Friday, April 12, 2013

A New Spring

Years ago, I found the story of the 1946 Spokane Indians - the team that died in a bus crash midway through that season.  It was the first season after World War II.  Eight of the nine who died had served in the War in some capacity.  I had learned of them in the summer of 2003 and done some research on them for another potential project that never manifested.  So there I was, knowing about this great group of men who had sought one destiny and ended up with another, with no place to share it.

So I decided I had to write about them.  I thought maybe I could write a short story.  A novel appeared instead - ultimately titled "Until the End of the Ninth." (Coming up with the title is another story altogether.)

But between the urge to write and a finished novel, there comes a first word.  For as much as I loved these men and wanted to tell something of their story, I sat without words, in frozen state, with the enormity of the thought of where to begin.

I had a table full of news articles, printed from the microfiche at the local library, all from the spring and summer of 1946.  I randomly pulled out an article.  I would start my writing from there.

It was not a particularly auspicious beginning, is what I thought when I saw the article's heading.  It was from midway through the season - sort of a muddy place.  It was nice that it was an article about a game the team had won - at least I would be writing about a win.  Its headline, from May 16, 1946: "INDIANS STOP NEAR SHUTOUT: Tia Victoria In Ninth; Win In Twelfth."  They did have a way of winning in the ninth (is what I thought when I saw the headline - this was something I already had learned).  So it was a good article to have randomly selected in that way too.

That headline begins Part 2 of the novel.  They were the first words I typed.  From there, I wrote what came to me:

To the Victor goes the Victoria.  Or so it seemed on May 15, 1946, the day the game was played.  Nine was the lucky number - "in the Ninth," the key phrase.  Winning was the ultimate result.  In extra innings, no less.  It was in the ninth that they tied Victoria.  It took more than nine to produce the win.  They needed three more innings that day to get the win. They needed 12 to win.

If they hadn't put it together in the ninth, they would have been shut out.  Silenced for the day.  All that effort, all that batting, all that work, all for naught.

The Indians were lucky to beat Victoria that night.  It took a lot, to beat Victoria like that.  More than perseverance, more than hope - faith too, and maybe a commitment to the mundane.  Always a commitment to the mundane.  Playing day in, day out, game after game, pitch after pitch - and then, in a moment's silence, when all seems statically standstill, someone does something to change the flow, or create it. ...

So what is the consequence when you tie victory in the ninth, and then have the audacity to surge on beyond it, going all the way to the twelfth to beat victory itself?  Is it transcendence?  Or is it a foolhardy version of Russian roulette? ...

It goes on from there, including how they got close quickly that year - perhaps because they were back from the War and were playing for the love of the game - appreciating life itself - "Maybe the war had taught them how to appreciate things like playing in the moment, breathing in the grass, standing in the sun..."

It's baseball season now - a new spring.  Here's to hoping that the people playing ball right now are loving the moments of the game - and are doing something (in a moment's silence, when all seems statically standstill) to change the flow, or create it.

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