Braves Beat Indians, Then Indians Beat Braves

I don’t remember when Parmenter Elementary School dismissed classes on Wednesday, October 6, 1948, but I do know that I was out the door in a flash.  Something was happening and I wanted to know about it.  The Boston Braves were in the World Series, and this was the day of the opening Series game!

Were they winning or losing?  As I remember, my mom picked me up from school that day, a somewhat unusual event.  And we had a new car with a radio, a 1948 Oldsmobile, replacing the ’37 Chevy that had gotten us through WW II, when there were few new cars available.  It was a cool, gray afternoon, and I might have heard the end of the game at home on the radio, if not in the car.  It was a short game, lasting only 1:42.   So if it started at 1:00, as I think games did then, it may have been over when I got home.

Spahn and Sain

Warren Spahn and Johnny Sain each won a game in the 1948 World Series

I remember people talking about the “pickoff play.”  That play decided the game.  The Indians had started their ace, Bob Feller.  Feller had started pitching in Cleveland in 1936 at the tender age of 17, was coming into his prime when the war started, and lost almost four whole years in the shank of his career (age 23 through 26) in the military.  But in 1948 he was an all-star for the seventh time, going 19-15 with an ERA that had crept up to 3.56 and would never go below 3.00 again.  The Braves threw Johnny Sain, part of the Braves’ famed “Spahn and Sain and two days of rain” rotation.  Indeed, the pair had been instrumental in the Braves’ wrapping up the NL flag by winning 14 of 15 games in a streak from September 6 through 21.  At one point the two of them started and won eight out of 11 straight games.  Sain won six in a row, all complete, in the streak, and seven of nine complete-game starts for the month.  His season was 24-15, with a 2.60 ERA.

The two pitchers were throwing a dual shutout as the game entered the eighth inning.  In that frame, Feller walked Bill Salkeld, a slow-footed catcher.  He was replaced by a slightly less slow-footed catcher, Phil Masi [at whose sporting goods store I bought, a couple of years later, a Ted Williams autograph bat].  Masi was sacrificed to second, and Eddie Stanky (a .320 hitter that year) was walked intentionally to bring up Tommy Holmes (a .325 hitter) and thereby create a force play at third.

pickoff

Pickoff Play that Decided Game 1, 1948 World Series

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

At this vital juncture Feller and shortstop-player-manager Lou Boudreau tried to pick Masi off second using a timing play in which each one counted to a certain number, and then Boudreau went to the base and Feller wheeled and threw.  It looked like they had Masi, but the ump said the tag was up his arm, and his hand had reached the base first.  There were, of course, no replays, as the medium of television was in its infancy, though this Series was broadcast regionally for the first time.  The still photos have a quality just slightly better than your average security camera these days, since high-speed black-and-white film and telephoto lenses were also in their infancy.  But those photos do seem to show that Masi was out.  Tommy Holmes then ripped a single down the third base line and Masi scored the game’s only run.

That was the game I remember best, because of the close call.  The Indians came back to win it four games to two, and when Feller pitched again he was matched against journeyman Nelson Potter.  Spahn relieved Potter in the 4th, however, and ended up the victor as the Braves rallied for an 11-5 win.  So Feller lost to both Sain and Spahn, never won a Series game in his illustrious career, and ended with a Series career ERA of 5.06.  In the six games of 1948 each team scored 17 runs, all the games except the Spahn victory were close, and the Braves both outhit and out-erred the Indians.  Satchel Paige, in his first big-league year at age 41, pitched one inning for the Indians.  There were two games shorter than the first game in the Series, at 1:31 and 1:36.  The longest took 2:39.  How times change.  Perhaps most notably, the six-game series was played in six consecutive days, with no time off for travel.  I guess the “Water Level Route” from New York/Boston to Chicago must have provided a quick and easy train ride from South Station to Cleveland and back.  And at least you could sleep in the Pullmans.

I don’t know of any other major sports championship ever played between two teams with native American nicknames, until these same two teams met in 1995, when the Braves won.  And this one almost didn’t happen.  The Indians and Red Sox tied for the American league pennant in 1948.  The Indians won a single-game playoff in Boston, when the Sox inexplicably started Denny Galehouse when more skilled and experienced hurlers were available.  Lou Boudreau hit two home runs and the Sox lost 8-3.  We almost had an all-Boston series.  And that Sox loss made the Braves’ victory on October 6 much more special to at least one nine-year-old fan.

