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April 4, 2013

Baseball, the Divine Game

Harry M. Covert

I can’t resist. I’m glad spring has sprung even if somewhat still chilly and windy. How surprising it might be if forecasters could be accurate and another snow storm finds its way. Maybe some coming Frederick political battles could be cooled.


Can it get any better now? Baseball is under way and the Masters Golf tournament tees off next week.


For a decade I enjoyed umpiring college and high school games, including one Carolina League game in the 1980s. I replaced an ump who took ill after swallowing a wad of bubble gum laced with chewing tobacco. He almost choked to death.


I had the opportunity to umpire an April doubleheader between Duke and Virginia Military Institute. Weather wizards said it might be a chance of rain but Lexington, VA, provided serious snowflakes that day.


Both the visiting Blue Devils from Durham, NC, and the Keydets wanted to play and we did. From the first to the bottom of the sixth inning, the snow grew in intensity. Using my official position from behind the plate since neither the pitcher, catcher, batter nor I could see the ball, I called the game. VMI beat the boys from Duke.


This has been a good week for the Washington Nationals and the Baltimore Orioles. Both had impressive opening wins. The outlook for championships is brilliant.


Tomorrow night the Frederick Keys open their 25th season at Harry Grove Stadium. Omens abound that it will be a successful Carolina League season, too. First and foremost the new manager is Ryan Minor.


Fans will recall that on the night of Sept. 20, 1998, Mr. Minor replaced Hall of Famer Cal Ripken, Jr., who ended his iron man consecutive game streak at 2,632.


The 79th Masters week begins Monday with the tournament teeing off on Thursday. This classy event in Augusta, GA, is something. As a young sportswriter I covered it four times, saw Ben Hogan finish his active career there, and watched such legends as Arnold Palmer, Jack Nicklaus, Gary Player and Tony Lema. They were always good for newspaper copy.


On my assignments to the lush Augusta National Golf Club, the print and broadcast media didn’t mix in the interview room. Once when radio-TV reporters tried to horn in on newspaper reporters, the late Lincoln Werden, of The New York Times, raised a major fuss and personally pulled the plugs of the broadcasters.


The press room was filled with the best writers of the day. Sitting in front of me at the manual typewriters was columnist Red Smith of The Times. He absorbed every day’s activities, never seemingly taking a written note. As others banged away for their respective newspapers, Red looked around the room, smiled and after a few minutes with his thoughts together, turned the sporting event into literary masterpieces.


This week truly gets us all into a new beginning, time to re-think our passions, politics and prose.


Frederick City and county politics has been bubbling and gurgling. The new season of campaigning is under way and the old will be making way for the new.


It’s going to be fun again. The wags and flaks will be inundating us en masse with columns, emails, door knocking and all sorts of ways to lure the public, particularly registered voters, to whatever is hot for the moment.


I’ve always thought baseball had a Divine touch. My Sunday School teacher taught that baseball is biblical. With apologies to King James, et al, “In the big inning, God created Heaven and earth…”


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