It's the first day of summer! I will celebrate by reading Fifty-Nine in '84: Old Hoss Radbourn, Barehanded Baseball & The Greatest Season a Pitcher Ever Had, by Edward Achorn, in the back yard, and taking Julie Kistler to lunch!
I have read excerpts from this fun book already and lots of articles on Old Hoss and various articles by Ed Achorn, so this is not my "first pitch," but now I have my own signed copy of the book and can read it straight through from the beginning. A baseball book is perfect summer reading.
Ed Achorn is a wonderful speaker. He was here in town because Charles Radbourn, a great pitcher for the Providence Grays in the days of "barehanded" baseball (yes, no glove--except, say, the swelling up of the catcher's hand!), grew up here, returned after his baseball career, and is buried here. The local history book club read this book together, and the history museum brought Ed here for their annual meeting & special event for members.
After his talk, Ed threw out the first pitch for the Normal Cornbelters at The Corn Crib, against the Evansville Otters. Maybe he'll report on that, at his website or by commenting here, as I did not get to go to the game, just the talk. I think it was a "Fireworks Friday," as I heard a lot of popping later.
And Radbourn himself was quite a firecracker. He had true grit, as they say, pitching through the pain in his arm, and lots of professionalism, as the game was played in those days (1880s), but he eschewed celebrity and bristled against the petty tyranny of baseball owners in those days, who rigged players' contracts so they could be sold to another team, with no say in it, but not sign on with another team, ever.
"He may have worked as loyally as a horse, but he felt little if any devotion to his supposed masters, the men who paid his substantial salary. As far as Radbourn was concerned, the capitalists who ran professional baseball were grasping thieves bent on stealing what was rightfully his."
Please note the flipping of the bird on the book cover.
"You must change your life," said Rilke. So that's what I keep doing. I worked as an actor and director, wrote for an encyclopedia, edited a literary magazine, shelved and retrieved materials in several libraries, walked beans, and taught college English courses. Now I write & edit as a freelancer, blog "eight days a week," study the random, and listen to birdsong.