Editor’s Note: As part of our occasional Way Back Wednesday feature, today we travel back to a column written long, long ago, in a Gigaplex far, far away on May 3, 2014. In this column, we covered the unofficial holiday of Star Wars Day in the pre-Disney+ era of Baby Yoda. As you await the release of Obi-Wan Kenobi, as well as the return of the aforementioned Baby Yoda, please enjoy this column on how the world of baseball celebrates Star Wars Day and as always, May the Fourth be with you.
This Sunday is May 4th. In many Ballparks in galaxies both near and far, far away teams will be celebrating in blockbuster ways in honor of a little science fiction franchise that first hit the global scene before most of the current professional ballplayers were even born.
For those who may not be aware, May 4th is known as Star Wars Day due to a pun surrounding a popular phrase found in the films.
That phrase of course is “May the force be with you,” which can easily translate to “May the fourth be with you.”
For years baseball teams have celebrated May 4th in the Ballpark, but how many times can you really dust off that storm trooper costume to throw out the first pitch before it gets a feeling of been there done that?
With teams looking for creative and new ways to celebrate Star Wars Day it was only a matter of time until May the Fourth was celebrated on a Minor League Baseball diamond in the form of players wearing Wookie jerseys.
Each year, Swatson, the Sugarland Skeeters mascot went all out for Star Wars Day. Through the years, Swatson was dressed as Luke Skywalker, Darth Vader and Obi-Wan Kenobi. Sadly, Swatson, like many mascots before for him, as been sent to pasture due to a changing of ownership and name change of the Skeeters. While he may be gone, thankfully I still have the memories, and the photos. Photo R. Anderson
The Wookie awakening occurred last year when the Detroit Tigers’ Triple-A Affiliate, the Toledo Mud Hens, celebrated both May the fourth and May the fifth wearing jerseys that looked like a Wookie complete with utility belt.
Thankfully, the team opted away from the faux hair version of the jersey and instead went with a more diamond appropriate version where the fur is implied.
Not to be outdone the Kane County Cougars, the Chicago Cubs Class A affiliate, went Wookie wild this year with a double dose of furry jerseys on May 2 and an encore planned for August 30.
While players dressing up as Wookie is a fairly new Ballpark trend it is not the first time that a Wookie, or at least an actor who played a Wookie, has been at a Minor League Ballpark.
During a May 1, 2010 game between the Oklahoma City Red Hawks and the New Orleans Zephers Peter Mayhew, the actor who played Wookie extraordinaire Chewbacca, threw out the first pitch as part of the 30th Anniversary celebration of the original Star Wars film.
While Wookie jerseys have a certain been there done that feel to them after two years on the field, a pair of Minor League teams are upping their game this year when it comes to honoring characters from the Star Wars stable.
While Lance Berkman gets the visiting villain treatment during a past Star Wars Night at Minute Maid Park a complete team will turn into Darth Vader this year. Photo R. Anderson
The Durham Bulls, Class Triple-A affiliate of the Tampa Bay Rays will celebrate May the fourth in R2 D2 uniforms while the Milwaukee Brewers Single-A affiliate Wisconsin Timber Rattlers will sport Darth Vader jerseys.
It seems that if a team is going to the trouble of wearing Darth Vader jerseys they should invite James Earl Jones, the man behind the voice of Vader, to announce the players.
Of course, with James Earl Jones playing a pivotal role in Field of Dreams it seems even more appropriate to have his booming voice over the Ballpark public address system.
That truly would be a field of dreams to see James Earl Jones announcing a game with players dressed up as Darth Vader.
Players are not the only ones who get into the May the fourth festivities. Often times fans dust off their finest galactic duds to head to the Ballpark.
While I have never dressed up as Boba Fett, I have attended games where ushers were dressed like Princess Leia. I have also been at games where the opposing players were made to look like Darth Vader and other villains on the Jumbo Tron.
