The Longest Day

The Atlantic Baseball League is divided into two sections, The Freedom division and the Liberty division.  Then they divide the season into two halves.  In each division, whoever wins the first half season plays against whoever wins the second half season for the division championship.  Then the two division champions face off for the Atlantic League Championship.

You can do lousy in the first half, but win the second half, or vice versa, and be in the Division Championship.  Most years this rule hurts the Lancaster Stormers, who have often had the best overall record but finished second in the Freedom Division in both halves.  This year, however, the rule helps the Stormers, because they are doing lousy in the first half, but they can still salvage their season by winning the second half.

That’s one way that the Atlantic League differs from the Major Leagues.  Another difference is money.  The minimum salary for a Major League player is $480,000 a year, with many making far more than that.  The Atlantic League players only get a few thousand dollars a month.  When Major Leaguers go on road trips, they take chartered jets to their destination.  When Minor Leaguers go on road trips, they, literally, hit the road by bus.

As I stated earlier, the Barnstormers are having a lousy first half this year.  How lousy?  They lost 4 straight home games to their archrivals, The York Revolution.  Then they had to climb on a bus for a road trip to North Carolina, where they lost three straight games to The High Point Rockers.  Then on June 21st, the summer solstice, the longest day of the year, they had to take a 12-hour bus trip to Commack, NY to face the Long Island Ducks, in a doubleheader that night.  That wasn’t just the longest day of the year, for many of the Barnstormers it turned out to be the longest day of their lives.

Historically, the Stormers do not do well playing in Commack.  Their heavily left-handed batting order is tailored to hit the ball 300 feet to right field for a homerun.  In Commack, a ball that travels 300 feet to right field is a fly out.  So, they arrived in Commack, exhausted from the 7-game losing streak and the 12-hour bus ride, to play a double header in an unfavorable ballpark against the Ducks, the powerful, Liberty Division first place team.

They still had some fight left in them, though, and they clawed their way to victory in the first game.  In the second game, the Ducks took and early lead, and it looked like the Stormers were out of gas.  Then, they summoned all their strength for a big rally in the 6th inning that put them 5 runs ahead.  Then, in the Duck half of the 6th inning, the Barnstormers hit the proverbial wall.  They had nothing left, and the Ducks took advantage of it.  They scored more runs in the bottom of the 6th than their scoreboard could display, since it was only designed for the one-digit numbers from 0 to 9.  When the Barnstormers finally got up to bat they meekly went down in order.  They had no more adrenalin, no more strength, no more fight.  They just wanted to go home, but they still had two more games to play, one on Saturday night and the other on Sunday afternoon.  The lost both.

In an homage to the movie, The Big Lebowski, my friend John later said, “Sometimes you eat the Ducks, and sometimes the Ducks eat you.”

So, on Sunday evening they took a bus back to Lancaster.  Fortunately, they had a much-needed day off on Monday.  Tonight, they play the Somerset Patriots, and I hope that they are able to shake off the events of this past week and get into a winning pattern before the second half begins in July.

They play six games here at Clipper Magazine Stadium before they have to climb back on the bus for another road trip.  Maybe a little home cooking and sleeping in their own bed instead of a Motel 6 will do them a lot of good.  Like Dorothy said, “There’s no place like home.”

Sliding into Home Plate

Also remember that the darkest hour is just before the dawn.

Go Stormers.  Keep calm and storm on.

Peace & Love, and all of the above,

Earl

 

 

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Fit to be Tie-Dyed

 

 

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I was supposed to go to New York this past weekend for another Mavericks concert with my friend Maria, but there was a problem.  None of the proprietors of my usual New York City crash pads would be home.  Brother and Mrs. X had a family function and my Long Beach friends John and Margaret would also be out of town.

I had a Plan B.  I could take Amtrak to New York, then a subway to the Beacon Theatre, meet my friend Maria for dinner and drinks before the show, watch the show, then go bar hopping until 4 in the morning, have a sunrise breakfast, and catch the first train back to Lancaster in the morning.  That plan might have worked 30-40 years ago, but nowadays that plan would have been more like a kamikaze mission for my well-worn body.  So, I decided to stay home.