©Arnold J. Bradford, 2016

Close Encounters of the W&OD Kind

Yesterday was the first day since about early June that I would call truly comfortable.  El niño, climate change, or both, have made this summer truly miserable in the mid-Atlantic states.  The sky was clear, the air was dry, the breeze was from the northwest.  At breakfast time the temperature was in the low 60˚ range.

Energized by the weather, I took off for a cruise to Herndon in mid-morning.  Before I got back I had two very unusual encounters, not unknown to frequent riders on the trail, but firsts to me.

I got out to the west Herndon Trailside Park, with its skateboard facilities, thinking that the skateboarders there were enjoying their last week of free and easy fun; those boarding next week would be playing hooky.  After a brief rest I headed back, feeling cool and fast, enjoying the tailwind.  Suddenly the only rider I could see, about 50 yards ahead of me, went down like a sack of potatoes.  It was as abrupt as the moment in the 2004 Tour de France when Lance Armstrong caught his handlebar in a musette bag held by a fan beside the road: the fall was definitive and heavy.

When I got there a few seconds later he was just rolling over, a middle-aged guy with a small backpack, somewhat heavy-set, wearing glasses, a t-shirt and cycling shorts.  He had road rash on the left side of his left knee, and more severely on his left elbow and upper arm.  He said there wasn’t much pain, and he thought he could make it back to his start point.  Then he tried to lift his left arm.  He was suddenly in a world of hurt.  He said he’d had rotator cuff issues, but this seemed different, located below and inboard from the tip of his shoulder.  He got up, in more severe pain (shock wearing off I suppose), and walked over to the chain-link fence that marked the border of the Herndon Centennial Golf course to compose himself.

Trek

Trek Madone 9.2 in “Stealth Fighter” matte black

Meanwhile two other riders passed.  The first stopped, and we discussed what we might do.  We waved off the second.  The fallen rider came back and talked of riding one-handed back to his start point at the Route 28 overpass.  We both thought that was a bad idea, and convinced him to call his wife.  He explained that he fell because he caught a little bit of the grass at the side of the trail, and then lost control when his wheel caught a rut in the grass.  Looked to me as if the front wheel abruptly turned 90˚ left, and he was thrown by his momentum.  Not just a “fall.”  [His bike, by the way, was a Trek Madone series, I think a 9.2 ($5000-$5500) in “matte Trek black/ gloss Dnister black” that everybody thinks is so cool right now.  Ironically, one can also get these bikes in a variety of color combinations that are actually attractive.  Guess his Bontraeger R3 slicks did not handle the grass well.]

The guy turned out to be a former Air Force pilot (Lt. Colonel) who since then has been a captain for Eastern and then United.  He was saying this when another rider came by, and she (on a matte black Felt with green highlights) was an orthopedic nurse.  What luck!  The other would-be assistant left while she got the victim’s symptoms, sized things up as a probable dislocated shoulder, and directed us to the next intersection, Ferndale Avenue, and just down the road to the golf course.  She was determined to wait with him by the street, but then decided he’d fare better out of the sun, so she got the golf course to provide a van to take him to the clubhouse, some ice for his shoulder, someone to carry his bike, and shelter in the shade.  Once all that was settled we took off.  He had

Airbus

United Airbus 320 Not Being Piloted by Fallen Rider

determined he needed to go straight to Emergency Care.  Interesting how he, like most of us, realize only slowly the full implications of a serious situation.  We begin by assuming it’s just a minor interruption to our day, even if it truly means we can’t possibly pilot our Airbus A320 to Houston and Philadelphia the next day, as planned.

The other encounter was briefer and sillier.  I was nearing the top of the low hill between Vienna Community Center and Cedar Lane, almost home, when a vehicle crested the rise.  Vehicles on the Trail are not as uncommon as they should be; I had thought earlier on this ride that it was a rare day because I hadn’t seen one.  No Park Ranger truck, no mower with its huge circular blade on an hydraulic arm, no subcontractor out to prune trees, no electric company vehicle to work on the lines or some wayward transformer.  But here was a vehicle, with headlights on.  It soon was evident that this was a civilian car, moving very slowly.  Another cyclist only a little behind me and I immediately started shouting.  “This is the bike trail. No motor vehicles are allowed.  Get off of here! You can’t be here.”  The car stopped.  It was a red sedan with Virginia plates.  The driver was easy to see and hear because his window was already down. He looked middle eastern, wore sunglasses, and spoke with an accent.  “I know I shouldn’t be on here.  I made a wrong turn.  How do I get off?”  Our advice was to turn around and go back to Cedar Lane.  As he moved on ahead to begin the turnaround process, we two cyclists looked at each other.  “What the hell?” the other one asked.  “Takes all kinds,” I said.

