The kitchen is clean. The barbeque is in the fridge, waiting to be heated. Beverages are chilling, and snacks wait on the kitchen counter in and in the fridge.
All we need to do here is settle the cats upstairs for the day and open the door to my pals Rick, Rob and Schultz for a day of Strat-O-Matic baseball. It’s the first of two tournaments planned this year, an eight-team event ending in a best-of-three finals. Next fall, we’ll do the same thing; we have not yet decided if we will, as that autumn event ends, then have a best of three series to name a champion for the entire year.
That decision can wait until October or so. We have plenty to decide today. Rob’s 1920 Cleveland Indians are the defending champions, and he’s also bringing into the tournament for the first time the 1911 Philadelphia Athletics. Schultz is bringing back the 1927 Yankees – defending champions of his own autumn tournament in the Twin Cities but underachievers so far here in the north – and is debuting the 1924 Washington Senators.
Rick’s bringing in two new teams, the 1998 Yankees and the 2008 Philadelphia Phillies, and I’m bringing back the 2001 Arizona Diamondbacks – a team that missed the finals two years ago because of a common managerial mistake: I let a tiring reliever pitch to one batter too many – and I’m debuting the 1905 New York Giants.
The baseball, as fun as it might be, is of course no more than a framework on which to hang our tales, our laughter, our long friendships. I’ve known Rick and Rob since 1957, and I’ve known Schultz since about 1970, and whoever wins and whoever loses today, well, it changes nothing. (On the other hand, your faithful narrator would like to win a tournament one of these days.)
And I’ll leave you this morning with a clip from the Ed Sullivan show from April 13, 1958. Ed gathered New York Yankees Whitey Ford, Yogi Berra, Mickey Mantle and Moose Skowron and brought them together with Jack Norworth, one of the co-writers (fifty years earlier, along with Albert Von Tilzer) of “Take Me Out To The Ball Game.” The players and Norworth lead the audience in a spirited version of the old song, and the performance is today’s Saturday Single.