Today is March 1st. Spring is not quite in the air, but it is sure on my mind. The first day of Spring astronomically is March 21st. But the first day of Spring meteorologically is March 1st.
There is nothing like Spring.
And with Spring comes……..wait for it……….BASEBALL SEASON!
I’ve written lots of blog stories on baseball. You can find which ones and links to those stories at https://ednovick.wordpress.com/?s=baseball.
But for many years my baseball season was, for me, softball season. And I haven’t written any stories on my softball days, so this is it.
I thought I was done playing baseball at 18. I was fortunate to discover I was wrong. I played in Midlothian Boys Baseball from the ages of 9 to 18. Many years later I played baseball with the Midlothian Lugnuts in an over-28 men’s baseball league when I was 39 and again at 41. Later I played again with the Lobos in an over-45 men’s baseball league when I was 45 and 46. I didn’t play last year, but hope to maybe hook up with a team for the coming baseball season.
But from about age 25 to maybe 29 or so I played several seasons with The Walshies – a men’s softball team that played in the southwest suburbs of Chicago.
As a young man I had wanted to play ball. I figured if I did play it would be softball, as my dad had played 16 inch men’s softball some seasons when I was growing up. Dad played with a group of men in Mount Greenwood Park at between 111th and 115th and Central and Hamlin in Chicago. I was only between 3 and 7 years old when my dad played, but I remember those times well. Men like “Crazy” Bill (my dad’s cousin), my uncle Jerry, dad’s cousin Bruce, Pat O, Denny F, George B, and Ralph were my childhood ball heroes. They competed on gorgeous summer nights and helped me to fall in love with baseball/softball. After their games, they would sometimes go to the bar at 111th and Millard – I remember as I would go in the bar with them and they would set me and my brother up with a soda pop and we’d play on a shuffleboard bowling machine where we’d play for hours as the men drank…but I digress.
The Walshies were a group of pals from the southwest suburbs who played together for years. The name Walshies, as I understand it, came from the name of a bar with the same name who sponsored our team. I wanted to play softball, but didn’t know anyone who played, so I contacted a local league and asked them to hook me up with a team that might be looking for some players. I got a call from Tim…or “Digger” as was his nickname. He invited me out to a practice in March. The guys were very welcoming and friendly.
I soon found out that most of the guys seemed to have nicknames. There was Digger, Stilts, L.A., Goon, Duck, Cupp, Hos, and several others.
It wasn’t long before Digger dubbed a nickname for me too: Psycho. I didn’t think much of it at first, but later I asked him why he gave me that nickname. I assumed it was because I was skinny like Anthony Perkins who played Norman Bates in the movie Psycho. Digger told me it was because he thought I ran like a psycho…whatever that means. Whichever the case, it stuck, and I was one of they guys.
We played together for several spring, summer and even fall softball seasons in suburbs like Tinley Park, Orland Park, Frankfort, and Downers Grove. We also played in some area tournaments, most memorable to me playing one down in Kankakee, IL.
I played mostly 2nd base. I remember once going deep into the hole toward 2nd base to field a ground ball, fielding it fully extended, and flipping the ball behind my back to our shortstop to get a force at 2nd. That was a glorious moment and stick-with-you memory…the kind of play you play for.
I hit ok, but usually near the bottom of the order. I remember one season I was near the team lead in batting average finishing in the top 3.
I don’t think we won any championships when I played, but we were a good team, hit really well, and competed most every season.
After the games we often liked to go to a nearby drinking establishment. Charlie Horse and Hooters were a couple of our favorites. There were many others.
The Walshies were invited to my wedding and those who attended took this photo together. It is one of the only ones I have of me with The Walshies. If there are others out there, I’d love to see them. Digger is not in the photo.
I lost track of The Walshies for many years. I had moved away to Aurora, and couldn’t play ball with the Walshies anymore. I hooked up with another softball team out in Aurora. It was good, but just wasn’t the same camaraderie as we shared with The Walshies.
I ran into one of The Walshies several years ago, and he shared with me that Digger had died. I was told he killed himself. I don’t know the circumstances, but was advised there was some depression that ran in his family. That is a deeply saddening loss. I will always remember good-natured and lovable Digger smiling, and playing the game that he loved with the friends that he loved.
I’ve recently had the fortune of reconnecting with many of The Walshies friends on Facebook. Facebook is great for finding and reconnecting with old friends. I still haven’t seen them in many years. But who knows…it’s March 1st…Spring and baseball season is just around the corner…maybe some us will even play ball together again.
“It won’t be long till summer comes
Now that the boys are here again.”