When I got to Cedar Lane a half-mile later I looked back.  There was no sedan to be seen, so I don’t know what he did.  I crossed the street, rode the last half mile, and mused on one of the stranger rides I’ve ever had.

©Arnold J. Bradford, 2016

Nature Report

Last Saturday my ride launched at about 11:30 in 77˚ weather.  It had been cloudy and even threatening for part of the morning, but finally things broke up into bright sun and copious cumulus clouds.  The sun was as yellow as the button in the middle of the asters by the side of the trail, the clouds as white as the circular doilies of Queen Anne’s Lace in the meadows nearby, and the patches of sky in between those clouds as blue and intense as the first blossoms of the copious Cornflowers that were newly opened everywhere.  All felt fresh and new after the midweek downpours ensuing from a slowly moving frontal boundary.

It being Saturday and school being newly out, every Weekend Warrior and their whole family—Warrior spouse, kid on a bike, and toddler on a tricycle—was out on the trail, so one had to ride with one’s eyes open.  The line for the light at Maple Avenue was about ten people long.

Apparently the animals felt the same way about the coming of nice weather.  Outbound from Vienna, along Difficult Run, I spotted a terrapin on the trail ahead.  It was traversing at a testudinarian pace from right to left, and had almost reached the center line.   So I veered slightly to the right to pass.  Just as I got to the terrapin a rider coming the other way stopped smack in the middle of her lane, reached down, and picked the reptile up to help it complete its journey safely.  The angle of her lean, however, brought her head, shoulders, and arm onto my side, and I just avoided a glancing blow.  Weekend warrior behavior.

I went on all the way to the skateboard park at the west end of Herndon, but I promised not to further discuss this topic, so I will not report that it was my first ride to my former regular westbound turn-around point.  On the way back there is a long downhill stretch from Michael Faraday Ct. to Hunter Mill Road, featuring a speedy, leafy descent from Sunrise Valley to Buckthorn Lane, with a short, steep rise just before Buckthorn.  Along that stretch an animal ran right into the buzz-saw of my front wheel.  I suspect it was a squirrel, because they characteristically cross roadways in frantic, demented dashes, featuring instant 180˚ turns if they see a vehicle coming in mid-dash.  Could have been a chipmunk.  In any case, this one dashed straight into the spokes from about 20” away.  Why it didn’t see me coming I can’t imagine.  But the spokes were revolving so fast—I was probably traveling at about 22 mph—that it made a fur-muffled bump sound and bounced straight off again, grazing my right shoe, which was on the downstroke.  I barely saw it, because needless to say I was focusing on the road ahead.

Immediately I heard an approaching rider exclaim “oh dear.”  I didn’t brake or stop pedaling, because it would have been to no avail.  I have no veterinary skills, nor do I carry needles with units of tetanus vaccine, or leather gloves.  I am not equipped on any level to render assistance to wounded wild animals.  I assume it was the worse for the collision.  If it died, my major regret is that it did not live out its role in the food chain by providing a meal to some hungry predator, a hawk or a fox.

About a mile inbound from Hunter Mill, headed for Vienna, I saw another Weekend Warrior stopped in the lane ahead of me.  I reckoned it was somebody on their cell phone, or with a mechanical.  As I approached she was looking ahead, not at me, so I said “on the left” and swung around her.  Then I saw what she was looking at: a long Black Rat Snake, wriggling again from right to left, crossing the trail ahead of her.  Its head was in the grass on the far shoulder and its tail just past the center line, with a set of slithering S-curves worthy of the Shenandoah River.  Straightened out, it would have to have been at least 5 feet long.  Too late to stop, I swerved back to the right in front of her and just missed the snake.  I said “sorry, I didn’t see that!” as I passed.  She laughed and said “neither did I at first.”  So glad not to have injured a large reptilian eater of vermin and (less happily) bird eggs and baby birds.

runner lunge

Department of Silly Walks: Runner Lunge

After all that action I didn’t know what to expect today, equally warm and sunny, though a bit more humid.  But I found: nothing.  The closest I came was the mundane, familiar domestic scene of an immature English Sparrow, now fully as large as its parent, standing in the middle of the trail, flapping its wings, chirping helplessly, demanding to be fed (before going back down to the basement to play more video games).  And then there was the exerciser, in tank top, spandex pants, walking shoes with low socks, and a pink baseball cap with an oversize brim about as big as the one Jayson Werth wishes he had yesterday.  She was blending yoga and walking by making each step a Runner Lunge.  As I passed I was SO tempted to say “Perfect for the Department of Silly Walks!  John Cleese has nothing on you.”  But I didn’t.

