The Bard, The Ballplayer And A Guy Called Pluto

The Coliseum In The Bronx

In the early 1940s I sat next to my older brother in the bleaches of Yankee Stadium, where seats cost about a dollar each and twenty cents bought a hot dog with sauerkraut. A soda was 10 cents and you would be hard pressed to find two happier siblings. At night the family would gather around the radio to listen to the president. In his patrician yet informal manner, Franklin Roosevelt was a communications genius. While broadcasting to the nation, he made listeners believe he was speaking directly to them, which is why his talks were called “fireside chats.” We all sat staring at the radio in the same manner people today stare at their 65 inch, high-def television screens. Back then all you needed was a little imagination and you got the picture. Today you get the picture but it usually lacks imagination.

My father and brother served in different conflicts, one more technically advanced than the other but equally brutal. Our president explained why brothers like mine had to go off to war. And though my father was an avid baseball fan, somehow the game was never the same, and neither was my brother when he returned.

Lost In Translation

The phrase “What’s Past Is Prologue” from William Shakespeare’s play The Tempest, is loosely translated to mean everything that happens in life up to the present is preparation for what’s about to transpire. In the case of the 400 year old play, it’s a cold-blooded murder. But not to worry. It’s meant to be. It’s destiny. The past has set the stage for the next act. Present day politics notwithstanding, some people interpret the bard’s prose to mean “those who fail to learn the bitter lessons of history are doomed to repeat them.” No one will ever know for sure what Shakespeare looked like, what happened to his original manuscripts (none survive), or if he meant what we think he meant. In fact, the question of who the illustrious genius really was remains a mystery.

On the other hand, the genius of Lawrence Peter “Yogi” Berra, the man who won more World Series than any other baseball player in history is no mystery and requires no interpretation. With a heart as good as his eyesight, the iconic New York Yankees catcher saw humor in everything, which is to say he saw really clearly. A veteran of World War II, devoted to his family and reportedly adroit with his finances, Yogi Berra-isms made us laugh, and the laughs were never at anyone else’s expense.

“It gets late early out here.”

“When you come to a fork in the road, take it.”

“The future ain’t what it used to be.”

“We made too many wrong mistakes.”

“If the world were perfect, it wouldn’t be.”

“I didn’t really say everything I said.”

Between A Rock And The Universe

Perhaps if everyone could see life from Yogi Berra’s perspective, earth would be a happier more peaceful planet. Instinctively, my adolescent self must have known this because in addition to countless baseball games, I made considerable visits to the Hayden Planetarium, another arena of great joy and wonder in New York’s Central Park. BTW, there’s a rock on Mars that astrophysicists have named the ‘Yogi’ rock. According to NASA geologists, the qualities of the Martian ‘Yogi’ rock resemble those of the volcanic rocks beneath Yogi Berra Stadium in New Jersey. The ballplayer never commented on that fact, but for all our sakes, I wish he had. He would have hit it out of the park.

Last seen in 1986, Halley’s Comet visits us every 75 and a half years. As with all comets and asteroids, these fickle lovers come and go. But like the nine boys of summer, a planet is a joy forever. Together with his eight siblings, Pluto is the fella I grew up with. After being kicked out of the planetary club and treated like a minor league rookie, today the ninth planet from the sun is once again back in the news and good graces of the ‘experts’ who have declared: “Yes, Pluto meets the criteria of a planet!” The New York Times columnist Clyde Haberman commented: “The astronomers’ redefinition that [once] demoted Pluto pretty much alters nothing, just as government officials often come up with redefinitions to try to make tough situations go away.”

The Moon Is Blue With Cheese & Brew

Astrophysicists now understand the process of stellar evolution. They can determine the age of our sun from birth to its inevitable demise billions of years from now. They tell us our sun, classified as a “middle-aged star,” will grow larger and brighter as it ages, reaching its peak as a “red giant,” before beginning to shrink, flare up again, and then literally fade away as an old “white dwarf.” By then we’ll all be stardust. Not so for our Yogi-number eight at home plate. With Bell’s Brewery featuring Mars, Venus, Mercury and Jupiter, planetary buzz has it Yogi and Pluto hang out together for an occasional ice-cold Blue Moon.

NASA’s spacecraft New Horizons was launched in January 2006. Ten years later it is bringing us spectacular pictures of my childhood sweetheart Pluto. While dancing to the music of the spheres, he hasn’t aged one bit, which is more than I can say for me. Another great reason to hitch my wagon to a starship and slip the bonds of gravity. Whether science, baseball or politics, the hum of the universe declares: “it ain’t over ’til it’s over.”

“The Universe is under no obligation to make sense to you.”- Dr. Neil deGrasse Tyson, Director, Hayden Planetarium.

Visit my website for an eclectic collection of articles both topical and reflective. My novel, The Sword & The Chrysanthemum, Journey of The Heart is available on Amazon and as an eBook on Kindle.

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