The problem with not writing anything for a while, or a long while, is knowing where to start when you finally return to the keyboard.
What’s the point? Who will actually read this? What interested me that I’ve already forgotten?
The last thing I published was in June, 2013.
It’s not to say things haven’t interested me in that time, and I have surely filled up multiple notebooks of things I discovered, or things I wanted to know.
I’ve written biographies and game reports for various Society of American Baseball Research (SABR) book efforts, like the one about Bobby Thomson that was essentially an ode to my father, who loved the moment in time with Thomson his the game-winner in the final game of 1951 that clinched the pennant for the New York Giants.
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.
Three years ago today, my friend Jeff Bell lost a short battle with cancer. I don’t recall if it was Hodgkin’s or non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma, but that really doesn’t matter. What is important today is that he is remembered for the great person he was.
Jeff was both an opponent and a teammate of mine in the sport of fastpitch softball. Before I really got to know him personally, I just didn’t like him much on the playing field. He was a competitor at all costs, and although he didn’t sport the proto-typical ball players’ “look,” he always seemed to get a clutch hit when it mattered most. He was just one of those guys you hated to play against, and wished he was on your team.
Later in our careers, my life travels brought me to central Illinois and we became teammates. I told him at the time I just wasn’t a fan of his when he sat in the other dugout. I still remember his reaction as vividly as if it was yesterday. He simply told me “I love that! I love that you didn’t like me.”
That was Jeff, always competing whether it was by getting the big hit, or just getting under your skin enough to affect your focus on the task at hand. Both were effective.