– Phil Lynott, Thin Lizzy, The Boys Are Back In Town
I recently heard “The Boys Are Back In Town” by Thin Lizzy on the radio, and whenever I hear the song it takes me back to the days playing ball with The Walshies … and has me longing to play ball all over again.
And if I do play ball again this summer, I imagine the spirit of Digger and thoughts of The Walshies will be on my mind.
It’s time for The Eddies!
Yes, that long anticipated and celebrated night when Ed gives out awards to recognize excellence in everyday living to people in his life.
Here is Ed arriving on the red carpet with the beautiful and talented Leslie just before the awards show.
And here is Ed on stage greeting the audience as he opens the awards show.
And here are some of the award winners receiving their awards.
And humbled to be receiving an award of his own….
Congratulations to all The Eddies award winners!
Thank you to all of you who demonstrate excellence in everyday living. Keep it up and you might win an Eddie of your own next year.
Be Ed-cellent to one another!
For more about The Eddies go to: https://ednovick.wordpress.com/2014/03/02/the-eddies/
For Ed Novick Comics go to: https://ednovickcomics.wordpress.com/
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It’s almost that time again! Time for The Eddies!
The Eddies are my very own branded awards with my likeness given to some of my friends and family members who have Bitstrip avatars and achieved some noteworthy excellence in life this past year.
For a limited time only, I am now accepting Eddie award nominations.
To nominate yourself for an Eddie award go to https://apps.facebook.com/bitstrips/ and design yourself an avatar that looks like you. If you’re one of my friends or family members and you’ve done something noteworthy this past year, or reached a level of excellence in some area of life, you might receive an Eddie award.
Eddie nominations must be received by noon tomorrow (Sunday).
Nominate yourself for an Eddie – an award you will be proud for the rest of your life if you are fortunate enough to be one of the rare few who receive one.
Eddie awards will be announced Sunday night.
For more information about The Eddies go to:
As I was preparing to write the 200th post on my blog, on Valentine’s Day nonetheless, I was brainstorming what to write about, and the number 200 kept coming up in the news as a sign to me that I was supposed to write about this.
I didn’t write the story on Valentine’s Day as I had wanted to do, rather starting it the next day, and finished it today when I had more time to reflect on what I should be writing.
I kept seeing the number 200 come up in news stories about abuses of women and murders in other countries. Titles like “Rights group report: Sudanese soldiers raped more than 200 women, girls” and “Boko Haram ‘Kidnaps Nearly 200 Villagers, Kills Dozens’ in Nigeria” and “200 Iraqis killed in mass executions by ISIS fighters, Human Rights Watch says” plagued recent headlines.
Yep. The number “200” kept on coming up in the news so it was a sign to me about what I had to write about in my 200th post on my blog.
The fact that it was coming up on Valentine’s Day, a day of love and hearts, helped me to know what I had to say.
Two hundred is a large number. That means these things terrible things didn’t just happen randomly in a small way to a few people. These things happened to a lot of people, and in a horrifying way. Many lives have been forever and irreversibly altered by the crimes against people … and against love … hurting many hearts.
One of those hearts is mine. One of those hearts should be yours. And it should be the heart of everyone who hears of such atrocities against anyone.
While these things may have happened on the other side of the world, they are no less repulsive to mankind.
If they happened to you, or your loved ones, you would be crying out for justice. I would hope that everyone in the world would grieve with you, and work to put an end to the crimes.
Yet such atrocities go on…day after day.
These crimes happen at a core because a certain religion does not respect women. Followers of that religion treat women as lesser citizens. And worse: they treat them as property.
And that’s not all — they have a rigid and oppressive system of thought and beliefs, that they “educate” their “followers” and children to believe and enforce their sick code. Their “education” is a form of mind control to force others to believe and practice what they do…or be killed.
The World Economic Forum puts out a Global Gender Gap Index and rankings that show how far the countries of the world are from equality for women. The United States is ranked 20th. While not as good and equal as it could be, and behind countries like Iceland, Finland, Norway and Sweden at the top of the list, it is still far better than certain countries of a certain religion around the world with Saudi Arabia being ranked 130, Iran 137, Pakistan 141 and Yemen dead last at 142.
Are men and women equal?
There is a 50/50 chance of being biologically conceived a woman. If you are a man, you could have equally had the same chance of being a women.
In numbers sheer numbers, men and women are virtually equal : World population is roughly 50% women.
Why does a certain religion treat women as lesser beings?
A society that treats women with respect thrives far more than one that does not.
What honor is there in disrespecting a woman? What good can come from such a home where women are disrespected or harmed? What good can come from a country that treats its women in such a way?
I want my daughter to thrive in life. I want her to have the same opportunities as my sons.
Wouldn’t you want the same for your daughter?