It is all done in good fun and is kind of cool to see the worlds of film and baseball combine in such an entertaining way.
With Star Wars Day around the corner the search is on for the perfect shirt to mark the occasion. Photo R. Anderson
Baseball, hot dogs, and post game pyrotechnics, it doesn’t get much better than that.
These may not be the droids you are looking for, but it certainly makes for a fun night at the Ballpark.
With many more Star Wars films in the works it is unlikely that the May the fourth phenomena will die down any time soon so it is best to just embrace it in the spirit of fun it is intended.
Now if you’ll excuse me, I need to go see if I can still make the Kessel Run in less than twelve parsecs. And May the fourth be with you.
Editor’s Note: As part of our occasional Way Back Wednesday feature, today we travel back one year and one week ago to August 3, 2020 when Major League Baseball (MLB) cancelled the highly touted Field of Dreams game in Dyersville, Iowa, near the set of the 1989 movie of the same name as the game.
Fast forward to 2021, and the St. Louis Cardinals have been replaced by the New York Yankees as the team facing the Chicago White Sox among the corn stalks. But to be fair, MLB had always wanted the Yankees to be involved in the game but had only added the Cardinals back when they switched to a regional schedule for the 2020 baseball season.
Of course, the change in White Sox opponent is really the only thing that has changed between last year when the game was cancelled, and this year when it will be held. COVID-19 cases are still raging like a California wildfire across the country, but apparently people have grown tired of listening to science and decided just to play ball while banning mandates on masks to protect children and others in society.
As noted many times, Field of Dreams is one of my favorite movies. I often quote it as well as Bull Durham, but struggled to find words from either movie to try to make sense of the senseless acts being committed in the name of trying to stay on brand while Rome burns. What I finally came up with is that many people seem determined to “go the distance” to appease a twice impeached one term president even if it means killing people in the process by tying the hands of people actually trying to be helpful and save lives.
We will delve more into the Field of Dreams game in future writings, until then, please enjoy this column from August 3, 2020 to see how little has changed between now and then aside from the fact that hundreds of thousands of people who were alive when this column was first written are now dead thanks to COVID-19 and the actions, or in-actions of certain public officials.
It turns out that if you build it in the middle of a global COVID-19 pandemic, they won’t come.
Such is the case for the highly touted Major League Baseball (MLB) game between the Chicago White Sox and St. Louis Cardinals that was scheduled to be played August 13 in Dyersville, Iowa amongst the cornfields made famous by the movie Field of Dreams.
On Monday word spread that the game was canceled amid concerns of the spread of COVID-19.
Announced last year, the game was to feature the Chicago White Sox and the New York Yankees “having a catch” on a specially constructed, 8,000-seat Ballpark near the movie’s iconic diamond. The Cardinals replaced the Yankees on the program after MLB opted for a regionally based schedule.
The cancellation comes as the St. Louis Cardinals became the latest team to get put in time out after multiple players and staff tested positive for COVID-19.
For comparison, the National Hockey League (NHL) reported Monday that zero players, or other personal inside their two bubbles in Toronto and Edmonton have tested positive for COVID-19.
First announced last year, the “Field of Dreams” game was originally set to feature the Chicago White Sox and the New York Yankees “having a catch” at a specially constructed, 8,000-seat Ballpark near the movie’s iconic diamond. The Cardinals replaced the Yankees on the program after MLB opted for a regionally based schedule. On Monday word spread that the game was canceled amid concerns of the spread of COVID-19 within the ranks of MLB. Photo R. Anderson
Bubbles work, but MLB owners burst the bubble approach by demanding that they be free to move about the country, or at least move about regionally, to play ball in their Ballparks.
It is no secret why MLB wanted to be bubble free. Houston Astros owner Jim Crane was brutally honest when he said he wanted as many fans as possible in the Ballpark buying t-shirts and concessions in order to recoup some lost revenue. As I noted at the time, that was one of the most tone-deaf statements I ever heard an MLB owner make.
