Blown call

I have followed the Houston Astros for close to 50 years, so I know something about inept baseball management. But even the Astros couldn’t have screwed up Wednesday’s rain delay at Dehler Park as badly as the Mustangs did.

The delay came at the worst possible time: Tie score, top of the ninth, runners on second and third, one out. But I can’t complain about that. It was starting to rain really hard, and there was danger that the game could end in some rain-induced sloppy fashion, or that somebody could get badly hurt.

It turned out to be a typical Montana rain: a few minutes of hard rain, then nothing. The field looked reasonably playable: home plate and the pitcher’s mound were covered with a tarp during the worst of it, and there were just a couple of small puddles in the infield. No obvious slush or slick spots. And the new Dehler Park was supposed to have been designed to handle exactly this sort of quick shower.

So I waited it out. Up to a point, rain delays can be pleasant. It rains seldom enough in Eastern Montana that I usually sit on the front porch to watch it rain, so I figured I might as well watch it rain at the ballpark. And rain always seems to put baseball fans in a festive mood; there was literal dancing in the aisles, and girls with bare legs glistening from the raindrops running out from under cover for the sheer joy of getting wet.

But it went on and on. The groundskeepers would throw a couple of bags of dry dirt on a wet spot, then rake it around for a while, then go get some more. The umpires paced the field. The players danced to the music or told stories.

I understand why the Mustangs can’t afford to keep a massive grounds crew on staff for the rare occasion when it rains, but it did strike me as odd to see three people out there working their butts off while several hundred stood around and watched idly. Heck, I thought, give me a rake; I wouldn’t mind helping out.

At any rate, the field looked playable to me. But, of course, there was no way to tell for sure without going onto the field, and fans aren’t allowed on the field. The people who were allowed on the field weren’t saying anything.

Finally, after a delay of more than an hour, the public address announcer said the game would begin in about 30 minutes, at 11:15 p.m. What the hell, I thought, the evening’s shot anyway. Might as well hang around.

Sure enough, around 11 p.m., players started doing stretching exercises, and the Mustangs’ pitcher made a few warm-up throws. But by 11:10 p.m., it was obvious that the game wasn’t going to start on time. And by 11:20 p.m., the players were packing up the bags of balls and bats and heading for the clubhouse. The umpires were right behind.

I asked a Mustangs official what was up, and he had no idea. He said there would be an announcement, but I wasn’t willing to wait until the players, umpires and grounds keepers were all sound asleep to hear it. My guess is, the Mustangs never did announce that the game had been suspended.


1. Calling for a delay in a crucial ninth-inning situation: Unfortunate, but perfectly understandable.

2. Refusing to keep fans informed of progress toward beginning the game again: Not so understandable but unfortunately typical.

3. Inaccurately announcing the game would be resumed: Quite unfortunate, and not really understandable at all, without some explanation. But if I’m going to complain about Point 2, I guess I can’t complain too much about Point 3.

4. Refusing to announce that the game would not be resumed: Not the least bit understandable and both unfortunate and inexcusable. People who are willing to wait through a rain delay for a couple of hours ought to get some appreciation. From the Mustangs they got nothing but contempt.


Delivery update

Thursday was the first really warm delivery day of the summer, plus we had two full-run inserts, a Shipton’s insert and the Montana Folk Festival insert, which is the one insert we run every year that is bigger than the actual paper it is in. So it was a very long, tough day.

But there always are compensations. One fellow stopped me when I was leaving papers at a restaurant and said, “I’ve got to get an Outpost. This is the left bank of the sane.”

OK, he may have meant the French river. But I don’t think so.

Outta sight

In case anyone has been wondering where I have been, the answer is: Texas. A niece got married last weekend, and we made a short family vacation out of it. We saw a great exhibit on ancient Egypt at a Houston museum, visited relatives, rode the Galveston ferry (still the best travel bargain in America), took in a Texas Rangers game, and made a quick tour of my old editing haunts in Bryan-College Station and Palestine. We also ate Mexican food, peanut patties, Cajun food and barbecue until it came out our ears, then sweated it all out.

So how did the paper get out? Easy! My daughter pointed us to a free program that allows you to work on your home computer from any location. So I wrote book reviews in Houston and College Station and put the paper out from my brother-in-law’s house in Tyler. Pretty slick.

The only drag was that my return flight left Denver about the same time it was supposed to arrive in Billings. The flight over the Pryors also was just about the most turbulent airplane ride I have ever made. I kept thinking of the Bob Dylan line: “on a plane ride so bumpy that I almost cried.” But I didn’t cry, and I had it good. A flight that was supposed to leave for Louisville at 9:15 a.m. Thursday didn’t take off until after 4 p.m., apparently because somebody forgot to schedule a crew. All dressed up and no way to fly.

Sleight of hand

If you still believe that Barack Obama is a ninja master playing three-dimensional chess,  rather than just a guy trying to figure out to run an ungovernable country, then you might see the AP and Fox subpoenas as a major strike in favor of the First Amendment.

