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March 2006

Opening day might be Greek to you

But it's just a guy from Oklahoma to me

We'll briefly return to 1986. Baseball season is about to open in the Metrodome, where every day is kind of a dreary fall afternoon.

Three hours before game time the Oakland A's are stretching in unison on the floor of the Dome.

This stretching is not the random, "I'm done playing cards" progression of events that's so common at ball yards across this great land of ours. This stretching routine is the U.S. Olympic Water Ballet Team or, for you older folks, a scene from a Busby Berkeley musical.

A's Manager Jackie Moore had decided the team suffered too many injuries the previous year, so the A's hired a carnival contortionist, or perhaps it was some nubile dancer from a gentleman's club, to lead the team through these stretches.

A preview of Canseco's behavior

greek goddess demeter

Duh-oh. Demeter fusses over lost kid.

A's outfielder Jose Canseco isn't even trying.

All the veterans are extending those hamstrings, but the lanky rookie is kneeling, propped up by a bat as he gazes around at the majesty that is the Metrodome, a ball yard that clever architects designed to resemble a football stadium.

It's clear the 21-year-old Canseco has been, for some time, excused from the rudiments of life in which most engage.

Moore has emphasized his innovative stretching regimen to the media as the A's proceed down a zig-zag path to the World Series - where they will arrive next season after Moore gets axed in favor of law school grad Tony La Russa.

Despite the publicity about the stretching program, it doesn't dawn on Canseco how his bold indifference makes Moore look - or if it does dawn on Canseco, he does not care.

After the California Angels win the division this season, Minnesota and Oakland will begin a half-decade streak of American League Championships. Minnesota will accomplish this without steroids, to the best of anyone's knowledge.

Steroids=no crying in baseball

A couple decades later - after a career of being ostracized by teammates for his attention-getting behavior, after a career of antagonizing fans so much that one day paying customers at Yankee Stadium tossed garbage on him - Canseco does a rumba across the noggins of baseball executives.

A book with his name on it is published just as the season is about to begin. The book reveals that the A's won their titles with a few guys who injected steroids.

All hell breaks lose.

Word of steroids in baseball reaches members of Congress where there is naturally alarm.

Or is it a publicity opportunity?

Anyway, some strip miner from North Dakota who is masquerading as a politician suggests the single-season home run title that belongs to an accused steroid user revert to Roger Maris, or at least to Josh Gibson, who hit 62 home runs in a two-month barnstorming tour played on fields the size of a high school gymnasium.

Bud Selig, baseball's commissioner for life, should have responded with the obvious fact that pitchers can buy a syringe, too.

"You don't think all these pitchers are returning from hinge surgery and throwing five miles an hour faster because of better suture, do you?" Bud could have asked.

This at least would make people consider that there might have been cheaters on both sides of the baseball, and maybe some of these hitting accomplishments aren't so out of whack.

But Bud's not even smart enough for that, and steroids receive round-the-clock CNN coverage as baseball season nears.

Demeter rising

Don Demeter

   Don Demeter

Alas, opening day arrives. Everyone is talking about people named Adam Dunn and Richie Sexson. These are names to make people forget about steroids?

Yup.

And once again people realize you can sew a scarlet letter on a big-league baseball jersey but it always comes off in the spin cycle.

Baseball shakes off these wintry frosts because of Demeter, the earth goddess loved by rural and city folks alike.

Never a great fielder, the official scorer gave Demeter an E-8 in regard to her daughter, Persephone; a costly error that allowed Hades to carry Persephone to the hoary netherworld.

Demeter and Hades eventually worked out a player-to-be-named later deal so Hades would keep Persephone for five months of the year. That's the five months when nothing grows, Demeter pouts and munches through Dr. Phil.

It's the time when people are forced to watch hockey, football and basketball.

As good as it gets

Spring is when Demeter gets custody of Persephone, stuff blossoms and people forget about things like Jose Canseco getting someone to write a book for him largely because he dislikes being yesterday's news.

Baseball even produced it's own Demeter, but one with better hands.

The game trotted out Don Demeter, a long-necked, 6-foot-4 Oklahoman with a little pop in his bat and a soft pocket in his glove. He once set a big-league record by playing 266 games in the outfield without making an error.

Don Demeter is over 70 now. For longer than that, when opening day rolls around, carrying new energy. Solar waves flow through us.

And Demeter has a big smile on her phiz.


Baseball essays


Will it be too cold on Opening Day in Minnesota once an outdoor stadium is built?

The Twins usually opened the season around mid-April when Metropolitan Stadium served as the team's home, not in the first week of April, which has often been the case in the Metrodome.

The team's last home opener at the Met was April 9, an unusually early home opener. Minnesota native Jerry Koosman started that game for the Twins.

Spanning 1982-2009 in the Metrodome, the outdoor temperature for the home opener topped 70 just seven times. The coldest outdoor temp for a Metrodome home opener was 29 on April 3, 2003.


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