COVID-19 cases continue to rise from coast to coast, and within MLB dugouts. As a result, MLB commissioner Rob Manfred warned over the weekend that the season could be shut down if players do not do better containing the spread of COVID-19.
During an interview with ESPN Manfred stated, “the players need to be better. But I am not a quitter in general and there is no reason to quit now. We have had to be fluid, but it is manageable.”
Manfred made those remarks, as 20% of the league was sidelined in an attempt to combat two separate coronavirus outbreaks.
The “I am not a quitter,” and it isn’t my fault, remarks reminded me of a couple of other people who were faced with making tough decisions as the reality of a situation bigger than themselves crashed in upon them.
On August 8, 1974, President Richard Nixon resigned from office by uttering in part, “I have never been a quitter. To leave office before my term is completed is abhorrent to every instinct in my body. But as President, I must put the interest of America first. America needs a full-time President and a full-time Congress, particularly at this time with problems we face at home and abroad.”
Putting the interests of America ahead of his desire to finish his term, Nixon became the only U.S. president to resign from office.
Rob Manfred could learn a lot from Richard Nixon in how to, as the late Kenny Rogers would say, “know when to fold them.” No, I am not saying that Manfred should resign, although I have seen rumblings from others thinking that he should.
It is time for MLB to resign themselves to the fact that the 2020 season is a lost cause. MLB tried to have a season. No one can take that away from them. Walking away now, and canceling the season before it gets worse is the honorable thing to do.
Instead of making a graceful exit, and doing a proverbial flyover in Marine One, Manfred seems determined to follow the example of another Republican president by using the blame and deflect game as he puts lives and careers at risk to seemingly serve his own self interests of proving that he isn’t a quitter and we would have had a season if not for those meddling kids being kids in the middles of a pandemic.
Yes, some players are leaving their hotel rooms when they travel and are potentially getting exposed to the virus. But they are just as easily exposed during the constant travel from ballpark to ballpark.
For Manfred’s apparent role model for taking zero responsibility, consider the actions of the 45th President of the United States who has blamed nearly everyone under the sun for making him look bad with the spread of COVID-19.
For MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred’s apparent role model for taking zero responsibility, consider the actions of the current resident of 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, shown in Lego form, who has blamed nearly everyone under the sun for making him look bad with the spread of COVID-19, while seeming to take zero responsibility for trying to contain a virus that has killed over 156,000 Americans. Manfred, is blaming players instead of taking ownership of a failed plan to avoid a bubble approach to returning to action and it may cost him the season he fought so hard to have. Photo R. Anderson
Yes, Mr. President over 156,000 Americans willingly died of COVID-19 just to make you look bad. That is some next level narcissism for someone to believe that.
Instead, over 156,000 Americans died in part due to a lack of centralized leadership and messaging coming out of the White House. Oh yeah, and the rush to reopen everything when we hadn’t flattened the curve didn’t help either.
In lieu of a national plan, we get attacks on doctors and the media who are both engaged in trying to get the truth out and help save lives as they try to fill the leadership void. We also get attacks on governors for not managing the one of 50 different ways the United States is attacking COVID-19.
Like the effort to combat COVID-19, MLB is also suffering from a lack of leadership and messaging. If MLB was playing games in a bubble, I would give them way more leeway to try to get the situation under control. But they aren’t, and it isn’t.
Perhaps showing that players are not really buying into a belief that MLB has their best interests at heart, more and more players are opting out of the 2020 MLB season.
I cannot blame the players for deciding that the risks to their health are not worth playing ball in the current COID-19 climate.
It is time for MLB to ease the players pain and try again next year. The National Football League and College Football also need to take notice and realize that sports outside of a bubble don’t work.
MLB let greed guide them over science. If the NFL and NCAA play football in the fall it will be an equally greedy endeavor.