There are differences between boys and girls, and between men and women. But those differences should be celebrated and respected.
If man was so superior he would be able to bear his own children, something women can do that men can’t. Maybe women are superior. At least most of them respect other women…and life.
So to those male members of certain religions and nations around the world that degrade and abuse women, I ask, “What are you afraid of?” Must you rule over women with an iron hand in order to keep them? Are you afraid of losing them in body, because you can’t win their hearts and love?
And to the rest of us, are we going to just sit there and tolerate such abuses?
I don’t pretend to know what God thinks. But I know what I think. And I think that God did not intend for women, or anyone, to be treated the way that these abusive and murderous men are treating people around the world, misguidedly, in His Holy Name.
God is not dead.
He sees what is happening in all His creation. He hears those who cry out for justice. And He will render it against those who misuse power and harm the innocent and weak. Because one day even the strong will be weak. And then even you who committed those abuses and crimes will know what you’ve done and regret it.
Chivalry is not dead, either.
And you men of a certain religion would do far better if you learned, practiced and taught it to your children. Maybe then you would be loved too.
This is a tragic development: for Little League, for league officials, for the United States internationally, for parents of players, and especially the innocent Jackie Robinson Little League players whose legacy will now be tarnished by the decisions and actions of a particular individual or individuals who were aware of the dishonesty.
But, while I could bore you with an opinion piece about who is to blame for the the debacle (something I don’t know all the facts about), or what should or shouldn’t be done about it (judgment not easily passed without all the facts), instead I’m going to make this personal and come clean about my own experience of “cheating” in Little League.
In 1975 I was drafted by the Marauders, a then minor league Little League team in Midlothian, IL. The team was comprised of 9 to 12 year old players, mostly boys, but we were an unusual exception and had one girl on our team. There were two girls in the league that year.
In my first game as a 9 year old Marauder, I was our starting shortstop. That was surprising, even to me, that as a 9 year old ballplayer I was the starting shortstop on a team that had kids who were older, bigger and better than me. I was a pretty good ballplayer, but not great. I considered my coach’s confidence in me an honor.
The first game that season was played against the Bobcats on a field at Memorial Park in Midlothian, IL.
Early in that first game I remember there was a pop-up hit right to me at shortstop. I got under the ball, reached up for it as it descended to me, and felt it hit my glove. But as quickly as it hit, it popped out of my glove, and I bobbled it repeatedly trying to control it with my hands and body. As the ball bobbled off my hands and body, in what seemed to be slow motion, the ball and I getting lower and lower toward the ground, I lost the battle only to have the ball hit the ground as I curled around it on the ground. I picked the ball up immediately and stood up with it to see what I had to do with the ball to make a play. In my falling to the ground I had turned my back to home plate where the umpire was and had curled my body around the ball. As I got up with the ball the umpire, to my surprise, signaled that the batter was out. He had not seen the ball hit the ground! Many probably couldn’t have seen whether I had caught the ball or not because my back was to the infield and benches and the ball fell to the outfield side of my body as the ball and I hit the ground.
I did not correct the umpire that he was wrong and that the batter should have been safe. I didn’t think it was my place to.
We went on to win that game versus the Bobcats 11 to 6. (I know this fact because The Marauders team for which I played put out a book at the end of the season to record team records and history that year, and every year since then, and we still have every book from the 40+ years of Marauders history since because my dad managed the team in subsequent years and my mom is still the team scorekeeper! In 40+ years of baseball, our family, team and community always did our best to play and honor the game, even if we weren’t perfect.)
We had a 15-2 record that year and went on to win the Midlothian Village Championship. When we won we celebrated our team success like we had won the World Series and had a parade back home to a wonderful team party. It was glorious.
Does my memory of that dropped pop-up, the wrong call by the umpire, and my failure to be totally honest about the error haunt me and make me feel guilty about our team’s success that year?
Not at all.
Why do I bring it up?
I don’t know. Probably because it is interesting as a story and is a personal reflection on what some might consider cheating in Little League.
Did I cheat? Did we win a game we shouldn’t have? Did we win a Championship we didn’t deserve?
I don’t think so. But purists might argue otherwise.
While I appreciate all the efforts of Little League and its officials to organize baseball for for kids, and to do the right thing for all involved, it is not an easy task to sort out the facts and be absolutely fair to everyone effected by what happened. Some Little League districts may be bigger than others. Some Little League districts may have more kids than others.
As much as we love baseball, and want to keep it honest, and fair, and pure, it is not so black and white. From PED’s in Major League Baseball to district boundaries and birth certificates in Little League, there are all sorts of ways to get competitive advantages in baseball. And it happens all the time as much as we don’t want it to or think it shouldn’t.
