Baseball, church homecomings, love and several other signs of spring

BY BOB WACHS, News + Record Staff
Posted 5/10/19

Years ago, a British poet by the name of Alfred Tennyson penned a poem entitled “Locksley Hall” in which he noted, “In the spring a young man’s fancy lightly turns to thoughts of love. Spring …

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Baseball, church homecomings, love and several other signs of spring

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Years ago, a British poet by the name of Alfred Tennyson penned a poem entitled “Locksley Hall” in which he noted, “In the spring a young man’s fancy lightly turns to thoughts of love. Spring is the season for love.”

Through his 83 years, Alfred — who would later become Alfred, Lord Tennyson — wrote a bunch of poems, partly to earn his keep because for much of Queen Victoria’s long reign, he was the poet laureate of England and Ireland, serving from 1850 until his death in 1892.

Ol’ Alfred pretty much hit the nail on the head with that line about love, at least in part. Spring will do that to you. After all, it’s been a long winter, the days are improving, sap is rising in the trees, the ladies are looking good and it’s just what we do.

But not to diminish Alfred’s observation, there are many other signs of spring upon us now. I’d like to note a few, with the hope we have some spring for a while and don’t go from winter directly into summer with its heat and humidity.

One sign is baseball. It comes around in spring. I love baseball. Funny, though, I wasn’t very good at it. My entire playing career spanned about half a season of what was loosely called “little league” in the days when dinosaurs roamed the earth. I usually managed to get in three quick swings; not sure I ever got a hit. We played on what I think East Chatham Little League today calls the Upper Field, across the street from Pittsboro Elementary School. There was no dugout or anything fancy. We either stood or sat on one old telephone pole along the third base line.

But still I love it. I’ve been accused of being too slow or clumsy or whatever to appreciate football or basketball or soccer, which I don’t understand at all. In soccer, guys or gals run around for two hours and the score is 1–0. Sometimes there’s more action in the stands than on the field, especially when some of the European teams set the bleachers on fire or start a riot.

I like the strategy of baseball, of just who to pitch to just who, of how sometimes the game, as Yogi Berra said, isn’t over until it’s over, of how the baseball gods sometimes jerk strings and if you don’t catch the foul pop that on the next pitch the batter will knock a dinger.

I like that baseball team managers dress like the players. Goes back to when they were player-coaches. Just once I’d like to see Joe Madden put himself into a Cubs game. What I’d really like is for the Cubs to finish the year with a record of 0–162 since I’m a Cardinals fan but that’s a different story. Could you imagine if coaches in other sports dressed like their players? Tom Landry with shoulder pads or Pat Riley in shorts and sneakers?

Then there’s the phenomenon we call church homecoming or memorial day, not to be confused with the federal Memorial Day in May. Churches have them annually most often on the same day each year — first Sunday in May, last Sunday in May, second Sunday in June, on Mother’s Day or whatever the local tradition calls for.

From time to time I will have the opportunity to be the Sunday morning speaker at one or two. It’s always a treat, a reminder of the past and its lessons for the future as well as a signal for spring. Nobody ever has homecoming in deep February. That’s because it’s too cold to have “dinner on the grounds,” although most places now have “dinner in the fellowship hall where it never rains and the temperature is not too hot or too cold or too muggy.”

In those carefree days of my childhood as we ate dinner outside, I learned to hold my plate with one hand, my tea with the other, consume a chicken leg without the corn juice getting on my chocolate pie and say ‘hello’ to a fourth cousin once removed without making a mess of him, me or my food. Later on, I would imitate my father who had learned that if you could find a ’49 Plymouth with big front fenders then you could use them as a table.

Those events feature good music, good food, good fellowship, good friends. There’s the chance to say “hello” to someone you may not have seen for a while, to meet some new folks, to figure out family relationships and maybe have a little ol’ lady pat you on the head and say, “My, my, Sonny! You sure have grown’ since I last saw you.”

In fairness to the other side, though, there are some down sides to spring, just as there are thorns on a rose bush. One is pollen. I’m all for the trees reproducing but have you ever looked at a grain of pollen under a microscope? It looks like a smaller version of a sweet gum ball, all prickly and sharp. Try getting a truckload of those under your contact lenses and then you’ll know pain and agony.

And then there are the spring thunderstorms. The weather folks often refer to them as “pop-ups.” If one does that all of a sudden where you are, then there’s a 100 percent chance you’ll get wet and that’ll be the end of your Game 7 of the World Series in your back yard.

Funny thing about T-storms, at least for me. When they come knocking, they remind me of my mama. She was not a big fan. I found out later in life it was because lightning once hit her house. She always made sure we were not near a window, did not run water, got quiet and often sat in the middle of a bed. I’m not suggesting we all retire to the bedroom when it storms but I do remember. Personally, I like rain but part of that may be because, like snow, I usually don’t have to get out in it unless I forgot to roll up the windows in the pickup.

Alfred is remembered for a number of other sayings, many of which have become part of the conversation of today, at least for some folks. They include, “Theirs not to reason why, Theirs but to do and die” along with “Tis better to have loved and lost than never to have loved at all,” and “Knowledge comes but wisdom lingers.”

All of that may be true but for a really meaningful spring saying, nothing beats, “Play ball.”

Try it.


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