A good boy


It is coming on six years that Ollie and I have been together.

So I guess he really is about 10 now. The pups don’t come with papers from the humane society. They took a guesstimate of about 4. Sounded good enough for me.

We should take more pains to remind people what we think of them. The same applies to pets, of course. So I scratch Ollie’s ears and tell him I don’t know how I’d have gotten through the last six years without him.

I don’t know that he understands. I like to think he does, and that it’s not just all about the cookies.

I realize Ollie, my first dog, has been the one constant in a long period of change — flux? — that continues still. Departures have left the house quiet. Life arcs have altered completely. New relationships have sprung through the fallen leaves like rogue bulbs, promising all can and will be well.

Ollie holds steady. He wants to walk and sniff and chase the ball through the field. He wants to rough-and-tumble in the den. He wants to nudge me awake because it’s time to eat, and let’s go already! He wants to meet me at the front door every night. He wants to curl on the rug and listen to my guitar or warm his 10-year-old bones by the gas fire.

These things I know are true. These things I know are a welcome anchor. These things I could not do without. These things I thank him for every day, because it’s what you do when you call roll of the blessings in your life.

Talkin’ (more) baseball . . .

Just to continue the Chase Utley dirty-slide, no-dirty-slide discussion a bit longer before Game 3 of Dodgers-Mets tonight, here’s an interesting counterpoint from SportsIllustrated.com to my thought that the Dodgers’ Utley did what players have done in baseball forever — with baseball’s tacit endorsement, despite take-out slides actually being contrary to the letter of the law.


MLB right to suspend Utley, now must ensure play never happens again

The umpires got it wrong on Saturday night. On Sunday, Major League Baseball got it right.

With its precedent-setting suspension of Dodgers second baseman Chase Utley for Games 3 and 4 of the NLDS against the Mets, the commissioner’s office all but admitted that the umps erred by not ruling Utley out for his overly aggressive takeout slide in NLDS Game 2 that ultimately resulted in the tying run scoring and left New York shortstop Ruben Tejada with a broken right fibula.

In the very first words of its statement announcing the suspension, MLB calls Utley’s slide “illegal.” Joe Torre, MLB’s Chief Baseball Officer said, “After thoroughly reviewing the play from all conceivable angles, I have concluded that Mr. Utley’s action warrants discipline. While I sincerely believe that Mr. Utley had no intention of injuring Ruben Tejada, and was attempting to help his club in a critical situation, I believe his slide was in violation of Official Baseball Rule 5.09 (a)(13), which is designed to protect fielders from precisely this type of rolling block that occurs away from the base.”

Read the rest here.


Hard, fast and unfortunate


What happened to Mets shortstop Ruben Tejada via a hard, late takeout slide by the Dodgers Chase Utley in Saturday’s National League playoff game is every middle infielder’s greatest fear.

Catching a throw at second base, touching the base, gripping and throwing the ball to first and jumping up or out of the way before an elite, 200-pound athlete with a running start, metal cleats on his shoes and angry intent on his mind barrels into your lower body and knocks you into left field, as they say, is not easy nor for the faint of body or will.

Tejada was lined up, vulnerable — and wiped out.

Utley, a second baseman, slid straight into Tejada’s legs as the shortstop, after catching a flip from his second baseman at an awkward angle, tried to jump-spin at the bag and throw to first. Instead, Utley flipped Tejada up and over, breaking the shortstop’s fibula.

He was carted off, his leg in an air cast, Utley was ruled safe via a replay challenge, and the Dodgers rallied past the Mets to even their five-game series at 1-1.

You can find ample pages out there dissecting the play, focused on whether Utley was “dirty” or within the rules drilling Tejada as he did. I didn’t see the play live, but I’ve watched it numerous times this morning.

My humble take:

Utley was not dirty. Hyper-aggressive, yes, dirty, no. He employed a legal tactic, albeit from baseball’s Neanderthal days.

Tejada was unfortunate.

And it is all Major League Baseball’s fault.

Like it or not, Utley did what baseball’s interpretive rules give him freedom to do, slide hard into the second-base pivot man. It is interpretive because the rules leave it to the umpires to judge whether or not a runner clearly goes out of his way to interfere with a fielder making a play.

In this case, the issue is whether Utley abandoned all thought of reaching second safely and went directly for Tejada.

Of course, he went after Tejada — because baseball has allowed runners to go after middle infielders for more than a century.

Almost even with the bag, i.e. dangerously late, Utley slid to the right, never touching the base as he undercut Tejada. The irony is Tejada also never touched the bag after he caught the flip.

And it was all made worse for the Mets when Tejada’s failure to touch second was detected on replay and Utley was ruled safe — even though he left the field still without having touched second. And even though umps — wink, wink — routinely allow fielders to simply be “in the neighborhood” of second base, rather than actually touching the base, to record an out before throwing.

