Ramble with Storm: Squirrels, Palmer, Maddux & Thomas

SHARE Ramble with Storm: Squirrels, Palmer, Maddux & Thomas

Mulling things on my morning ramble with Storm, our family’s mixed Lab.

Good morning to mull baseball, a full 52 degrees warmer than Monday morning. I just find that astonishing.

Listening to Frank Thomas on Wednesday at his press conference for his Hall of Fame election, I could not help thinking how he could owned this town as much as any beloved Bear or even Michael Jordan.

Thomas is simply the best hitter I saw in my lifetime. If you were a baseball fan, you marveled at him.

To this day, I wonder how a strapping dude like him could manage the strike zone like he did. I think he may have been assisted by his reputation later in his career and umps would give him the benefit of the doubt on close pitches.

Greg Maddux is another guy who benefited from the benefit of the doubt or worked the edges, depending how you looked at it.

My favorite memory of Maddux came late in his career. He was back with the Cubs. And he was pitching at Sox Park, back when those games still could stir fist fights.

They were good seats on the third-base side at Sox Park. I think they might have been Joe McCartin’s seats.

So we were able to see the field well. It was not a good game for him, in part because the ump was not giving him the Maddux plate, those two extra inches of each side of the plate.

And Maddux was getting whacked around pretty good. I tried to find the box score but could not. Nor am I organized enough to find my scorecard. Yes, I am one of those geeks who keeps a scorecard.

Finally, Maddux had enough and as he came off the mound in around the fourth or fifth inning, he began barking at the ump, who barked right back.

Maddux was a pitcher, another ones of those you watched if you were a baseball fan.

I grew up about an hour from both the Baltimore Orioles and the Philadelphia Phillies, so loyalties were split for most. I was a fan of neither, but they were the two teams I knew best.

I was young when Jim Palmer was at his peak and he did the same sort of pitcher, in terms of working the edges of the plate. By the end of some games I swear he had about a 27-inch plate.

I was never an Orioles fan, other than I loved Paul Blair playing center field and the insane intensity of Frank Robinson. But I sure respected that pitching staff. Up until that Braves staff with Maddux, it was the best pitching staff I ever watched.

I think it would be difficult to do that Palmer and Maddux style of widening the plate in this day and age with the intense television coverage and numeric breakdown of baseball games.

That human element of the umpires is being squeezed out like juice from orange by modern technology.

For better or worse.

I do love the thought and talk of baseball. Warmed me on a week where I needed warming.

A fresh inch of snow came overnight, but it was almost absurdly warm–32 degrees–considering what we had earlier in the week.

I thought about walking on the two old clay pits, but they looked sloppy and I had no interest in that kind of mucking around.

Back in town,a pair of Canada geese came over downtown. That surprised me because I was pretty close in guessing when the geese would quit the hole they were keeping open on the lake to the west, and the geese were gone.

A blue jay squawking caught my attention in the alley behind the bus barn.

Then I noticed a string of about 10 mourning doves flushing from the feeders at the house across from the bus barn. Then, count them, four gray squirrels and one black squirrel scattered around the yard.

That reminded me that I had asked Steve Sullivan of Project Squirrel about where squirrels go in this weather. I will get his full response put up later today. It is interesting.

Winter has turned. Life stirs again.

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