Still, you never know what you’re going to run into on the W&OD.

©Arnold J. Bradford, 2016.

Herndon

This brief posting is just to document that yesterday, on a cool, clear, breezy day, I got to my old westbound turn-around point, downtown Herndon.  For years I looped off the W&OD on the way west to climb Hunter Station Road, which has a steep incline of about 14% for about a quarter mile.  I gave that up as a normal routine several years ago when my heart rhythm wouldn’t take it.  Instead I extended the ride to west Herndon, but here is my original spot, exactly 11 miles from home, making a nice 22 mile ride.  You’re looking at the scene from the north side of the trail, where I am sitting on a bench.  Note the old station, the baggage wagon, the semaphore signal, and the plaza to the left with the table and umbrella, a new twist.  You can perhaps make out that the station door on the right has some stained glass panes, 1890s style.  So nice to be there again!  I promise that henceforth I shall continue to progress in my recovery without marking every small step with a blog posting.

herndon station

Herndon Station on the W&OD, my westbound turn-around point

 

Turn-Around Point

Last Friday, for the first time in over a year, I pointed my bike eastward on the W&OD.  After about a mile on this ride there’s a relatively steep incline, as the trail curls around Idylwood Park and parallels I-66 to reach the overpass at Virginia Avenue.  It’s enough of a kick to test my legs for the day.  [I used to live near the overpass, and remember walking out to the overpass to see traffic jammed by severe freezing rain, Rolling Thunder, and other freak phenomena.]  It was a real effort, but I made it.  After the corresponding downhill, the trail runs straight east, over West Broad Street (Route 7), through the City of Falls Church, and then across Lee Highway (Route 29).  There it fragments into several alternate routes, all of which lead back to a single trail in Benjamin Banneker Park.

Now going more southeast, the trail runs along the edge of I-66, separated by a metal sound barrier, then eases away from the highway about where the Custis Trail splits off on a more easterly vector to Rosslyn, the Key Bridge, and the Mount Vernon Trail.  But the W&OD heads gently toward Shirlington, underpassing Wilson Boulevard, Carlin Springs Road, and Arlington Boulevard.  Along the way there are a couple of bridges over Four Mile Run, and one place where you can go through Bluemount Park on the Four Mile Run Trail before rejoining the W&OD.  That route is so narrow and bumpy (thanks to tree roots under the pavement) that I just stay on the W&OD.  Before you get to the Columbia Pike crossing there’s a drainage pond on the left that has great water plants and turtles on logs, in season.  There’s also another chance to go on the Four Mile Run Trail, right along the Run itself, with its picturesque waterfalls, rapids, and peaceful nature, all the way down to Walter Reed Drive.  Staying on the W&OD, at Columbia Pike there’s now a nice rest area with fountain, benches, and plantings.

Turnaround

My Turn-Around Point and Eastern End of the W&OD Trail

After another short downhill to George Mason Drive, the Trail is right along Four Mile Run Drive, flat and sunny, with community vegetable gardens on the left, now full of onions and cabbages, with hopeful tomatoes, peppers, beans, cukes, and melons for later in the season.  It ends where it meets Shirlington Road, though right across that road is the continuation of the Four Mile Run Trail that connects with the Mount Vernon Trail at National Airport.  Used to be that you’d have to cross I-395 on a pedestrian overpass a couple of block south, but now it’s all an underpass, albeit a long and fairly dark one, especially if you’re wearing sunglasses.  So Shirlington is the W&OD terminus, and simultaneously the gateway to longer rides.

Last Friday it was my terminus too.  I had committed to the full 10.1 miles  each way.  The risk factor was the ride back.  All the way from Shirlington to the I-66 overpass it is a relentless, though gradual, uphill, with the exception of those quick up-and-down over- and underpasses, and one truly flat stretch of about a mile in Falls Church.  By the time I got back to the climb up Virginia Avenue, I questioned my reserve strength.  I decided to ride on the trail rather than the street, even though the trail is essentially the sidewalk for a block of houses, and there are people on it a lot.  I figured it would be a safer place if I had to dismount.  I did not need to, but my bike was in its lowest gearing—smallest chainring and largest cog—for the last couple of hundred feet.