After all, Republicans scared the hell out of me during the Bush administration by not only supporting tough crackdowns on civil liberties but by calling for charges of treason when the New York Times published stories about illegal surveillance. How to get Republicans to change their minds?

Simple! Just have Barack Obama agree with them. Suddenly, the GOP emerges as staunch defenders of the press. Now all Obama has to do is reluctantly go along with Republican proposals to strengthen civil liberties and press freedom. Problem solved.

Dream, dream, dream

It’s only May, but already I have had my first back-to-school panic dream of the fall semester. Even as these dreams go, this one was pretty desperate. I was on my way to start teaching a new class at Rocky Mountain College, but the campus looked nothing like Rocky — it was more like some immense abandoned factory. I had no roster, no syllabus, no lesson plan. I wasn’t sure what room the class was in or how to find it. As I wandered around looking for it, it occurred to me that it actually may have started several hours before.

This is a recurrent theme with me. It was only about 10 years ago that I quit having these sorts of dreams about being a student — I hadn’t been to class all semester, I didn’t know where the classroom was, and so on. I haven’t been a full-time student since 1983, so those dreams hung around for a long time.

In one of my spring classes at Rocky, I had occasion to mention Plenty Coups, the great Crow chief, and related the story of his famous dream in the Crazy Mountains that foresaw the eventual dominance of the white man. As it happens, I ran across my copy of Linderman’s biography of Plenty Coups the other day, and I looked up that passage to see how accurate my memory of it was. Pretty close, actually.

I don’t remember exactly how this came up in class, but I think my point was that Plenty Coups straddled two very different worlds, and the one in which dreams and spirits and chickadees and grizzly bears determined one’s actions made every bit as much sense to him as the one in which cows displaced the buffalo and food came from planting crops.

Dreams, of course, remain potent harbingers of the future. Just a night or two again, I kept having dreams in which I needed to pee. Then when I woke up in the morning, I really did need to pee. Prophecy fulfilled!

Talk radio update

I thought last week that the talk radio crowd was running out of gas on Scandalgate, but the holiday appears to have rejuvenated them. It was all scandal, all day long.

The Limbaugh clone, apparently Doug Urbanski, made the boldest claim. He labelled as a “hoax” the theory that a video sparked protests in the Middle East that ultimately led to the attack in Benghazi. The notion that the video had nothing to do with what happened in Benghazi has become an article of faith on the right, as deeply held as the belief that climate change is a hoax.

But why? The theory is that the Obama administration concocted the story to help his re-election chances, but it seems almost inconceivable to me that even one vote hinged on what exactly sparked those attacks. Did yours?

Moreover, it’s clear that the story came not from Obama but from the CIA. It was one aspect of the infamous talking points that never changed, from start to finish. The Daily Howler has written extensively about this question; look here, for starters.

Hannity was bubbling over with Benghazi curiosity, too. In response to a caller, he launched one of his trademark series of rhetorical questions about all of the things he wants to know but doesn’t know about Benghazi.

All I kept thinking was, if I had been part of that attack, I would want all of those questions answered, too. I would be thinking, that attack worked pretty well. I’d like to try it again, but first I want to know: How long would it take the U.S. to launch a military response? Who gives those orders? What factors do they consider? How much security is there?

I would be thinking, go get ‘em, Hannity! But I admit I’m a little conflicted about this. As a journalist, I want as much information as possible as soon as possible. As a military history buff, I want the full story to emerge at some point, even if not right away. As a loyal American, I want the military to carefully evaluate and critique its response so that it does better next time. But I don’t necessarily want to hear that evaluation on talk radio, especially while the criminals are still wandering around freely.

Hannity was particularly focused on the whereabouts of Obama during the fatal attack. He seemed to be appalled that Obama might have been sleeping while American lives were at risk in dangerous places overseas.

But American lives have been at risk in dangerous places overseas ever since the first day Obama took office. Hannity used to understand this, back when a Republican was president. I don’t know what Obama did that night, but here’s what I hope he did: Put the best possible military person in charge, gave him full authority to do what could be done, and then got some sleep.

Talk radio update

I girded myself for another long day of scandal mongering, but I was a tad surprised. Everybody took on the IRS official who pleaded the Fifth — fair enough. That may have been good legal strategy, but it was lousy politics. Otherwise, the obsession wasn’t as great as I had expected.

Limbaugh went off for a while on, of all things, the hook-up culture. Wishful thinking, perhaps? The Huckabee clone was attacking the new immigration bill. Sounds as if immigration will be a right-wing target again.

Only Hannity stuck strictly to script — all scandal, all of the time. He even criticized Obama for giving a speech on defense strategy instead of staying hunkered up in the White Office, chasing down scandals. Of course, if Obama had stayed hunkered in the Oval Office, Hannity would have criticized that, too. There’s no winning play for Obama with Hannity.

Hannity’s single-mindedness is quite remarkable. I suppose he would call it persistence, but I suspect it is just that his brain is too small to recognize the boundaries of the matchbox it is rolling around in.