I have said it before, and it bears saying again, how on earth did we let ourselves get here? We really have no one to blame but ourselves. Thankfully we can also all be part of the solution.
It is time to corral COIVD-19 and not try to return sports and other areas of live to normal while over 1,000 people a day are dying. These aren’t normal times, but they could be if everyone would just commit to wearing a mask and keeping their distance.
The change in White Sox opponent back to the New York Yankees is really the only thing that has changed between 2020 when the game was cancelled, and 2021 when it will be held. COVID-19 cases are still raging like a California wildfire across the country, but apparently people have grown tired of listening to science and decided just to play ball while banning mandates on masks to protect children and others in society. Photo R. Anderson
Such simple things to do, yet thanks to political lines being drawn, and a leadership vacuum, we are all left to fend for ourselves and hope for the best.
There is an empty Ballpark nestled among Iowa cornfields ready for baseball to return there in 2021, it is time for the 30 MLB Ballparks to do the same.
Of course, if we fail to get a handle on COVID-19, there may not be any baseball next year either. Much like He-Man of the Masters of the Universe franchise, we have the power. We don’t even need to hold a magic sword aloft as we recite a mantra. We just need to wear a mask, socially distance, avoid crowds, wash our hands and act as one nation.
It isn’t rocket science, but it is scientifically proven to work. If we fail, we have no one but ourselves to blame.
Now if you’ll excuse me, I have some bubble hockey to watch.
Editor’s Note: As part of our occasional Way Back Wednesday feature, today we look back to the time that I saw the Tampa Bay Rays play at Minute Maid Park for the second time which gave them entry into the Triple Double Ballpark Club. With the Rays knocking out the Houston Astros and heading to the 2020 World Series it seemed a fitting time to reminisce.
As an aside, in the years since this column first appeared in 2013, and in keeping with the World Series theme, I had the chance to see the Texas Rangers, who are playing host to the 2020 World Series match up between the Rays and Los Angeles Dodgers at their new Ballpark in Arlington, Texas, play the Los Angeles Angels in Anaheim, California, and again in Tropicana Field in St. Petersburg against the Tampa Bay Rays. With those two new additions, the Texas Rangers became the first team I have seen play in four different MLB Ballparks.
If you had asked me who I thought the first team I would see in four Ballparks would have been, it is doubtful the I would have said the Texas Rangers. Nevertheless, the Rangers are the charter member of the Cuatro Single Ballpark Club, as well as having membership in the Double Double Ballpark Club.
In addition to seeing the Rangers on two coasts in the seven years since this column first appeared, I also added trips to Coors Field in Denver Colorado, and Dodger Stadium in Los Angeles, California bringing my total MLB Ballpark count to seven out of 30. When the world of baseball reopens, I hope to continue my quest to see all 30 MLB Ballparks. Until then, please enjoy this blast from the past on this World Series inspired Way Back Wednesday.
Tonight, July 3, 2013, at around 7:30 or so, I will be at Minute Maid Park watching the Tampa Bay Rays play the Houston Astros in the third game of a four-game series.
While the night will include post-game fireworks to celebrate the Fourth of July, it occurs to me that it will mark another milestone as well.
While it did not cross my mind at the time when I purchased my ticket, tonight’s game will mark the second time that I have seen the Rays play in Houston. Add that to seeing the Rays play two games at Tropicana Field and two games at Rangers Ballpark in Arlington and the Rays become the first member of my Triple Double Club.
There have been numerous teams that I have watched come and go through Minute Maid Park through the years.
Fresh off their first World Series appearance in 2008 I visited the Tampa Bay Rays in 2009 for a long overdue trip to Tropicana Field. Photo R. Anderson
But with the exception of seeing a few of them for Spring Training games, there have not been many that I have seen in multiple Ballparks so the Rays induction in the Triple Double Club is sort of a big deal.
The fact that the event will be met with post game fireworks is sort of a happy coincidence.