It is a mash-up of anger, hypocrisy, bruised egos and bodies that will reach through the rest of this series – that is, beanballs and one or more bench-clearing “brawls” are coming.

And it is one that I believe, thanks to the postseason spotlight thrown on this play and the severity of Tejada’s injury, will resonate through baseball with an overdue rules change.

I believe Utley when he says he didn’t mean to hurt Tejada, only to prevent him from turning a key double play. But I also believe the collision proves the arcane folly of keeping a play like this tacitly within the rules.

The takeout slide has been legislated out of high school and college baseball, to no loss of competitive intensity. As well, MLB a couple years ago banned the ability of base-runners charging to home plate — a la Pete Rose decades ago in the all-star game — to drop their head and shoulders like a linebacker and blast a catcher to prevent a tag or dislodge the ball.

The impetus was the knee that Giants’ star catcher Buster Posey had shredded on such a play. MLB adopted the high school/college rule; catchers can’t block the plate without the ball, and runners must slide into home.

That rule has saved needless injuries at the plate, just as the amateur rule that makes runners slide directly into second — and not detour to either side as Utley did — has prevented broken fibulas throughout the game. It’s also made the controversial “neighborhood” judgment no longer necessary.

It seems to me all that is good, and an obvious overdue adjustment needed at the top level of a sport where seven-, eight- and nine-figure athletes are the brilliant lifeblood.

Gamblin’ Pete Rose won’t understand. That is something we’ll just have to live with.





A Hampton Boulevard Companion

This was fun.

I’d seen Garrison Keillor “perform” before, but this was a casual reading at the Old Dominion Literary Fest.FullSizeRender (1)

As everybody hoped — everybody being about 700 people in the Big Blue Room at the Constant Convocation Center — Keillor rambled and ad-libbed and during it all seamlessly worked in readings of favorite poems and sonnets and memoirs, all delivered in the homespun deadpan fans of his radio show “A Prairie Home Companion” have admired since 1974.

Keillor, 73, is retiring from the show next summer, he says. Letterman. Stewart. Keillor. Giants leaving the broadcast industry within the general proximity. It was great to sit in the front row and listen to Keillor be Keillor, because you never know how long  he’s going to do that now for public consumption.

I wrote the following brief review for the ODU news website I help populate every day. It doesn’t include some of Keillor’s bawdier bits, although none included the “F” word. He is incapable of uttering it, he said., due to his upbringing and sense of propriety. That was clear Minnesota truth, don’t ya know, on another night on which Keillor told tall, sardonic and very funny tales.


Author, humorist and radio host Garrison Keillor regaled an appreciative audience with sonnets, limericks, and passages from his in-progress memoir – as well as winsome tales from Lake Wobegone – on Monday during his appearance at Old Dominion University’s 38th Annual Literary Festival.

“I don’t go to my Episcopal church anymore,” Keillor told the crowd of 700 in the Big Blue Room at the Constant Convocation Center. “They got a new rector who thinks he is the emcee of a variety show. As the emcee of a variety show, I don’t see it that way.”

Keillor, 73, will retire next summer as host of “A Prairie Home Companion,” the popular National Public Radio program he has hosted since 1974.

“I’ll try to tie up the loose ends from Lake Wobegone, and in the fall there will be a new host,” Keillor said at the close of his hour-long appearance. “Then I’ll look forward to listening to the show.”

In his trademark deadpan speaking style, Keillor shared passages from the memoir he is writing: “I have discovered I had a really happy childhood, which I had not known before.”

To applause, he rattled off the “87 counties of Minnesota,” which Keillor said he memorized in 5th grade and raced through recently for doctors to prove his acuity after a health scare.

He also recited what he called the perfect, and only, limerick on the word Syracuse:

“There was an old singer of Syracuse

Who was startled to hear his old dear accuse

Him of rushing and slurring

And thereby obscuring

The words that the writers of lyric use.”

“That’s a monumental piece of work,” Keillor said. “What good does it accomplish, I don’t know.”

Keillor also shared a few of his favorite sonnets, noting: “I have an obligation to write sonnets because I am an English major.”

But on a more serious note, Keillor described his love for composing sonnets like “Supper,” which reads in part:

“It was beautiful, the candles, the linen and silver,

The sun shining down on our northern street,

Me with my hand on your leg. You, my lover,

In your jeans and green T-shirt and beautiful bare feet.

How simple life is. We buy a fish. We are fed.

We sit close to each other, we talk and then we go to bed.”

“To make one’s imagination live within 14 lines of iambic pentameter, with a certain rhyme scheme, is a challenge worthy of an English major,” Keillor said. “To take ordinary things and put them into a form that Shakespeare would recognize is a worthy way to spend an afternoon.”