Sunday, June 20, 2010

America's pastime, vintage-style

The Indianapolis Blues, Indianapolis Hoosiers, Mulberry Manglers, White River Base Ball Club and Batesville Lumbermen were among Indiana teams that participated Saturday in a Vintage Base Ball Association Regional Tournament at Garfield Park in Indianapolis. (Mulberry, by the way, is a town southeast of Lafayette, Ind. )

The six teams -- the St. Louis Unions and Lockport (Ill.) Sleepers also participated, although the Sleepers and White River ended up pairing up to form one team -- played for the Hoosier Cup, which goes to the team with the best record in the day's competition. Each team plays three games.

Vintage teams play in 19th-century garb and use rules from the late 1880s as well. On Saturday, they played on three all-grass diamonds at the park, which I've since learned is typical for Vintage Base Ball; they rarely use the traditional dirt infields. It really was interesting to behold; some scenes reminded me a bit of the "Field of Dreams" motion picture.

Most of these images were taken from the game between the Lumbermen and the Manglers, which the Lumbermen won, 13-8; I was taken by the Lumbermen's uniforms, so I hung around their game bit longer. However, a few images also were taken from the Blues-Sleepers/White River game.

According to a story on the Cup at the Batesville Tribune website, the Lumbermen claimed the Hoosier Cup that day. They and the Hoosiers both won all three of their games, but the Lumbermen got the nod on the tiebreaker, which is a team's total runs scored in the tournament. The Lumbermen scored 43 to the Hoosiers' 38.

To learn more about the VBBA, follow this link: Vintage Base Ball Association.

To see a complete gallery of images from this shoot, follow this link: Vintage Base Ball Photo Gallery.

This is a scene where I was half-expecting to see "Shoeless" Joe Jackson walk out from the wooded area in the background, a la "Field of Dreams." And no, your eyes aren't deceiving you; there really is a discernible knoll in the area between where the outfielder in the foreground, the center-fielder, stands (on higher ground) and where his teammate in the background, the left-fielder, is situated.

A photographer loves those "point of contact" shots.

A Manglers pitcher -- er, hurler, as they refer to it in Vintage Base Ball -- is ready to toss another to a member of the Lumbermen. A few of the hurlers I saw Saturday made a point to hold the ball up like this before beginning their underhand motion.

Because the VBBA defenses don't use mitts, the chances of cleanly snagging ground balls or catching fly balls or throws from teammates are greatly reduced. Here, a Manglers defender can't come up with a throw from an infielder on a grounder to retire a sliding Lumberman at first base (or, the first sack). On close plays at first sack, sliding is virtually a necessity -- and not nearly as hurtful on grass as it would be on dirt -- because overruning first base is not protected, or "safe" territory, in Vintage Base Ball as it is in today's game. In the background, near the pagoda, the game involving the Indianapolis Blues unfolds.

Another point-of-contact photo.

An Indianapolis Blues outfielder attempts to catch a fly ball cleanly without the aid of a fielding mitt. He did not succeed.

This Lumbermen shortstop came up with a ground ball cleanly and was preparing to throw to first base -- guarded by the first sacker -- to retire the hitter.

With the well-known Garfield Park pagoda as a backdrop, this scene frames the last pitch of the Blues' game against the Sleepers. The Lockport hitter swung and missed.

Note the hitter's textbook plate form: Keeping his eyes on the ball and using a stride that smoothly shifts his weight from the back foot to the front foot. In an umpired game today, however, this hitter might have been called out because his front foot is well beyond where the batter's box lines would be drawn.

A Lumberman base-runner (right) heads home to score on a hit by a teammate while the Manglers' pitcher prepares to back up the catcher -- called "the behind" in Vintage ball -- if a fielder makes a play on the runner. There was no play, however; this runner scored.

After the Blues' game, Sleepers players went through a hat salute of some sort. I didn't catch the audio, but it could very well have been to fellows players and those who came to watch.

Afterward, players exchanged handshakes.

Monday, June 14, 2010

Getting down low in the gardens

Photographically, I'm leading with my attempt at shooting something different when I ventured out into my gardens last weekend. The shot above and the first two below were shot from ground level.

Yes, I know the ground-level vantage point isn't new, but it isn't done nearly as often as the straight-on shot, and I can't say I've seen may ground-level garden shots, so ... in my endeavors to try to capture new or different vantage points, I grabbed my macro lens -- in quest for high-quality images -- and hit the lawn when I took these. I particularly like the way the low sight line gives prominence to the asiatic lily buds, putting them on equal terms with the blooms. In the first two below, that's my lettuce and day lily in the first image, and a view of the row of asiatic lilies below it.

