Is It Really All Random? Headline Animator


I try to pinpoint words that when strung together, like beads in a necklace, express something with texture and richness; I hope for the occasional sparkle of a well placed gem. I frequently fail miserably. But on a good day, as with a candid photo, I unexpectedly capture a heartbeat, and it feels as if I've successfully seized fog with my hands.

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Baseball Like Life

Those of you who’ve known me for a while know this story. Even if I’ve never told you directly, you know it because it’s in my skin. I wear it. I live it.

I tell it now because for me it explains baseball at its essence. And why when baseball goes away I feel adrift, no land in sight. I have to get my compass and reorient to north, to life. My heart is tied to baseball.

On October 9, 1979 I bore my first child after a difficult pregnancy that I didn’t know was difficult. I thought it was normal. Because I hadn’t traveled the road before. Millions of women had gone before me without whining, and I didn't want to be a baby. I said little. I just waited for my infant girl.

She came. Just at the moment I had a seizure followed by a cardiac event and a weeklong coma. I know these things because others told me when I awakened.

“My baby? Where’s my baby?”

She had died and I didn’t meet her. Never saw her.

It was a long time before I could inhale without doubling in pain. I was too young to know that life would march on and would hold highs in proportion to its lows.

It took a while to recover. Much time before I wanted to rejoin life. Even after Boy was born and I was ecstatic; it was in some ways more difficult to have missed Girl's short stay, I came to realize, as I played with his tiny toes.

I became accustomed to her leaving. It happened slowly. I almost didn’t notice that I didn’t think about her several times a day. But it was a nearly impossible climb into the reality that she never laid nestled in my arms.

Not once.

Will Clark ~ Otto Greule Jr/Getty Images
On her tenth birthday, October 9th, 1989, I was at Candlestick Park, a spectator as the San Francisco Giants beat the Chicago Cubs to win the National League pennant for the first time since 1962. 

Sitting in the upper deck with a high blue baseball sky above me while the gods anointed my team as representatives to the World Series. Caps flew into the air as the radio broadcast was routed through the Sony Jumbotron screen and we heard Hank Greenwald shout, “27 years of waiting is over. The Giants have won the pennant.” My husband and I lifted our eight-year-old son onto his seat where he could stand for a better view of the hugging, yelling, jumping players in a dog pile on the pitcher’s mound.

They had done it. We had done it. Different victories, similarly sweet.

We had stood huddled beneath a temporary canopy to shield us from the pouring rain the day we buried Girl. Her small white casket lowered in the ground, a lambs wool bear tucked inside. We did not know what lay ahead for us. I didn’t think I'd again hear the sound of my own raucous laughter. Would breathe freely, tickled by the air.

Yet there I was, ten years later, my little family including a son I didn't know was waiting for me, jumping in unison with the team from our perch in the stands. We sang “Bye-Bye Baby,” wore team colors, and cheered till we were hoarse.

I didn’t need to look back on that day to see its irony, its metaphor. In the moment I stepped away from myself and watched it unfold; I wished Girl a silent happy birthday.

Life moves on, even when we’d give anything if it would only stop.

Bay Bridge Collapse ~ George Nikitin, Associated Pres
Baseball, like life, holds many surprises. Some of them leveling while others shoot us to the moon. A few days later an earthquake rocked the 1989 World Series; while there were deaths outside, Candlestick Park held baseball fans safely in her arms. 62,000 of us were defended by the old concrete lady. As she shook she grumbled, “I don’t care if you think I’m ugly, I’ll protect you anyway.” That she did. She didn’t tell us the City was on fire or a bridge to our north had collapsed. She didn't give a hint.

Baseball sent scores home from work early, avoiding peak commute at 5:04PM when the earth moved and there would no doubt have been more casualties. Fans had already taken their places on the sofa by the television while they awaited the game’s first pitch. Folks watched baseball, and baseball watched out for them.

Baseball. Life. One a microcosm of the other. 

Tomorrow a parade in San Francisco to celebrate the 2012 World Series win of the San Francisco Giants. An orange and black barrage of wildly enthusiastic Bay Area residents ready for pandemonium after a season of blows that spurred a tornado of wins and ended in a sweep of the opponent. Our baseball team had blown right back.

Then, the temperature will drop and days will grow short; baseball will fade into dormancy. From chaotic celebration to rest, reorganization, and preparation. From a hurricane to a quiet day with no news to report. Other pursuits and events will fill the void. Don’t know what those will be, what the future holds.

Inning to inning, day-to-day, life and baseball play out in flukes, serendipitous twists. We hold on through the bad breaks, savor a ball that sails out of the yard, hang in when a star player goes down, and when our spirits are as wreckage on the rocks.

Life keeps us in wonder even on its hardest days.

