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Embracing the history of the game

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There are no gloves. The hurler – err, pitcher – delivers the black leather ball underhanded. 

It’s base ball (yes, with a space), and it’s different. It seems backward in this match (game) on Oct. 15 in Greenville, South Carolina, but it’s just the way each club nine – team – likes it.

Each year the Shoeless Joes from the Shoeless Joe Jackson Museum and Baseball Library take on the Georgia Peaches from the Ty Cobb Museum in a vintage baseball game. The teams alternate hosting the game – in Greenville or Cobb’s hometown of Royston, Georgia – using rules from the 1880s. This year the Shoeless Joes are playing host.

Peter Gibbons made the trip from Hartwell, Georgia to play for the Peaches. He’s played in the game a couple of times, and he loves it.

Building a dynasty

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Photo courtesy of Lindenwood University

Tyler Peach is a Laker.

Not one of the Los Angeles variety, per se, but rather an Allendale, Michigan one.

He’s also a part of the most storied – and successful – college dodgeball program in the country. The Grand Valley State University dodgeball team has captured 11 of 16 national titles since the National Collegiate Dodgeball Association was founded in 2005.

When you think of dynasties in college sports, most tend to think of the modern Alabama football teams or 1990s Tennessee women’s basketball or “The U” back in the day.

But there are several non-traditional programs continuing this type of dominance today. GVSU recently captured its 11th national title this year after a 20-2 season. Peach, a former president and now co-captain of the team, is pleased to be a part of history.

“It’s cool to see we’ve been able to keep up with past years and continue to compete and win over such a long period of time,” Peach said. “Just to be a part of that, it’s pretty cool.” 

More than simple

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It’s just sugar, water and fruit with some lemon juice.

Nothing more. Nothing less.

Yet, such simplicity is deceiving. 

At the end of the day, the only one it’s simple for is my paternal grandmother, who has been making jars and jars of pear preserves since the 1940s. For years, various members of my family have attempted — and failed — to replicate what, on the surface, would seem to be the most basic of recipes. We’d look up methods in cookbooks, pick her brain and give it a go only to wind up with the same result.

It’s good, but it’s not quite there and I don’t know why.

The silence of Augusta

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It’s the sound that truly defines Augusta.

An ambient hum that is constantly radiating in the background, magnifying the energy and intensity of the place and the moment. A cacophony of chatter, laughs and cheers that ripple from one corner of course to another. 

For those four days in April each year, there’s a buzz that permeates Augusta National Golf Club. It’s a sound — a “something” — that is hard to describe unless you’ve set foot on the historic course. It ebbs and flows, rising up to deliver celebratory roars that shake the earth before settling back down into that steady, dependable hum.

In 2020, however, the grounds fell quiet. 

No laughter among patrons shuffling through the concession stands. No greeters welcoming you to The Masters upon entry. No groans over missed putts that just slide by the hole. No roars reverberating throughout the course to signal a player making a charge.

Instead, there was just silence.

Thanks for being a friend Superstore

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So, let’s talk a little about Superstore.

Tonight, this sweet, hilarious and incredibly reflective show ends a six-year run with a little bit of fanfare but none of the awards it so richly deserves. 

There are countless, thoughtful takes on this show that promise to be exceedingly more well-written than this, and I encourage you to go find them. For instance, this piece by Scott Tobias for the New York Times is great, while this essay in Vulture by Kovie Biakolo is a brilliant take on the importance of representation in Superstore. They’re both wonderful reads.

More than that, if you haven’t watched Superstore, I strongly encourage you to add it to your viewing list and catch up on one of the most clever and charming sitcoms to be released in quite a while.

Given that my storytelling skills likely are not as artful and nuanced as others who can tackle the social importance of the show, I’d instead like to tackle why Superstore has made a lasting impression on my family this past year. That’s because, if I’m being honest, it wasn’t a show we were naturally drawn to. Sure, we had seen promos for it since its debut in 2015, but the promise of The Office set in a big-box store just didn’t do much for us.

That, of course, was our error. 

Still in Dale Earnhardt’s shadow, NASCAR leans into future

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Photo courtesy of Joe VanHoose

It’ll be 20 years Thursday since Dale Earnhardt, the greatest NASCAR driver of his generation, died on the last lap of the 2001 Daytona 500. 