Okay so the Triple Double Club may be something that only matters to me but I thought that it was pretty cool. Considering that I have only made it to four of the 30 Major League Ballparks so far, the fact that I saw the same team twice at three of those ballparks is nothing to sneeze at.
I have seen the Baltimore Orioles play at three stadiums during the regular season but only once at each ballpark so they are in the Triple Single Club. Of course, seeing them play in two different Ballparks over a four-day period gives them bonus points. And I have seen them play in three ballparks over the years during Spring Training.
A second ballpark viewing of the Rays was added in Arlington when I saw them take on the Texas Rangers. Photo R. Anderson
The Texas Rangers are in the Double Double Club as I have watched them at both their home Ballpark and Minute Maid Park.
It stands to reason that they would be a strong candidate to join the Triple Double Club as all it would take was a trip to an additional ballpark when they were in town to get them there.
The Toronto Blue Jays make it into the Double Single Club as I have seen them play at both Tropicana Field and Minute Maid Park.
The Houston Astros are the team I have watched the most due to the close proximity between my house and the Minute Maid Park. I have probably seen close to 100 games at Minute Maid Park over the past decade but ironically I have never seen them play a regular season game at any other Ballpark.
I’ve made numerous trips to Florida to see the Astros play in Spring Training games but during the regular season it seems that the desire to see them play far from home just doesn’t exist. In that way the Astros closeness is both a blessing and a curse.
Minute Maid Park became the third ballpark to watch the Rays in when I saw them take on the Houston Astros in 2011. Photo R. Anderson
There have been years where I thought about making the four hour drive to see them play the Texas Rangers in Arlington but those thoughts were usually quashed quickly at the thought that I could just wait until the Rangers came to Houston.
But there are certainly worse places to watch games than Minute Maid Park.
With the Astros moving to the American League this year the odds of me completing the Single Thirty Club of seeing all 30 teams at Minute Maid Park is pretty high.
I do not have the number in front of me but it seems highly likely that I am less than five teams away from reaching that goal of seeing all 30 teams from the air-conditioned comfort of Minute Maid Park.
Off of the top of my head I know I have yet to see the New York Yankees play there but the other teams that I am missing escape me at the moment. The Oakland Athletics seem like another team that I have yet to see play but with them sharing a division with the Astros that is an easy team to cross off of the list.
Tonight will mark the sixth Tampa Bay Rays regular season game that I have attended and the second at Minute Maid Park earning an inaugural induction into the Triple Double Club as I have seen a pair of games at Tropicana Field, Rangers Ballpark in Arlington, and Minute Maid Park. Photo R. Anderson
I suppose it is entirely possible that the Yankees and Athletics are the only missing teams but I will definitely have to look into that.
I do know that the National League, and in particular the National League Central, is well represented in my list of teams that I have seen multiple times there.
While the focus tonight will be placed firmly on enjoying the Rays and the induction of the first member of the Triple Double Club the festivities will be short lived.
Tomorrow afternoon I will start my way towards the Triple Triple Club as I will be catching a matinee game between the Rays and the Astros.
I guess that means I need to plan road trips back to Arlington and St. Petersburg to complete the Triple Triple Club for the Rays. I don’t think my arm will be twisted too hard to make that happen.
Now if you’ll excuse me, I need to decide which Rays shirt to wear to tomorrow’s game.
Epilogue: In the years since this column first ran, the Tampa Bay Rays joined the Triple Double Ballpark Club following trips to see them play at Minutes Maid Park and Tropicana Field. As such, the Rays are just a trip to Arlington away from making the Triple Triple Ballpark Club. Hopefully a trip to Arlington to see the Rangers and Rays play will be able to take place in 2021. I also was able to complete my journey of seeing all 30 MLB teams play at Minute Maid Park when the New York Yankees came to town.
Editor’s Note: When I turned on the television on September 16, 2020, and saw the flooding in downtown Pensacola, FL, my heart sank. Streets had turned into white capped canals filled with flooded cars. The reason behind the flooded streets was Hurricane Sally.
