depot. Made some good mac and cheese (using some extra whole milk we had in our fridge and real butter) to go along with leftover ham for dinner. Sat outside in the gorgeous evening as the boys got …

Everybody in the pool

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Today, we returned from our St. George mini-vacation. We enjoyed three whole days away from Salt Lake City, with some decent temperatures and sunny days (though yesterday was windy). And aside from food and lodging, we didn't spend much money on attractions -- I took the boys bowling Tuesday, but there were no movies, no go-karts, no museums and no state parks on this trip. That wasn't so much by design, either, but just how our vacation shook out. Instead, we hiked a lot and swam a lot.

The hikes we traversed were great -- two trails we had never ventured upon. The first we hiked, on Wednesday, was about 1.5 miles and took us to petroglyphs we didn't know existed (and Lori and I are big petroglyph fans). The second hike started out small but got more ambitious -- we walked about four miles after thinking we'd go no farther than two. Thursday's trail gave provided some great views of the lava fields west of St. George, as well as plenty of rocks for the boys to clim…

The amazing Spider-Man

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In 2002, soon after Lori and I bought our first DVD player, we bought the movie "Spider-Man" at Blockbuster. The store was having a deal in which you bought the movie on DVD and got 10 free movie rentals. With us being brand new DVD owners, we were going to rent movies anyway, so this was essentially getting "Spider-Man" for free. We didn't realize that we were getting more than one free Spider-Man.

Unbeknownst to us, by purchasing the "Spider-Man" punch card, we were entered to win a life-size Spider-Man sculpture that each Blockbuster had been sent to promote the movie. One day, I got a call from the store saying I had won a "Spider-Man" prize. I wasn't sure what to think of it, but went to the Blockbuster to claim whatever prize I had coming to me. I got there and was asked by an employee how I was going to get it home. "It" was the 6-foot Spider-Man sculpture. I was stunned when I fully realized what we had just won. Spidey …

Bowled over

The boys are on spring break this week, and we're in St. George for a few days for a much-needed mini-vacation. Today was our first full day here, and though Lori had to work (her mini-vacation starts Wednesday), the boys and I enjoyed took advantage of our leisure time. We went swimming for a couple hours around lunch time -- the boys had a blast after meeting some other boys their age. Next was lunch at In 'n' Out Burger, which is kind of becoming a St. George tradition for us. After lunch, we went bowling.

It's been awhile since we've hit the lanes, but Michael, with a heavy ball (we couldn't find any junior balls and I didn't think to ask the front desk right away), rolled a strike with his first throw. It was downhill from there for him. He didn't want to play with the bumpers, and he was turning his wrist as he threw, resulting in a lot of gutters. I eventually got a light ball for the boys, but I think it was a little too beat up, because Michael …