No, that can’t be right. 

How can it be 20 years since my greatest hero was found to be mortal? I can still remember being bummed with my mom at Daytona International Speedway the Thursday prior when Earnhardt lost the lead on the last lap of his Daytona 500 qualifying race. I can still remember racing off to my job at Baskin Robbins as FOX left the air that Sunday, my mom saying to me, “I don’t like this” as I walked out the door. 

Me neither.

I remember the phone call from my brother at work. Fortunately, the ice cream parlor was empty. 

“Dale’s dead,” my brother’s voice told me directly. That’s when I found out, but I already knew. 

NASCAR changed forever that day, and it’s been changing ever since. An entire generation of drivers have come and gone since Earnhardt helped steer it to national prominence. It’s hard to say what he would think about NASCAR’s path it has been on since he left us. 

Is Twitter the new AM radio?

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Photo by Tracy Le Blanc via Pexels

Part of the challenge, you see, was trying to get a clear signal.

Really, it was an artform — shifting the knob ever so slowly, ever so softly, a degree to the right or left, hoping to boost the volume a bit while tamp down the static just enough to make out what was going on. 

I’d squint and sigh, inching the dial back and forth in what all too often was a futile attempt to secure an unfettered, unhindered reception. It didn’t really matter. The crackle that would accompany Larry Munson’s voice as he fretted his way through a Georgia game only heightened the experience.

For generations of sports fans, the radio was the only way you could connect with your favorite team week in and week out, ensuring you didn’t miss a single play. From Munson urging Lindsay Scott to run to John Ward correcting himself after a Notre Dame field goal slid by the goal posts to cap off a Tennessee victory, it was these voices that brought our favorite teams into our living room.

Today, we don’t need the radio. 

It only hurts so bad because you care so much

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Photo of Aaron Murray and Todd Gurley at the 2012 SEC Championship Game courtesy of Parrish Walton

Stop me if you’ve heard this one before.

There’s this longtime underdog team. Much of its existence has been a mixture of a few tantalizingly close highs balanced out by a preponderance of underachieving lows. The fans are loyal and true, but they’re growing more and more restless. The years of falling just short are wearing on them. 

They’re ready to win. Finally.

The team makes it to a championship game. Everything is on the line. The thing the loyal fans have wanted for so long seems within reach. 

And things are going great! The underdog has built up a pretty big lead early against an opponent that has long dominated the sport. Surely, this is the year it all comes together. This is the time they finally break through.

But … they don’t. 

There are some confusing coaching decisions. The once confident players now seem suddenly unsure. Anxiety builds among the fanbase. That dreaded, familiar feeling washes over them.

Here it comes again.

Wrestling with the Hall of Fame

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Photo courtesy of Marc Lancaster

In the years before I crossed the threshold to become a Baseball Hall of Fame voter, I always swore I wouldn’t be one of those writers who yo-yoed on candidates from year to year. 

Some voters’ apparent distinction between a “first-ballot” Hall of Famer and a run-of-the-mill Hall of Famer — like the handful who dropped previous support of other candidates to vote for Derek Jeter and no one else last year — made no sense to me. Hall voting is mostly, though not entirely, a function of statistics. And it’s not like any of these guys’ statistics change from year to year once they retire. 

Yet there I was late last month, agonizing as always over which boxes to check, reevaluating a couple of players who have been on the ballot for years and never received a vote from me. 

‘A right jolly old elf’

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Photo courtesy of @OfficialSanta

It’s Christmas Week, and we figured there’s no better topic to dive into this week at Beyond The Trestle than that of a big guy himself – Santa Claus. 

The world’s most famous gift-giver has a history that spans more than 1,700 years, with geographic roots that are as diverse as Asia Minor and Scandinavia. He’s been viewed as a cheerful, round grandfather figure who delights in the joy of children, as well as a truly weird, fairly terrifying hairy beast that demands offerings and sacrifices.

Fortunately, the story of Santa today is one of merriment and joy. So, in the spirit of the season, we’ve decided to dive into the history of Santa by asking a few key questions and sharing the origins of his story.

Let’s dive in.