And sometimes those making the calls just get it wrong.
Let us remember that baseball is a game. We play baseball. We compete in it. We have fun playing it. We enjoy watching it.
It is not work. It is not life and death. It is not a battleground. It is not torture. There are far more serious things in the world to worry about and focus our attention on, especially these days. But we choose baseball to get away from all that.
While the rules serve their purpose, and we have to live with the consequences of the outcomes, let us not forget the sheer fun of baseball, and the joy it brings us. It will never be totally fair at any level. But as long as we’re trying to keep it fair it will always be good.
Maybe Little League should do a better job of policing their rules and policies BEFORE the games are played. That would keep embarrassing things like this from happening in the future.
But like the umpire in my first Little League game, they can’t be everywhere and see everything.
And we should all learn to live with the outcomes, no matter what they are, and be OK knowing that we all did our best.
Kudos to all the innocent players on the Jackie Robinson West team for playing with heart, passion, skill and love for the game. And for bringing many of us thrills one glorious summer. They may take away your championship. But they can’t take away your glorious memories, or your heart of a champion.
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When I was in college at Lewis University in Romeoville, IL, I took a required religious studies class on the New Testament. Christian Brother Ray McManaman was the teacher. I got a lot out of Brother Ray’s class. He offered some very insightful lessons on the Gospel, and it prompted some good discussions.
The lesson I remember most was about the calling of Nathanael.
The passage in particular that we were studying was from the Gospel of John, Chapter 1, Verses 43-51 (NASB). It read:
43 The next day He purposed to go into Galilee, and He *found Philip. And Jesus *said to him, “Follow Me.” 44 Now Philip was from Bethsaida, of the city of Andrew and Peter. 45 Philip *found Nathanael and *said to him, “We have found Him of whom Moses in the Law and also the Prophets wrote—Jesus of Nazareth, the son of Joseph.” 46 Nathanael said to him, “Can any good thing come out of Nazareth?” Philip *said to him, “Come and see.” 47 Jesus saw Nathanael coming to Him, and *said of him, “Behold, an Israelite indeed, in whom there is no deceit (the word “guile” is used in other translations)!” 48 Nathanael *said to Him, “How do You know me?” Jesus answered and said to him, “Before Philip called you, when you were under the fig tree, I saw you.” 49 Nathanael answered Him, “Rabbi, You are the Son of God; You are the King of Israel.” 50 Jesus answered and said to him,“Because I said to you that I saw you under the fig tree, do you believe? You will see greater things than these.” 51 And He *said to him, “Truly, truly, I say to you, you will see the heavens opened and the angels of God ascending and descending on the Son of Man.”
The scripture reading begged the question, and Brother Ray shrewdly asked it and brought it up for discussion, “What happened under the fig tree”? What could have happened that would have brought such a sudden realization and conversion by Nathanael from doubt and skepticism to belief and faith that Jesus was the Son of God?”
The answer: we don’t know. The Gospel does not answer that question.
We offered and discussed some possibilities. Maybe Nathanael was praying to God to answer a prayer under the fig tree. Perhaps he was crying in despair under the fig tree. Possibly he did something deceitful that he thought no one had seen him doing under the fig tree but that he deeply regretted doing under the fig tree at it troubled his soul.
The possibilities are numerous. We just don’t know.
The only other reference to Nathanael in the Gospel of John is in Chapter 21, verse 2, in which Jesus appears to several of his disciples at the Sea of Galilee after His resurrection. So Nathanael did live to see “greater things” evidencing the divinity of Jesus as Jesus had promised.
But something soulful happened under the fig tree. And Jesus was there. He saw it. And he used it to connect with Nathanael and to reveal himself as The Lord.
What is your fig tree?
What would a total stranger have to say to you to make you in an instant believe that they were the Son of God revealing Himself to you?
What moments do you hold in your soul as a defining moment in your life that someone would have to say – “I saw you there. I saw what happened. I saw what you did. I know what you were thinking. I felt your pain. You thought you were alone. You weren’t. I understand how that memory troubles you. I was there with you. I AM” – for you to believe that God IS? That Jesus is Lord? That God loves you? That He wants you to believe, trust in and follow Him?
Nathanael *said to Him, “How do You know me?” Jesus answered and said to him, “Before Philip called you, when you were under the fig tree, I saw you. Nathanael answered Him, “Rabbi, You are the Son of God; You are the King of Israel.” – John 1:48-49
In your moments of weakness, of suffering, of pain, of regret, of despair, of anguish, know that you are not alone. God sees all. His beloved son, Jesus, has been there. He IS there with you. Always. He loves you so. And He wants you to believe and trust in Him.