Sally’s storm surge turned one of my favorite towns into a soggy mess. While I wish the people of Pensacola a speedy recovery, and cannot wait to return to my favorite beach, favorite ballpark, favorite lighthouse and favorite aviation museum, I know that the City of Five Flags will bounce back stronger than ever.
In the meantime, please enjoy this column from April 8, 2013 about a visit to my absolute favorite Minor League Baseball Ballpark, Blue Wahoos Stadium in Pensacola, as part of our occasional Way Back Wednesday feature.
This past weekend I took my first baseball road trip of the 2013 season to book end the opening week of the baseball season.
After starting the week at the home opener for the Houston Astros, the week was rounded out with a trip to Blue Wahoos Stadium in Pensacola, FL for a Southern League game between the home standing Blue Wahoos and the visiting Tennessee Smokies.
Prior to moving to Texas, the bulk of my non-Spring Training in person baseball watching was through Southern League games at Tinker Field in Orlando FL.
Despite moving about 800 miles away from the borders of the Southern League, to this day I still try to catch Southern League games whenever I can.
I am sure this is partially due to history and familiarity with the league and the various teams. However, a lot of it is also based on the fact that there is some good baseball being played on the farm teams of the Southern League.
Such was the case on this colder than normal April night at the stadium on the bay.
Pensacola’s Blue Wahoos Stadium is a true gem among Ballparks and boosts a bay side view that can often include spotting the Blue Angels returning home from an Air Show. Photo R. Anderson
More on the game in a bit. I feel it is important to stop and mention the weather at game time and throughout the festivities.
Anyone who knows me well, most likely knows the following two things about me. First, I check the weather constantly before a trip to make sure that I am properly prepared for the conditions.
Second, it takes in awful lot for me to be cold. I am the type who has a fan going year-round and I have not turned the heater on in my house in over 8 years.
So, after checking the forecast before heading to the game, I was fairly satisfied with my no jacket required assessment. Unfortunately, while the temperature was within a good short sleeve window, in my haste to make it to the game after a nine-hour drive to the ballpark I forgot to account for the wind chill and feels like factor.
To say it was cold with the wind coming in off the bay would be an understatement. How cold did it feel?
It felt cold enough that I was seriously considering buying a $100 jacket in the gift shop, or at the very least a $60 sweatshirt to try to stay warm. How a jacket and sweatshirt can cost that much is certainly another story for another day.
It was clear skies at game time but as the flags indicate there was a stiff wind blowing. Photo R. Anderson
At least I was not alone in my frigid feelings. Apparently, the guy sitting to my right had also made the same error in judgment as we were the only two people in the ballpark wearing short sleeves.
As the innings wore on, we became very close as we tried to block the wind and stay warm. Not a word was spoken but a knowing nod was all that was required to show that the contest was one to see who could last the longest.
He ended up leaving in the bottom of the sixth inning which meant I just had to make it to the seventh inning stretch to get the victory in the two cold guys challenge. Yes, boys and girls this is what men do, we turn everything into a contest.
So, I made it an extra half inning and then packed up my bobble head, souvenir cup and other assorted stadium items and walked the 10 blocks back to the car.
Although the game was a very lopsided affair and included a Man versus Wild like survival challenge in the stands, there were several items of note that occurred.
Billy Hamilton stole a record number of bases during the 2012 season and became immortalized as a bobble head during the 2013 season. Photo R. Anderson
It was Billy Hamilton bobble head giveaway night. For those who are unfamiliar with Billy Hamilton he set the single season stolen base record with 146 stolen bases in 2012.
I met Billy last season when he was about four steals away from the record and although he has moved on to the Triple-A affiliate of the Reds it was nice to be there for the bobble head night and close the circle as it were.