Baseball Annie Savoy
"I believe in the Church of Baseball."* Even when it seems my team doesn’t have a chance, or I don't, I know there's hope.  An unexpected turnaround. A rally. A win. A cheer. 

An alleluia.

Life's like that. That’s why you shouldn't leave the game early. Not till the last out. You just don’t know what lies ahead.

* Quote from Baseball Annie Savoy, "Bull Durham". With thanks to for the photo.

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Epilogue - The Final Out

Brandon Crawford and Hunter Pence hug Marco Scutaro on his first trip to the World Series
REUTERS/Lucy Nicholson 

The downpour could not dampen the moment for the San Francisco Giants or their fans. 

Congratulations, National League champs. 

To the St. Louis Cardinals, well done! A relentless opponent who made an improbable drive to the NLCS with a field riddled with injuries. Mighty Cardinals, see you in the 2013 post-season, as we do nearly every year.

And no matter what's written by the so-called pros (I've read it already this morning), it wasn't a "run up" score aimed to embarrass. There are never enough insurance runs against the Cards. 

Sergio Romo records last out

If you don't believe me, just ask the Washington Nationals.

Marco Scutaro, Most Valuable Player
2012 NLCS
REUTERS/Robert Galbraith

Monday, October 22, 2012

Dog Fight

Dog fight at 5:07PM PDT.

Two historic, storied franchises, Musial versus Mays, set to duke it out old school in Game 7 of the National League Championship Series. A rubber match of sorts. 1987 to the Cards, 2002 to the Giants. 2012?

Who will it be tonight?

I’m a Giants fan granted the thrill of a World Series win just two years ago. Still on a high from the first San Francisco win. But I’m a baseball fan, too, and those are different things.

The Giants fan wants black and orange to prevail. The baseball fan wants a clean game, no questionable calls, no errors, a fair fight and a solid feeling that the best team won.

My Giants fan wants Marco Scutaro to tear the cover off the ball so Matt Holliday knows never to try a late slide take-out hit at second base when he plays my boys; Pam the baseball fan knows it’s part of the game and the baseball gods generally even the score without human intervention.

I want to see outstanding play and know I’m watching the best that the best can deliver out of both dugouts; I also want my team to be just a little bit better.

My baseball fan and Giants fan watch together in stunned admiration of the team that won three championship road games in a row to rally from the brink of elimination in the division play-off.

And here we are tonight. Two teams that evenly split wins during their regular season meet-ups. The St. Louis Cardinals, a team built to clobber every other with outstanding hitting and a filthy bullpen loaded with 100mph flame-throwers.

My Giants? Can’t categorize them and have it hold from one night to the next. They’re up, they’re down, as soon as one pitcher finds his mojo, another goes MIA. They’ve defied description in the best and worst ways leading the league with errors in the early season, turning it around with a shortstop holding the best defensive record in baseball. They’ve thrilled fans with MVP play, then sucker-punched them with a crowd favorite suspended for PED use.

My baseball fan knows the San Francisco Giants aren’t supposed to be here tonight. Their closer placed on the DL early in the season went without replacement. The league leader in hits was bounced from the team. Their All-Star catcher, recovering from a near career-ending injury, took off with a slow start. Their award-winning pitcher had an ERA above 5 till the last week of the season, and another All-Star position player spent half the season disabled in two separate stints on the DL.

For the sixth game this post-season, the Giants are on the cusp of elimination. Or maybe, this time, a trip to the World Series. Only 50 times in the history of baseball has a championship series needed all seven games. 50.

For a baseball fan, it doesn’t get better than this. A game of games where both teams are literally playing for their seasonal lives. 162 games, plus five divisional play-off games and six league championship games have been reduced to tonight. A slow, plodding progression over six months ends and begins with a one game frenzy to see who lives and who dies.

We are an hour from the first pitch of the last game that determines who moves on to baseball’s last rung. Two evenly matched pitchers will meet on the field of play. My Giants fan’s throat aches from life on the edge, endless cheering, and shoving my heart back down into place. My baseball fan knows it’s a privilege to see such a match, even greater because my hometown team is a participant.

Tomorrow morning one team will have been victorious, will be shaking off a champagne shower, wearing a World Series cap, and doing a light work-out in prep for game one of the World Series. Their fans will be arranging schedules to attend or watch televised games wearing bright new championship t-shirts; one team will empty lockers as their fans count days till pitchers and catchers report to spring training. 

Cardinals Red? Giants black and orange? In which group of fans will I be? Either way, what a ride, what a ride.

It’s baseball. And I’m reminded of a Rogers Hornsby quote. Win or lose, my baseball fan completely understands. 

“People ask me what I do in winter when there’s no baseball. I’ll tell you what I do. I stare out the window and wait for spring.”

