I was talking to Larry Colton, once one of the University of California Golden Bears' greatest pitchers, and he was lamenting the University downgrading the baseball program, as are all of the Bear baseball alumni. Sad, really sad, he said. But the upside he told me, is no one will ever break his record of striking out 19 players in one game. Larry has a sense of humor. It's probably what kept him going after he broke his arm and lost his promising pro career with the Philadelphia Philies. I can't imagine what it must feel like to know you have everything it takes to be a pro, and an injury prevents you from becoming one. I suspect it's every college greats' nightmare, and why college players today can't wait to be eligible for their sport's pro. drafts.
I met Larry in Portland in 1974 when I was the assistant coach of the Portland Trailblazers. He wrote one hell of a book about Bill Walton's Trailblazer NBA Championship team. His recent book, Counting Coup, about a Native American women's basketball team is not just meaningful, it's profound, tragic, and superb. Read it!
On the subject of the University of California Bears, I read something absolutely pitiful about the basketball team, something over which the university and the team should hang their heads in shame. Nigel Carter, a walk-on player for Mike Montgomery's Bears' basketball team, because he's a walk-on and a non-scholarship player, cannot eat with his teammates at their training table. He's on his own--Chipolte before games, for goodness sake. Are you kidding? Here's a guy who was admitted to the Univ. of California, one of our country's most prestigious schools, on academic merit, has the courage to try-out for the basketball team, makes the team, becomes a valuable asset to the team for the last two years, and yet the team tells him he's not welcome to break bread with them. Not only am I shocked, I am repulsed. I have no idea what kind of player Carter is since I've haven't seen him play, but he recently scored 16 points in 21 minutes against Southern Mississippi.
Did I miss something reading my sporting green this morning? Did he really say Chipolte? How is it possible his teammates aren't up in arms? Is it possible that Mike Montgomery is that insensitive? What the hell is going on? At its most basic level, sports is about teamwork and camaraderie. Have things changed? If this is what camraderie means for the Bear's basketball team, then maybe the university should consider dropping basketball down to a club team and bring baseball back up.
Here's a fine and wonderfully strange poem about baseball I'm sure Larry Colton will appreciate.
Dream of a Baseball Star by Gregory Corso
I dreamed Ted Williams
leaning at night
against the Eiffel Tower, weeping.
He was in uniform
and his bat lay at his feet
-knotted and twiggy.
'Randall Jarrell * says you're a poet!" I cried.
'So do I! I say you're a poet!'
He picked up his bat with blown hands;
stood there astraddle as he would in the batter's box,
and laughed! flinging his schoolboy wrath
toward some invisible pitcher's mound
-waiting the pich all the way from heaven.
It came; hundreds come! All afire!
He swung and swung and swung and connected not one
sinker, curve, hook, or right down the middle.
A hundred strikes!
The umpire dressed in strange attire
thundered his judgment: YOU'RE OUT!
And the phantom crowd's horrific boo
dispersed the gargoyles from Notre Dame.
And I screamed in my dream:
God! throw thy merciful pitch!
Herald the crack of bats!
Hooray the sharp liner to left!
Yea the double, the triple!
Hosannah the homerun!
* Randall Jarrell (1914-1965) was one of America's greatest
What my musings are all about...
Blogging might well be the 21st century's form of journaling. As a writing teacher, I have always advised my students to keep a daily journal as a way of organizing their thoughts for future writing projects, a discipline I have unfortunately never consistently practiced myself. By blogging, I might finally be able to follow my own good advice.
The difference between journaling and blogging is that the blogger opens his or her writing to the public, something journal- writers are usually reluctant to do. I am not so reticent.
The trick for me will be to avoid cluttering the internet with more blather, something none of us need more of. If I stick to subjects I know: sports and literature, I believe I can avoid that pitfall. I can't promise that I'll not stray from time to time to comment on ancillary subjects, but I will make every attempt to be interesting and perhaps even insightful.