I have little doubt that after one more season of seasoning in the Minors Billy Hamilton will make the Reds roster and show his speed in front of the larger audience.
I have always enjoyed the art of the stolen base. Major League Baseball’s all-time stolen base leader Rickey Henderson was always a favorite player of mine. When everyone in the stands knows that you are going to try to steal the base and you still manage to do it, that is some serious talent and is something to be respected.
Billy Hamilton has a very good chance to be a Rickey Henderson like player and set the base paths on fire. And when he does, I will be one of the people who gets to say I knew him when.
While Billy Hamilton was not in attendance for his bobble head night there was another player who was certainly worth paying attention to.
Ludovicus Jacobus Maria Van Mil, or the more sportswriter friendly Loek Van Mil, is the tallest pitcher in Professional Baseball topping out at 7’1”.
At 7’1″, Ludovicus Jacobus Maria Van Mil of the Blue Wahoos is the tallest pitcher in baseball. Photo R. Anderson
During his warm-up pitches it became very clear that he was a very tall man. Van Mil is currently being targeted as a relief pitcher but time will tell whether he can find the right balance between control and velocity to make it to the Big Leagues.
As with my previous visit to the ballpark there was a lot of opportunity to people watch. Being seated directly behind the all you can eat party deck provided ample amounts of entertainment.
One fun game was the how many trips through the hot dog and hamburger line will particular people make game. Of course, the rush of steam when the hot dog tray was opened provided a little bit of warmth for me as well so I was certainly counting on people making as many trips as possible.
But despite a losing effort by the home team, cold temperatures, and certain annoying fans, my first road trip of the 2013 baseball season was certainly enjoyable. I came, I cheered, I left and I have the bobble head to prove it.
Now if you’ll excuse me, I think it is time to plan another road trip.
Copyright 2020 R Anderson
Foot Note: Billy Hamilton made his MLB debut with the Cincinnati Reds in 2014 where he remained for several seasons. In 2018, Hamilton played for the Kansas City Royals. In 2019, Hamilton was a member of the Atlanta Braves. So far in the shortened 2020 season, Hamilton has been a member of the San Francisco Giants, New York Mets, and Chicago Cubs.
Sadly, Loek Van Mil, died on July 28, 2019 after sustaining head injuries during a December 2018 hiking accident in Australia. He was 34-years-old.
In the time since my last visit in 2018, the Blue Wahoos changed their MLB affiliation from the Cincinnati Red to the Minnesota Twins.
Editor’s Note: I wrote this column on the lost art of sending postcards back in March 2013. During the current climate of COVID-19, as well as the attempt by some to disrupt the United States Postal Service’s mission to ensure that, “Neither snow nor rain nor heat nor gloom of night stays these couriers from the swift completion of their appointed rounds,” it seems appropriate to reflect on the connection people can feel through the mail.
It is also important to remember the old AT&T telephone jingle to “Reach out, reach out and touch someone,” during this time of COVID-19 to let people know you are thinking about them.
Of course, in the current COVID-19 climate, any reaching out should be done from a safe social distance. In the meantime, please enjoy this column as part of our occasional Way Back Wednesday feature.
In this age of instant messaging, e-mail, Twitter, and other ways to communicate at the speed of light, it may come as a shock to some of the younger readers that there was once a time when correspondence was not handled as quickly.
Before the days of Facebook, it was not possible to post a status while on vacation to all of your friends to let them know that you were “Having a great time exploring the world’s largest ball of twine.”
Instead, when you were at that ball of twine, and you wanted to let your friends know how much fun it was before seeing them again in person, you had to buy a postcard and actually place it in something called a mailbox. Your friends would than receive the postcard, and your thoughts on the ball of twine in a few days.
Yes, I know mailboxes still exist, and based on what comes in mine they tend to be a conduit for junk mail and bills alone.
As such I now only check my mail a couple times a month; since there really isn’t anything worth reading that would require me to check it any more frequently.
