Baseball, Hot Dogs, Apple Pie and Memorial Day
Too much me and not enough Candace at Safeco Field on Sunday. She's wearing the new M's cap she bought—flat brim, as the kids do.
I went to the Seattle Mariners game on Sunday afternoon with a friend from Australia, Candace, who's lived in the states for five or so years, had never been to an MLB game, and always wanted to see one. She saw a not-bad one: a 3-1 victory over the Minnesota Twins in a quick two and a half hours under blue skies. M's scored two with two outs in the bottom of the 8th. Our earlier run came on a Kyle Seager homer that we didn't see; we were standing in long slow line to get a Mariner Dog. Yep, the hot dog, too. She wanted the whole experience.
This baseball lesson wasn't like the one with my friend from Lebanon. Candace had played softball growing up so she knew the rudiments—although I did remind her about nine innings, visiting team batting first, three outs, etc. I gave examples of outs: ground, fly, strike. She asked about the guys wearing black and I said they were the umpires. I said there were four here but six in the postseason. She asked what the postseason was. I told her. I told her you could tell the teams apart because the home team tended to wear white and the road team gray. I added that my father told me that when he took me to my first MLB game when I was about 4 years old. I still remember him telling me. Maybe because it added clarity to the proceedings. “Ah, so I root for these guys.”
I also told Candace the “Yo La Tengo” story. Just not as well as Roger Angell.
Throughout, she peppered me with good questions. She asked if the best hitter batted first. When a Mariner finally got aboard with a single, she asked why there were two Mariners on first base, so I had to explain about first/third-base coaches and what they did. I told her that traditionally the fastest guy batted first, but over the years it's evolved to where you want someone who isn't slow with a good OBP at the top of the lineup. I explained OBP and batting average, and how you calculate both: percentages to the thousandth rather than hundredth point. I told her what a clean-up hitter was.
She seemed most impressed by, or made the most noise about, foul balls ricocheting back. We were 300-level behind homeplate so I didn't give a second glance to most of them, but she was worried for the other fans. “Do they get hit often?” she asked. I replied: “Thrown and batted balls can be dangerous. The Seattle Mariners and Major League Baseball wish fans a safe and happy...blah blah blah.” You'd think I'd know this official warning verbatim by now. In my younger days, with a spongier brain, I would have. Oh, I then told her about Carl Mays and Ray Chapman. That was chilling to her.
There was one question she asked that I couldn't answer. She said that for a holiday that felt like it should be about quiet with remembrance, everyone seemed fairly loud and celebratory during Memorial Day weekend. I nodded and said that's the nature of American holidays. We want to honor a thing but we wind up whooping it up for the day off. Plus we‘re not particularly good at history or remembering. Cf., Bowie:
Do you remember your President Nixon?
Do you remember the bills you have to pay
Or even yesterday?
The question I couldn’t answer? “Why was Memorial Day at the end of May? Was it tied to some battle?” Yesterday morning, Memorial Day morning, I looked it up. Apparently the holiday began in the South during the Civil War and spread North after the war. It's not only about remembering war dead, of course, but placing flowers on their tombstones. Which is one possible answer as to why it's held during the last Monday in May:
The first northern Memorial Day was observed on May 30, 1868. One author claims that the date was chosen because it was not the anniversary of any particular battle. According to a White House address in 2010, the date was chosen as the optimal date for flowers to be in bloom in the North.
That second answer makes the most sense.