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Baseball, Blog

A Shot I Still Hear

My dad was barely eight years old when the ball cleared the fence, but Bobby Thomson’s ‘Shot Heard ‘Round The World’ in 1951 was a moment that stayed with him his entire life, one that ended earlier this year.

For Thomson, he too died this past Monday, ironically in Savannah, Georgia where HE lived and I was married.

That fact really has no relevance other than, growing up and hearing about this home run over and over, I felt a connection to Thomson and his home run even though it predated my existence by ten years.

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Normal Baseball: A New Frontier

I was in row two for the opening game of the team’s existence, a 7-0 shellacking of the Evansville Otters in their historic Bosse Field.  For the five of us that made the trip, it was an optimistic start to the return of professional baseball to Bloomington/Normal.  With two additional wins to complete the weekend sweep, the Normal CornBelters’ first season in the independent Frontier League would start with significant momentum.

As of this writing, they now sit in fourth place in the Western Division (26-33), 18 games out of first and ten games out of playoff contention.

But wins and losses aren’t the topic here.  I’m sure there must be growing pains for every franchise, and I would expect nothing different for the ‘Belters.  As an occasional patron, I hope to see the franchise succeed, as it’s nice to have a summer entertainment alternative on those nights the CornBelters are at home.

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Baseball, Travel

Two Trips and Three Fingers

(Nyesville, Indiana) – Nyesville, Indiana was once an active coal mining area.  Located in west-central Indiana not far from the Illinois border, the area today is more noted for the annual Covered Bridge Festival that includes stops in nearby Rockville.

I wouldn’t call it a tourist destination.  I made trips on consecutive weekends to a town that no longer exists, but although there is no real town of Nyesville anymore, it maintains one clear claim to fame – the childhood home of Chicago Cubs Hall of Fame pitcher Mordecai Peter Centennial “Three Finger” Brown.

If you are not familiar with Mordecai Brown, he pitched in the Major Leagues from 1903 to 1916.  He was noted for having an exceptional curve ball, deceptive fastball and a change up that benefitted from the unusual spin he was able to put on the ball as a result of a childhood farm accident that left him without portions of two of his fingers.  This accident also occurred in Nyesville.  The odd spin made the curve so effective that Ty Cobb reportedly said it was “the most devasting pitch I ever faced.”   Brown was ultimately elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1949, despite his less than auspicious beginning.

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Baseball, Blog, Softball

Always a Champion

Looking at the photo, I wonder if it was the highlight moment of his challenging life, a moment filled with elation, devoid of worry.

Barely 18 years old, he and his teammates are celebrating an undefeated Iowa state baseball championship, a 1-0 victory over West Waterloo on June 8, 1961.

Sporting his #7 uniform number, he batted third and played centerfield, both characteristics that emulated Mickey Mantle, his childhood idol.

In the photo, he’s kneeling in the front row, far right, his arm draped around his teammate and best friend.  That same friend would serve as the best man in his wedding a mere two days later.

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Baseball, Blog, Travel

A Backstop of Memories

(Solon, Iowa)  –  A chain link fence sits just beyond second base.  There was a time years ago when that barrier was a temporary snow fence, erected in the fall to keep football fans from entering the stadium anywhere other than the main gate.

Just beyond that fence is a set of bleachers for the visiting team’s fans, most eventually witnessing defeat as the home team has won three consecutive state football championships.

This is the view I see from the catcher’s perch, looking out on the old baseball field.

A forgotten stepchild of a facility, this field was nothing but a seasonal accommodation for a sport that was sparsely attended in the summertime, when school was out and the lake waters were warm and inviting.  The infield was exclusive to baseball, but once you ran beyond the dirt you were on the football field, a shared patch of grass that gave the baseball field odd dimensions, yet still lit up the June and July nights with the sound of optimistic cheers and batted balls.

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