Slow To Anger
“Clap now H-!” he said, clapping his own hands in the process.
She began to clap and asked, “Why daddy, why? What happened?”
“Our team did a good thing. And you clap when that happens,” he explained.
“The purple team?” she asked.
“Yes, the purple team. Remember, it’s like I said earlier. Just watch the crowd. When the people wearing purple clap, then you know it’s time to clap,” he reiterated, “but if you hear clapping and see people in red clapping–then don’t. They are the enemy.”
“Clap when the purple people are clapping?” H- asked.
The father-daughter duo found themselves amidst an afternoon ballgame’s cheering crowd. The team played in a city whose native residents prided themselves on their origins, and the nearly overwhelming amount of fans wearing red illustrated why. Seated next to the pair was one such Cardinal fan who was unafraid to sport that day’s evil color. And next to her sat a teenage daughter who was about to leave for college. This was learned from the bits and pieces of their conversation that could be heard over the PA announcer, H-‘s incessant demand to know when there would be some shade and/or dessert, and the roar of the crowd. This mother, then, was already nostalgic.
“How old is she-” she started to ask, addressing the man. His face wore raised eyebrows and wide eyes which he hoped would express some mix of “Why are you asking me?’ and “She’s not deaf'”, so the woman turned to the little girl. Re-starting, she asked, “How old are you?”
“Four,” H- answered politely.
“And what’s your name?”
“H-,” answered the girl who then had to clarify upon the mother needing help with the slightly uncommon name. “What’s your name?” H- asked in kind.
“B-,” the woman answered.
“Yes, that’s right.”
“What’s your last name?” H- asked, never straying from the divinely ordained interrogation method.
“Watts,” B- answered.
As if used to having to repeat herself, or perhaps simply aware that it was a noisy environment, H- repeated herself calmy, saying, “I said, ‘What’s your last name?'”
B- chuckled at this unforeseen development while shrugging as she looked back at another similarly stationed mother who was seated one row up with her teen and was intently listening in on the interaction. As B- answered H- again with “Watts”, her sunglasses did little to hide her sharpened determination to speak clearly.
It was only after the three of them–father, B-, and the mother from the row above–saw H-‘s perfect expression of almost-frustration as she was about to complete the question for the third time that the problem became clear to everyone but H-.
“H-,” the father asserted, now laughing and shaking his head. (So focused was H- on learning B-‘s surname that this interrupting voice and calming touch on the shoulder could be seen to startle her.) Nonetheless, the man continued, “She’s not asking ‘What?’ She’s saying her last name. Her last name is the word ‘Watts’. Watts.”
“Watts?” H- questioned.
“Yes. Watts,” he answered.
“But we don’t clap when she claps, because she’s wearing red,” H- said.
“That’s right. She’s the enemy,” he said, smiling proudly.
The Father of Second Base?
For all the information, misinformation, and controversy surrounding the origin of the game of baseball, one piece of trivia is rarely mentioned. Whether Abner Doubleday or Alexander Cartwright should be credited as the father of America’s pastime, it seems to me that the more pressing question–the question that nobody is asking–is, “Where would the game of baseball be without second base?”
What you have to understand is baseball began as a competition, similar to cricket, which involved balls and bats and home plate and base. Initially, there were not four bases, mind you, just one. The player would hit the ball and run back and forth between two points in space–home plate and base. What most people don’t bother wondering about is how home plate and this single base (just called ‘base’ as there wasn’t, at that time, another base which necessitated the distinctions “first” and “second”) multiplied into the modern baseball diamond comprised of home plate, first base, second base and third base.
As you are no doubt realizing, the addition of a second base was no trivial matter. Without adding a second base, there would have never been a reason to add a third base, and without third base, there is no baseball diamond. So, we must ask how second base came to be. More to the point, we should want to know who to credit for the addition of a second base. As fate would have it, it was none other than than “father of American music” himself–Stephen Foster.
Having recently penned such classics as “Oh, Susanna” and “Camptown Races”, Foster was a veritable celebrity. He was the man of the hour in the mid-1800s. And he happened to be a bit of a sports nut. No one knows for certain how it happened, but after some light reflection it should be no surprise to anyone that Foster, who became known for writing songs with special emphasis on the refrain, was the man who suggested adding another base to the playing field. After all, it was the addition of second base that gave baseball what some might call musicality.
Think about it. A game where men simply run back and forth between two designated spots offers no real distinguishing excitement, no real flow. But, as we all know and love, if a player makes it to second base on the diamond of today, he is in “scoring” position. Reaching scoring position, then, is similar to the unique characteristic of Foster’s own music. That being, the emphasis on the refrain. As a verse of Foster’s music concludes, everyone knows the refrain is coming, and still everyone can’t wait for it to happen. Regardless the amount of listeners singing the verses, everyone in earshot contributes their own voice to “Oh, Susanna, oh don’t you cry for me!” Is it not the same when the runner reaches second base? Maybe the inning is dragging on, maybe it seems all hope is lost, maybe you are lost in thought trying to remember when they stop serving beer–it doesn’t matter. The minute the runner makes it to second, he might score a run. And if he does, his crossing home plate triggers another batter and extends the offensive strike; in other words, it acts as a refrain. Is there anyone who would attempt to argue that there is any quantifiable difference between crowds cheering upon their team scoring a run and crowds singing “Oh, Susanna, oh don’t you cry for me. Well I come from Alabama with my banjo on my knee”?
I don’t know why I feel its important to bring this to your attention. Not forgetting the little man is just in my nature. Blame my dad. The point is, next time you’re feeling a profound love of the game, toss some of it to Stephen Foster; for who knows where America’s pastime would be if it wasn’t for the “father of American music.”
Happy Birthday Dad. Thanks for the memories.