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Ramblin’ Joe: Play Ball

Bison Blinds

by Joe Baxter

Giddyup & go! Writing this ahead of time, because the Baxters are going walkabout for a few days.

WE SURE HAD FUN at the Round Barn 30th Restoration anniversary shindig last Sunday! Thanks to all who came out and all who participated. Beautiful, windy Oklahoma weather. Hello, Springtime! The season has begun, and I’m enjoying baseball once more. I’ve always liked the game, but I’ve come to a deeper appreciation of the pure sport, (all the hype and bad stuff aside) late in life. I think it’s probably the controlled calmness of the proceedings compared to the frantic nature of so many other team sports. It appeals to Jean and me to have the games on during the long summer days. We can do other stuff and still track the games pretty closely. (I’m watching Giants/Padres as I write this.) We don’t support any particular team, but I tend to root for the underdogs and the doormats and the cellar-dwellers and the Consistently Mediocre. THAT’S baseball! Our preference for the blue-collar lunch box games is a good illustration of the statement, “Everybody loves an underdog.”

In fact, that old saying might have first been uttered in reference to the game of baseball, but more likely, it originated in a Roman coliseum at some lopsided chariot race. Baseball IS America. My memories of childhood include those hot, sultry afternoons with all the windows in all the houses open, and there would usually be a game on somebody’s TV, or blaring from their kitchen radio, turned up loud enough in the days before central air so that everybody could sit outside and follow the games. Hot dogs and watermelon may have been involved. At family gatherings, there was always a group of dads & uncles gathered around a TV or a radio. My childhood friend from two houses down? His dad was a bookie. (Names are withheld to protect the innocent.) Dad The Bookie bought an old 1960 Plymouth JUST because it had a great AM radio and a good antenna that would pull in games from Kansas City and Texas and beyond. He parked that car at the curb in front of the house and would sit in it at night after the big AM radio stations boosted their signals, (that’s a whole ‘nother story) and he would listen to ball games. Not just baseball, and not just in the Summer. I suppose he had some blue money bets laid down.

As kids, we were sort of aware that Dad wasn’t working strictly within the law, but as an adult looking back, I recall that it was all pretty serious business, indeed, and the less said at the time, the better. I was never a gambler. The best way I know for any team to lose is for ol’ Joe to bet money on them. Baseball runs in my family, though it was never a good sport for a tall, gangle, uncoordinated mouth breather like me. There have been a few ballplayers. My mom’s dad, Barney McCabe was said to have a lightning speedball. He pitched for REAL “farm teams.” This probably would have been around 1915 or so. ALL the little farm towns, from Maine to California had their own amateur teams. Most of the large manufacturers and businesses sponsored teams. I’m sure Grandpa Barney played for at least one semi-pro team for a bit. Oklahoma City’s baseball teams back then were The Indians and the Senators. Barney was a lifelong Phillies fan because the OKC minor league team was a farm team for Philadelphia, at one time. 

My dad was a fair hand at baseball, too. He had some pretty good stories about playing high school baseball barefooted. Dad grew up back in the mountains. There were school teams, town teams, and company teams in West Virginia as well as Oklahoma. Never saw dad play, but he whiffed me with a wicked rising softball a few times. Folks don’t realize that baseball is a relatively old sport, for the U.S.A. The game surfaced in the late 1830’s, and there are a few myths surrounding the “invention” of the game, particularly that Abner Doubleday invented baseball. Google ol’ Abner and see what you see. One of the things that ISN’T a myth is that, 100 years ago, children were absolutely steeped in the game. Everybody played. Everybody knew the rules. Most kids played baseball, and by the time they were 16 or 17, many of them were very good baseball players. That legend of the “Farm Boy with blazing speed” is no myth. 

Mrs. Baxter tells the story of listening to baseball games with her siblings on the radio at the Pennsylvania farm where they grew up. Just listening wasn’t enough. They had sets of baseball cards for EVERY TEAM, and they would listen to the games and keep score. They’d follow individual players and calculate stats. THAT’S baseball. These days, I watch the art, the speed, the fluidity, and the rhythm of the game on a 54-inch TV with a clear, perfect picture. Back in 1974, I watched games on a little black & white “portable” pawn shop TV with a 12-inch screen and built-in rabbit ears. I still listen to baseball games on the car radio while I’m driving I-40. We get The Taxes Rangers and The St. Louis Cardinals regularly, but the radio sports networks also throw in some non-regional games. I enjoy the competition, the world-class athleticism, and the slow drama. I even like the announcers, some of whom are broadcast artists and some; not so much.

There’s a TON of games in a season, so you can watch teams playing in coats and ski masks in April, and again in October. I enjoy watching the rosters change and the teams getting better and better as the season progresses, or maybe worse, as playoff fortunes change. So, welcome to The Dance. Play ball. Right now, I’m sitting in a cabin at Robbers Cave State Park, or as I will refer to it in the future – “Swadley’s Cave State Park”. (Don’t get me started.) There’s no Wifi, so it’ll be a trick getting this sent off to Dawn Shelton for perusal and possible publication. I’m gonna try a few tricks and see what happens.

Hey, y’all have a good week. If you’ve got a little downtime, catch a game.

Love ya – JB

RESIST – ANYONE who trie to tell you that government is a for-profit business. They are wrong. It is not.

Dawn Shelton and Joe Baxter

EDITOR’S NOTE. Joe Baxter is one of my favorite people. He loves music, the Arcadia Round Barn, his wife Jean, a club sandwich from Farmstead Cafe, Route 66, and America (not in that order). A songwriter and musician, he has a way with words and can turn a phrase such that you want to listen, or in this case, read for a while. If you are one of his “face friends” on social media, you know he can get you thinking with his posts and musings. Let’s insert here that Joe’s comments might not “reflect the views of staff and management,” or they might. All views, musings, and submissions are welcome here on these digital pages where we don’t kill trees or buy ink by the barrel! Find Joe at the Arcadia Round Barn where he is the head conversation aficionado catching stories from Route 66 travelers from all over the world, and getting the band together eight days a week! Thanks Ramblin’ Joe! Y’all ENJOY! – dawn

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