Then, while glancing at the ads in the Barnstormer program last Tuesday, I noticed that Lancaster had its own summer concert series at Long’s Park.  On Saturday they had a Beatles tribute band playing, and on Sunday they had an Eagles tribute band.  That sounded like fun.  I just had to find out the location of Long’s Park.  Google to the rescue.

Turns out that Long’s Park is only 2.3 miles from my apartment.  According to Google it was a 35-minute walk.  Obviously, Google is not 70-years old, with a heart condition, and an arthritic hip.  2.3 miles would take me more like 3 hours, and the return trip would probably be in an ambulance, but I was in luck.  One of the many Lancaster buses passes right by there on its way to one of the many local shopping malls.  So, I dug out my tie-dyed shirts from the closet and prepared to get groovy.

According to their song, it was 20 years ago, today, that Sargent Pepper taught the band to play, but, actually, it had been 50 years since the Beatles last live performance.  It was the famous free concert from the roof of the Apple building in England on January 30th, 1969.  So, I expected the crowd to be quite old, maybe even as old as me.  There were a few of us senior citizens there, however there were lots of young people, too, with their very young children.  Altogether, thousands of people had “Come Together” to listen to some good Beatles music.

Most people had folding lawn chairs, but a good many had those things that look like fat canes until they unfold like transformers and become comfortable chairs.  One couple had a contraption that actually unfolded into a couch.  Obviously, this wasn’t “their first rodeo.”  So, while the adults were setting up their spots on the lawn, the children were on the perimeter playing soccer or tossing baseballs, softballs, footballs, and frisbees.  The show started at 7:30, but most of the people were there hours ahead of time to insure getting a good spot.  Besides, the weather was perfect, and it was just a great day to hang out in the park.  I think every dog owner in Lancaster was there, too.  It looked like the Westminster Dog Show, with every breed of dog being represented.

I didn’t want to risk lying down on the grass and then not being able to get up without assistance, so I headed for a picnic table in the back.  I got out my phone and watched the Belmont Stakes and some of the Barnstormers game.  They were playing in New Britain, Connecticut, and I used my phone throughout the night to keep up with the score.

The Corty Byron Band came on promptly at 7:30 and they were very good.  They’ve been doing these Beatle tributes for years, so they knew the music well.  The theme was “Post White Album” and they played for hours.  They had a few dancers who came out to entertain the audience during a few of their songs.  One was named Sherry (or something like that) and she came on when it was still light out and did a dance with what appeared to be hula hoops.

Later, when it got dark, another dancer, whose name began with an M came out and put on a one-woman light show while she did her interpretive dances.  She was wearing some kind of butterfly cape with hundreds of LED lights that kept changing colors, and, over the course of a few songs, she danced through the entire audience looking like Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds (which wasn’t one of the songs, though).

On Sunday, a Nashville band named 7 Bridges performed the music of the Eagles.  The crowd was twice the size of the night before, and I was lucky to find a picnic table way, way in the back.  I had on my “Hell Freezes Over” t-shirt from their 1974 reunion tour, which I attended with my friends Barbara and Jim.  While the real Eagles may have sounded a little better, in my opinion 7 Bridges put on a better show.  I remember that back in 1974 Joe Walsh was the only member of the band who didn’t look like a cardboard cutout on stage.  7 Bridges joked with the crowd right from the very beginning.  After their very first song, as the crowd was applauding, they yelled out, “Thank you, and good night.”  Of course, they kept playing for another two hours.

One of the other many jokes they told was that they travel all over the country, but they had never played in Lancaster before.  They said they always wanted to come to Lancaster in the worst way, so they finally did.  They came via West Virginia.  I guess they tell that joke differently when they are playing in West Virginia.

Whenever I go to a concert with Maria, no matter where we are sitting, she always winds up standing right in front of the stage.  “Rushing the stage,” I think she calls it.  So, in her honor, after the band played what they pretended to be their last song, I rushed the stage for the encore.  Fortunately, they played a few songs, because it took me a long while to get there.  7 Bridges closed out their show playing Take It Easy with everyone in the crowd joining in.  I thought about my friend Marianne, who always uses her Dad’s standard response when people tell her to take it easy, “If I took it any easier, I’d have to give it back.”