Once upon a time mailboxes served as a window to communicate with the world. Today, mine mostly serves as a place for junk mail and bills. Photo R. Anderson
I have made a career out of writing. I was able to made the transition from writing for print publications, to writing for electronic platforms.
For the most part, writing is writing. There will always be a need for clear content to be communicated regardless of the changing platforms as technology moves forward.
While I know that the ways people communicate has changed, sometimes I find myself feeling a bit of nostalgia for the written word and the simple act of receiving a post card through the mail.
Part of this nostalgia was the result of looking through my postcard collection the other day to help remember the name of somewhere that I went on vacation many years ago.
I ended up finding that postcard and my memory was jogged. Looking through the box, other memories were set free as well.
Many of the postcards in my collection were sent to other family members before I was born and were just passed down to me; but several are actually addressed to me. One particular series of cards was the result of a chance encounter on an airplane.
When I was in third grade, my mom and I were on a flight from Washington D.C. to Orlando, FL. There was an older gentleman in the row with us (of course when I was that age everyone was older, so my memory of how old he really was may be warped).
As it was a relatively long flight, we ended up making conversation. Over the course of the conversation, he mentioned that he did a lot of traveling as part of his work with the Army.
I do not recall the whole scenario of how it occurred, but addresses were exchanged and he mentioned that he would write me from his travels.
The postcards did not always include a message but this is typical of the type of message when they did.
In this more jaded world that we find ourselves in now, the chances of a stranger getting the address of a young child under the guise of sending correspondence would probably be less likely to occur.
I for one have become way more suspicious of people’s intentions the older I get.
While it is certainly good to be skeptical, and careful of one’s surroundings, and those that enter them, I sometimes wish that I could see the world through younger me’s eyes when the world was a far less scary place. Back then, the only things I needed to worry about were which pair of pajamas to wear, and how many days until I could ride my bike to the 7-Eleven to check out the latest comic books, or buy a pack of baseball cards.
A few weeks after returning home, I got my first postcard from the man on the plane. The postcards continued for several years, and always included a short note about the destination included on the front.
One of the postcards my pen pal from the plane sent me.
The cards stopped one day, which could have been the result of many factors including the forwarding address feature no longer working, or perhaps the man behind them was no longer able to send the cards for whatever reason.
While I do not remember his name, I do remember the simple act of sharing postcards with a wide-eyed child and the effect that had and continues to have. I have no way of knowing if that man on the plane is even still with us.
If he is, I hope that he is well and is still able to take those wonderful trips that sparked my imagination so many years ago.
But those postcards, as well as the others I received from friends and family, helped me see parts of the world that were harder to see in the pre-internet days and certainly helped nurture my love of traveling.
Some 30 years later I still fondly recall the postcards from my pen pal. Tweets and e-mails will not hold up as well through the decades I imagine.
Today, thanks to the internet, if I want to see a picture of something I need only type it into a search bar and before long I will have more pictures to look at than I could ever hope for.
The Internet has opened the world up to us but in some ways it has also made us more alone than ever before.
I often think about other chance encounters and people who come into our lives for a brief moment and the impact that they have on us. Had my mom and I been seated in any other row on that airplane, I would not have received the postcards.
When I was in Journalism School, one semester my professor assigned the class a project to go to the food court at the mall and observe people. The point behind the assignment was to make note of the various interactions of people coming and going in order to imagine various scenarios as to what brought them there. To this day, I still enjoy people watching.
The next week, the same professor assigned us to go back to the same food court and find a stranger to interview. The point of the exercise being that everyone of us has a story to tell. The trick is to know the right questions to ask to get the ball rolling.
While the memory of the man on the plane will probably not make me any less cautious than I am, since the world today is so much different than it was all those decades ago it is still a nice memory and shows that we all do have stories to tell. The key is to just be open to hear them.
Now if you’ll excuse me, I think I am going to find a food court and see if my interview skills are still as sharp as they once were.