Photo credits to Huffington Post, Sports Illustrated, Getty Images

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

All In For Bay Area October

Halloween this month. Should I begin, “It was a dark and stormy night…”?

I’d be lyin’ if I did. It’s 94 degrees outside. I checked on my electronic digital meat thermometer.

That’s the truth. About the 94, and the thermometer. It's the only one I have. 

Thanks, Joce!
Those familiar with the Bay Area know fog fades this time of year, beat back to sea by a high pressure ridge that allows La Cité, Peninsula and North Bay temps to soar. Not in mid summer as in other places.

In July and August our inland valleys heat up and draw fog to the coastal cities of northern California. There the wispy fluff hugs and hovers; Mark Twain is often erroneously credited for the thing he never said about the coldest winter he ever spent...

That’s why you bring your sweatshirt when you visit San Francisco in summer, right? Oh, you didn’t? Then you bought yours at Fisherman’s Wharf.

San Francisco awaits the tourist exit. It saves its best for locals who then stroll sleeveless late into evening, every moment of warmth absorbed and stored as a morsel in memory, like squirrels and the acorns they hide to make it through the winter. Fall is our time with windows wide open. Coffee and a pastry at a sidewalk cafe. This is a day at the beach. For real.       

Heat is our sign of autumn. Our version of northeastern leaves showing color. Heat is the last glorious gasp before rain and chill set in, and Halloween comes a knockin'.

As a kid hot weather met us as we returned to school in September. I sat at my desk wriggling in the seat as I attempted to listen attentively in Mrs. Goggins’ science class. Afternoons with temps close to the century mark, the back of my legs itching and sweating in a wool, plaid, pleated Catholic school skirt. It was difficult to be still, checking the clock and waiting to escape the hot and airless classroom. In a rush to shed the stiff school uniform and get to the five & dime to find a Halloween costume.

By October 31st the weather shifts. Predictable cold and drizzle threaten to dampen festivities. Parents argue with kids over how to keep warm and dry. Nothing like a jacket or raincoat to ruin a costume's fun.

In this heat it’s hard to imagine that conversation lies less than 30 days ahead. But it never fails.

Yesterday, when it was 97 degrees, I contemplated foregoing Halloween hubbub. Admittedly it’s early to begin the annual search for orange squash with jack-o-lantern potential but a hectic schedule threatened to squeeze the fun out of October till late in the month, maybe even too late. Not worth the trouble for only a few days, a week at the most. That’s what I said to myself. Yesterday.

Perhaps 2012 was designated somewhere as the year to skip Halloween hijinks.

I live on a winding street that climbs a hill overlooking a canyon. Street lamps are few. Sidewalks none. The paved road is narrow and though the speed limit is 20mph to safely accommodate pedestrians sharing it, not everyone abides. Night brings critters. It's poor trick or treat territory.

But we justify a candy purchase by telling ourselves someone may knock and we don't want to be the house that spoils the fun. Just in case, that’s what the hubs and I say while buying a sack of our favorite treats.

Then five years ago a baby was born next door. He easily became our neighborhood’s child. Drew us all in and each October I would see his mother push his stroller to two houses displaying a few decorations. One across the street with a blow up witch sitting on the red brick steps, toes curled upward, striped witch's socks. Then they’d roll to our house with my pile of pumpkins and glowing lights.

A whole new haunting Halloween spin on things with the arrival of that boy. As he grew he began to walk with his mother, hand in hand after his nap, to visit the witch and sit next to it on the steps. I added to our collection enthusiastically. More ghoulish fun. A skull with light up eyes. An animated Grim Reaper.

No mystery why the houses next to his have the most decorations. We're tickled by his delight.

Now he runs here on his own, within Mom’s watching range, to check that we’re appropriately festooned for fall. Monitoring our progress.

A month ago he became a big brother. Last evening with windows open to the hot, still night I could hear the infant's cry. In the season when life prepares for the dormancy of winter, to pull back and hunker down, I'm reminded that in some places life is new. I'm renewed as well.

The sound of life. I couldn’t help myself. I rethought my original plan. For our neighborhood's child, Halloween will visit my house. For his baby brother, too, who will pass fast asleep in a buggy. 

In big brother’s smile I'm reminded that rituals and novelty are cookies and milk, should never be separated or ever skipped. 

I climb a ladder to string peeking, peeping, blinking, spooky eyes around a tree, no longer remembering that yesterday I thought to do otherwise.

The sun shines brightly without a hint of dark and stormy night though one will doubtless visit soon. If you’re fortunate enough to be here today you can shed that fleece for a while.

This is autumn in the Bay Area. As it is every year dating back to my childhood and long before me.

Nearby is one little boy and his new baby brother soaking up October. While they go about the work of being children I'm reminded to play. 

Some things are too good to take a pass on. Like warm and sunny fall.

Hello, October. We meet again. And I'm all in.