So, instead of going to New York this past weekend, I took it easy right here in Lancaster, and it sure was groovy.  Now I’m looking forward to the 50th Anniversary Celebration of Woodstock at Long’s Park on August 17th.  Peace, Love, and Music.  Or like I always say:

Peace & Love, and all of the above,

Earl

The Royal Treatment

 

Harriet Lane, Queen Victoria, me, and an unwrinkled President Buchanan

June 1st is the birthday of Marilyn Monroe, Morgan Freeman, Heidi Klum, and Amy Schumer.  This June 1st was also the 151st Anniversary of the death of President James Buchanan.  His historic home, Wheatland, is just a few miles from my apartment, so I made my second trip there to pay honor to the man on this solemn occasion.  I’m glad I did.  Normally a guide takes you on a tour of the mansion, but, on this day, because of its significance, we had two guides, and there were also two special guests.  Two very beautiful local actresses in full costume played the roles of Queen Victoria and Buchanan’s beloved niece, Harriet Lane.  The ten of us on the three o’clock tour entered the room where the two actresses were sitting opposite each other, and they played out a scene for us.  They reenacted the moment in Buckingham Palace when Queen Victoria asked the enormously popular Harriet to remain in England after her Uncle finished his duties as Ambassador to England and returned to the States. 

Halfway through their scene, the Queen noticed the t-shirt I was wearing and directed a question to me.  “Is that a picture of Harriet’s uncle on your shirt?”

“Yes, your Majesty,” I responded a little nervously, as if I was actually speaking to royalty.  The “Queen” told me that she approved, and I beamed with pride that she had interrupted the scene to speak with little old me.  Well, she didn’t exactly interrupt the scene, she incorporated me into the scene.  Both she and the actress playing Harriet remained in character while they told me how much they liked the shirt.  The “Queen” then involved me further into the scene by asking for my opinion about whether or not Harriet should remain in England or return to the States with her uncle.  At that point, I really wanted to break out my phone and get a selfie with the two lovely actresses, but I don’t think they had smart phones in the Victorian era, and I didn’t want to break the magical spell of the reenactment.  Where are the paparazzi when you need them?

After the tour, I wandered around Wheatland for a while, walking in the footsteps of America’s most underrated President.  Some historians even claim that he was the worst President the U.S. ever had.  That’s a sad situation, which I hope to rectify with a play I am writing about him and his Wheatland family.

President Buchanan was unmarried, so when he was in the White House, his niece Harriet Lane handled the social calendar, and she was the first woman that the newspapers referred to as “The First Lady.”  She parlayed her popularity in Europe by being even more popular here as The First Lady.  She played piano and especially enjoyed the songs of fellow Pennsylvanian, Stephen Foster.  She also loved to dance, and she planned an elaborate ball at the White House when her friend the Prince of Wales made the first visit of a member of the British Royal Family to their former colonies.  Many Americans, especially in the Northeast, were suffering the effects of the Panic of 1857 at the time, and President Buchanan did not think it was proper for there to be dancing in the White House while Americans were out of work and going hungry. So, he made her change her plans from a grand ball to a State Dinner.  She was disappointed, but she understood.  So, there was no dancing in the White House while he was President, but there was dancing in the street when he returned home to his home, Wheatland, in 1861.

I took a bus home and it went past Buchanan Park, which is just south of Franklin and Marshall College, where James Buchanan was the first President of their Board of Trustees.  The place was packed with people.  There were so many vendors tents that it looked like a camp grounds.  I don’t know what occasion they were celebrating, because I didn’t get off the bus to find out.  I was just happy to see so many hundreds of people having a good time in Buchanan Park. I only hoped that they were all somewhat aware of the historical significance of the day.   James Buchanan loved the places and the people of Lancaster, and the people of Lancaster loved him right back.  More than 20,000 people came to his funeral 151 years ago, even though he had requested a small simple service.  A century and a half later, he is still beloved by the people of Lancaster, and they are still dancing in the street for him.

 Peace & Love, and all of the above,

Earl