Two years ago I always included an off-trail loop through North Arlington just to get some real hills in and add about three miles to the ride.  But I was happy this time just to get to my first pre-treatment turnaround point and back with no real problems.  I’ll get that loop back into the picture soon enough.

©Arnold J. Bradford, 2016

Comfort Zones

A couple of weeks ago I took to my bike again, following a long patch of rainy weather that necessitated my riding my indoor trainer, and a week away from home.  The later spring blossoms along the way included blackberry and wild rose, their natural copious abundance increased by cool weather and rainfall that assured they’d “pop” once we had a couple of days of seasonal sunshine.

Normally they crowd up to the edge of the W&OD Trail, leaving no doubt of their presence.  But this year the Regional Park Authority spent a lot of time in the early spring cutting back trailside brush to about 15’ to 30’ along both sides of the trail, except in places where it cuts through terrain in a way that results in steep inclines immediately off the pavement.  The result looked very “scorched earth” in March, but now it has mellowed a little bit, despite the herbicides used to dampen [even they could not “halt”] bamboo growth.

Still, for old berry pickers like me, foragers from the ‘70s era of Euell Gibbon’s Stalking the Wild Asparagus, comfortable access to blackberry bushes is a nice perk.  We’ve had a few trailside quarts here and there.  And this would have been a good year, given the 7.43” of rain recorded in Vienna this May.

Wild rose

Wild rose blossoms.

The bushes were still close enough for me to enjoy my late-May rides, because the seasonally humid, close air concentrated the fragrance of the roses.  I’d be riding along, and there would be a stretch of a couple of hundred feet where the air was richly laden with the deep, sweet aromas of the roses’ perfume.  As I wrote here some years ago, it’s easy to tell roses and blackberries apart if you know what you’re looking for.  Both have five white petals in each blossom, and both have clusters of blossoms in similar patterns.  But blackberry blossoms are more slender and ever so slightly greenish, while the broader rose blossoms are equally slightly pinkish.  Likewise, blackberry leaves are on the bluish side of the green spectrum, while rose leaves are inclined, again ever so slightly, to the yellowish side.

While smelling the roses literally, I have been smelling them figuratively as well.  A couple of days ago I took a quantum leap by increasing my riding range from 15 ½ to 21 ½ miles.  I hadn’t really planned to go that much farther, but it was a great day, cool, sunny, dry, and the place I had planned to turn around offered no place to rest.  So I just went on.  Luckily, the terrain between Wiehle Ave. and Van Buren St. is relatively flat, with only one dip and one overpass.  My new turnaround is only about a mile and a half from my old standard turnaround on the W&OD going in that direction, so it may not be too long before I am doing my whole “old normal” ride.

That said, I’m probably only about 75% of normal strength, but a lot of that is just building conditioning back.  I still am fatigued more quickly, and my overall pace is a couple of ticks slower.  But I’m already motivated to push the envelope of my new comfort zone.  And pretty much the whole summer lies ahead!

©Arnold J. Bradford, 2016

Leicester City F. C.

It seems that in the world beyond our shores (where they use the term “football” for a sport that actually requires all players except keepers to manipulate the ball with their feet), an upstart football team, Leicester City F. C., the Foxes, have won the British Premier League Cup after beginning the season at 5,000 to 1 underdogs (underfoxes?).  I heard a team member the other night on a sports show make a snarky remark about how Americans can’t pronounce the name of their fair city.

Leicester city

Leicester City F. C. in triumph mode.

Well, as a New Englander born and bred, I can assure all the fine gents of Leicester City that we in the American northeast can and do pronounce it correctly.  That’s because Massachusetts, along with the rest of New England, has its own fair share of English place names, reflecting the origins of our Pilgrim and Puritan fathers, mostly from the south coast of England.  We’re used to places that don’t sound like they’re spelled, such as Gloucester (Glaw-stuh), Leominster (Lemmin-stuh), and Worcester (Wuss-tuh).  Why, we’ve even got our very own local Leicester (Less-tuh) in central Mass.  Of course there’s also Dorchester, Winchester, and Rochester, that are pronounced just the way they’re spelled.  Don’t ask me why; that’s the quirk of the English tongue, that makes America and Britain the “two nations divided by a common language.”

Enjoy the aura of your cup victory and your upcoming play in the Champions League, Leicester City!  We Bostonians know what it means to savor a triumph by an underdog, and we can say so properly.

©Arnold J. Bradford, 2016.