Monday, August 16, 2010

American Legion Baseball

Well, that was exciting!

In yesterday's blog, I talked about how I was going to a book signing yesterday out at the Spokane Indians' baseball field, which is currently being used for the American Legion's 85th World Series. I was looking forward to it - my novel "Until The End Of The Ninth" is about the 1946 Spokane Indians team that died in a bus crash midway through the season. Eight of the nine who died had served in World War II in some capacity. I'm sure they also played American Legion ball, or would have wanted to play it. So signing books at the Legion's World Series - the first time it has ever come to Spokane - seemed like just the right thing to do.

I went. It was great. Great baseball, great people. Great plays. In one play, the second base man from Roseburg, Oregon bare-handed a grounder and then flipped the ball behind his back to his shortstop (since he didn't have an angle to first), who caught it and threw to first, just in time - well, just in time to make it a tie at first, so the runner was safe, by my oh my (as they say in the announcing world) - what a play. Everyone stood, including everyone from both benches, and gave him a standing ovation.

(Can I just say here, I think bare-handed it? I heard someone say that's what he did. It was spectacular, that much I know for sure.)

There were other highlights too. Great baseball! And there was a fly-over, before the start of the second game, of double-winged planes - like the ones used in World War I. There were four altogether, flying in unison. I thought of the 1946 baseball men - from World War II, not I - and thought what it would have meant to them, to have the World Series here, to have this flyover - a reminder of days gone by...

I sat right behind home plate, with a little table and a box of books, intensely in the sun, turning bright red, and people wandered past me with nary a look (or with an odd look, like "why's this woman in the way?" or "shouldn't she have some sunblock on?") and I thought, well at least I get to watch good baseball.

But then I sold a book. Hurray! To a man from Sandpoint, for his son who plays Legion ball.

And then the events organizer and I came up with the great idea of having the PA guy make an announcement over the loudspeaker, that I was there with the book and all. "Terrific book," he said during the announcement. (I didn't even give him that note!)

And that's when we sold 27 more. There was even a line. Very exciting.

All net proceeds are going to the Legion, so it was nice to be able to raise some money for the group. I'm going back on Tuesday for sure - which is the final game, the World Series finale - and maybe tonight (am going to try...).

I've heard much through the years about American Legion baseball. As I understand it, the organization gives kids a chance to play organized ball at increasingly skilled levels. As the linked article states, most major leaguers played American Legion ball at some point. And then they gather every year for a World Series, facing double elimination during the tournament itself. Here's a link to the main page of the American Legion, which is a veterans service organization.

What I loved yesterday was how they started each game with the American Legion creed - about health, and strength, and staying strong in defeat, and humble in victory... I can't find a copy of it on the Internet. Will try to write it down at the next game.

The two teams I'm rooting for - well, I root for all of them, and can't stand to see any of these kids lose - but if I have to choose two teams right now, they are the Roseburg, Oregon kids and the Minnesota team. Roseburg because it's the local team, Minnesota because I've been talking to all the Minnesota families (for some reason). And Minnesota brings me fond memories of the Duluth Dukes - the other minor league team that lost players in a bus crash, two years after the Indians' crash, in 1948. (Two bus crashes in two years, and then nothing more. Thank goodness.) I did a book signing at the stadium in Duluth back a couple years ago. Nice people.

So I hope to be out there at Avista Stadium tonight. And I definitely will be at the stadium for the game on Tuesday evening - or games, if there's more than one because of the double elimination system. I will be there from start to finish tomorrow evening for sure. And maybe tonight, I'll get a chance to sneak in for the game between - gasp - Oregon and Minnesota...

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