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9/3/21 | 33/52

It's Labor Day weekend! The forecast is hopeful! It's time to get out there and make the most of this beautiful day.

the old ballgame

take me out to the ballgame

MLB recently played the first “Field of Dreams” game from Iowa. This is an awesome idea and I’d assume they’ll do it every year and it will become a pilgrimage for the baseballs die hard fans. I didn’t watch it because I don’t like baseball but it made realize I do like baseball movies. Field of Dreams, Major League, The Bad News Bears, The Natural, A League of Their Own, Eight Men Out, and Bull Durham, all quality movies I will linger on if I’m flipping around. Moneyball is a recent favorite. The first time I watched it I had insomnia so for years I thought maybe that sleep deprived condition is why I rated it so highly. I gave the movie another watch a few weeks back and still loved it. It reminded me a lot of my old job working to optimize user experience on websites. You'd always run into an old school sales guy who wanted things a certain way because his gut told him that would lead to more conversions. My response was to let the data talk. Then we would run some A/B tests to see what truly led to better engagement. The old school guy's gut feeling may be right or he may be wrong but the important thing was to have the data to understand what was happening.

I played on Little League teams for a few years when I was kid. I remember T-ball where you got to hit the ball off a stand if the pitcher threw you 4 balls. I think I was a catcher for one season and probably in the outfield at some point. My dad wasn’t a baseball fan so we didn’t share the bond of listening to the games on the radio together like some of my friends did with their fathers. I remember Harry Carry calling games on channel 9 but I didn’t watch too many of them. They were too slow and meandering. Even now I think there needs to be some sort of fast running “pitch clock” so there’s less batter adjustment and pitcher fidgeting. I have friends and relatives who are devotees and while I admire their zeal I would turn down a free ticket to a double header to draw or ride my bike or take a nap. Again, let me be clear, I don’t hate baseball I just don’t like it. Having said that I have 4 great baseball memories I’d like to share with you:

The Big Bopper
The stretch of grass next to the house was for wiffle ball. A tree and a bush were used for 1st and third base. Second base, the pitcher’s mound and home were made from spare objects found in the garage. We had two different types of wiffle balls. One with holes that could be pitched. The other was mush ball sized and needed to be lobbed in. There was a few thin yellow plastic bats and everyone’s favorite, the big bopper, with its giant plastic barrel. You didn’t need to keep your eye on the ball with that one. If it was anywhere near the strike zone it was getting launched to the moon. Everyone played wiffle ball. Boys, girls, teens, little kids, parents, whoever happened to be there would take a turn. Games never ended with a win or a loss, they were just stopped for dinner or because it was starting to get dark. Similarly, they were never planned. It went through waves, from streaks of playing every day to months where all the equipment sat in the garage forgotten. Then one day someone would say, “You wanna play wiffle ball,” and the fun would begin.

A pinch between the cheek and gum
I've always associated chewing tobacco with baseball. I think MLB outlawed it at actual baseball games and that’s probably for the best. When we were kids wanting to act like tough baseballers we would have a chew. I got sick swallowing mouthfuls of Skoal juice until I learned to tolerate it. I even went through a period of time chawing Red Man, a ropelike leathery leaf tobacco with a name that wouldn’t fly today. Back then you could buy cigarettes and dip at gas stations if you were old enough to walk through the door and you had enough money. It didn’t even matter if you paid in change. I don’t ever miss chewing tobacco but I do have a Pavlovian response to a Skoal container. The minute it’s in my hand I unconsciously start to pack it, cupping it in between my thumb and fingers while my pointer finger rhythmically thumps down on the top. I miss that. For awhile they sold a shredded beef jerky alternative in the same container but that was gross. If you know someone who still chews and you can get me an empty can I’d love it. It would make an ideal comfort object.
The organ vs the alien
If you managed to get a year of perfect attendance in school the district would give you free tickets to a Sox game. These weren’t great games. It was in the beginning of the season when the weather was still hit or miss. The seats were up high but you could usually move to one of the many other open chairs in your section which was necessary as the tickets were always directly in front of the organ and for the organ to be heard throughout the giant open stadium it has to be painfully loud. One year we went to the game and it was cold and drizzling and at some point my mom declared that we were leaving. No one protested. On the way home we stopped and saw the movie ET. I cried and laughed and for weeks rode my bmx bike like a maniac. What an awesome movie!
The mystery of tennis ball
I don’t know about other neighborhoods but the one I grew up in had a park with an abandoned tennis court. On it were two basketball hoops that were often netless and bent. I don’t ever remember tennis nets. Three sides of the court were surrounded by high fences. The fourth side was made of concrete to hold back the dirt hill behind it. Before I was born someone invented tennis ball and layed out the field. Bases were spray painted on the asphalt along with the mound. A rectangle with a dot in the middle was applied to the wall over home plate. If you pitched a tennis ball in the rectangle it was a strike. Anything outside the rectangel was a ball. If you hit the dot in the middle it was an automatic out. When your bat made contact the tennis ball would explode over the fence. Rules shifted as we grew taller and stronger. Over the fence and in the street was considered an automatic double. The yard across the street a homerun. If you could throw the ball back and hit the wall before the runner made it back on a homerun it was an out. Over time graffiti would collect on the wall, PINK FLOYD, LED ZEP, SABBATH, OZZY. Then the park district would come and paint the entire wall an ugly green. Immediately the strike box would reappear. Maybe the park district workers painted it back on because they grew up playing there. I don’t know if the wall is still there or if kids still play tennis ball but I still remember the odd rules and traditions passed along from older kids like folklore. This was specific to our neighborhood because we had this oddly structured area with a concrete wall but I'm sure every neighborhood in every town has their own games and sports and places to play. Empty lots and yards and fields for football and tag and games of pickle. Did you grow up with a fun neighborhood tradition? An invented game or a variation? Do people still play it?

Friend of the Week

This week's friend, Kitty, lives with Lydia and Jim in California. I'm hoping to make it out there to visit in person but I'm still not comfortable jumping on a plane. Until then I will send mental pets out that way.

If you would like your best animal associate to be featured email me 3 pictures of them and I will do my best to try and capture their essence.

On Tuesday I celebrate my birthday. Hopefully I'll get to spend some time with you over the weekend and we can skate some curbs or grab some ice. If this weekend doesn't work out let's make a point to get together this week or this month. Let's make it happen.

On my birthday and holidays my favorite thing to do is give gifts. As a special gift this year I'd like to draw up your holiday card. Sending mail at the holidays is one of my great joys in life and my goal is to encourage more people to do it. Interested? Let's make it happen.

If you ever miss an email or you see that it's Friday and no email has been delivered, you can always check out the archive link on the Serial Dispatch instagram. If you know anyone who might enjoy this weekly special delivery send them in that direction so they can see if they'd like to join the list. Let's make it happen.


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