The second reason for this post was to herald the blooms of the aforementioned asiatic lilies -- whose yellow and pink petals are much bigger and more elegant than most asiatic lilies I've seen before. These lilies have become the jewel in my garden, something I look forward to each year when they start to bloom in early to mid-June like this. Sadly, a wicked storm can tear apart the blooms in a flinch. I managed to take these images before the big storms came through last weekend. The storms tore a few petals from the blooms, but most ... amazingly ... survived.

And the third reason for the post (read on below the lily pics) ...

... was to chuckle about how nature snookered me. Remember the May 30, 2010, post about flowers blooming on bean seedlings? I now think that's s hooey. The image below, taken Saturday, is the same plant shown May 30 (then with a solitary bloom). Clearly this ain't no bean plant (there are a couple of bean plants, however, coming up very near to this, though). So ... I have that Internet story -- which told me bean plants show flowers early on -- to curse (and blame!).

But the more key story here is ... where did this petunia plant come from? I did not plan it, plant it or sow seed for this. As I mentioned in my previous post, I grew petunias with exactly these types of purple-and-white blooms two (2) summers ago in this very same portion of my genus garden. But petunias are annuals; they don't survive after their one-and-only season. So how could this be? Someone once told me that birds (and occasionally squirrels) will pick up seed from one place, fly it around and then drop it indiscriminately. That's the only explanation I can think of for this; and to think it dropped in the same area of my garden where it grew two years ago. A gardening miracle?

And to those who think I buried the lead of this post, well ... maybe I did. I just didn't want to lead with the embarrassment. Call me proud!

The "bean" bloom plant today

The "bean" blooms

Cucumber foliage is running rampant

Broccoli, next to the cucumbers

Saturday, June 5, 2010

Beatles tribute band -- a great show

American English, which bills itself as "the complete Beatles tribute" band, performed a 2+-hour show Friday evening at the MacAllister Center for the Performing Arts in Garfield Park in Indianapolis. Since this place is a mere short stroll from my house, I had to go. But ... since the show was a gift from my kids, and since I really wanted to enjoy this, I decided not to bring my full camera gear. I took along only my pocket-sized Pentax Optio Z10, which while limiting my still image options, still allowed me to shoot video (which I did; see bottom of post).

I'd last seen a Beatles "tribute" band some 20+ years ago; it was at Clowes Hall on the Butler University campus. I remember it was a nice show, but ... well, you know, not the originals. The American English show was better than the one I saw in Clowes. I truly enjoyed it. The group had the Beatles nuances down perfectly. Eric Michaels, who carried out the Paul McCartney role, used a Hofner bass and not only played it left-handed like McCartney, but carried out Paul's inimitably melodic linear bass lines to the hilt. Young Hines did a nice John Lennon, and mimicked Lennon's double-leg semi-squat while facing square to the audience. And those complicated arrangements in the Beatles' later years were pulled off nicely, thanks in no small part to a keyboard assistant in the background. Tom Gable's drum strokes were perfectly "Ringoesque," and his vocals were similar to Starr's as well.

There were a few technical complications -- two that stand out were how the lead guitar licks of Doug Couture (as George) were often under-modulated (at least from my seat in the audience, which was front left), and the other being that, in numbers late in the show, Couture's guitar-playing (remember, Harrison was the lead guitarist) was significantly under-modulated in comparison to the rhythm licks of Young Hines (John), whose strumming was incredibly and clearly audible.

But if you could look past those two glitches, this was an absolutely wonderful trip down nostalgia lane. From the Beatles' "early years" tunes, American English played (and wore the black suits/ties to match) "Love Me Do," "I Want to Hold Your Hand," "I Saw Her Standing There," "Please, Please Me," "Can't Buy Me Love," "Do You Want to Know a Secret," "Eight Days a Week," "Hard Days Night," "Yesterday," "I Should Have Known Better," "I Feel Fine," "Help!" "Norwegian Wood" and "Ticket to Ride" (and probably a few I'm not remembering).

American English did a wardrobe change to put on those bright, garish Sgt. Pepper outfits before performing "Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band," "With a Little Help From My Friends," "A Day in the Life," "Magical Mystery Tour," "Yellow Submarine" and "Penny Lane" and undoubtedly a few others, though the titles escape me. The group made one more costume change -- to the "Abbey Road" album look (think long hair, George in dungarees and John in all white) -- after which they played "Come Together," "Octopus' Garden," "Here Comes the Sun" (although Couture did this as an acoustic solo), "Get Back" (a video from the band's performance of this song appears at the bottom of this post), "Dear Prudence," "Back in the U.S.S.R.," "Birthday" and "Revolution" before coming out for one encore, the crowd sing-along "Hey Jude."

People in Illinois are lucky; the band's schedule for the next two months is loaded with dates in our neighbor state to the west. The only other Indiana show in that period is July 31 in Wabash.