sports column

I was sitting in an alpine meadow beside a small river in southwestern Wyoming when the familiar yet mysterious sound triggered the childhood memory from Maine. It was definitely the sound that made the connection. The two landscapes themselves bore little in common with each other.  The Wyoming setting was over 7,000 feet in elevation — higher than even the highest point in the entire state of Maine — with steep hillsides dominated by western pines rising up from the narrow river valley to peaks over 10,000 feet above the level of the sea. The river tumbling down that valley was not much...

PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA tips his Chicago White Sox cap. He might have more aptly tipped the cap of the Homestead Grays, one of the greatest of the Negro League teams, which played many games in Washington, D.C., now the home of the Obamas. Photo courtesy of
This is the first in a series. Perhaps you have seen this “tip your cap” campaign celebrating the centennial of baseball’s Negro Leagues. In December 1920, Andrew “Rube” Foster, the owner-manager of the Chicago American Giants, gathered seven other owners of Black traveling independent teams and formed the Negro National League (Read about that online at Our four living former Presidents all tipped their baseball caps to acknowledge this landmark date, and other dignitaries, athletes, entertainers, political figures followed with their own tributes. Do check...
I’ll admit to distrusting my memory these days. (What day of the week is it?) Last week seems like months ago, and May seems like a year ago. The middle of March might as well be several years ago. And 2019? Could be a different lifetime.  So when I say it was only a year ago that Otter Creek was running exceedingly high all through June and most of the summer — and that I barely got out to fish it because of those inhospitable water levels — I say that without the greatest confidence in my memory.  But I’m saying it anyway.  Because this year has been a whole different world.  Not that the...
A week or so ago, I met Mike, and he asked me (behind his mask) what I thought of the most recent plan to begin the Major League Baseball season. “I haven’t given it much thought,” I told him. “I don’t really care.” He was taken aback. After all, with the Addy Indy’s help, I have somewhat fashioned myself as “Doctor Baseball,” knowing more about baseball than the average bear, teaching classes at Middlebury College on baseball, and its literature, history, and cultural meaning, finding a home in the study of baseball’s Negro leagues.  I had to apologize to Mike for being so brusque. It was an...

I walked out on the dock, set down my fly rod and my blue canvas boat bag with my boxes of flies and fly-fishing gear, and went back inside for a canoe paddle and seat cushion. When I returned to the dock, I found sitting on my bag a beautiful two-tailed mayfly. Though its wings were tan with just a hint of honey coloring, its head, legs, and underside sported patches of brighter yellow that stood out against my blue bag. It was at least the third species of mayfly I’d seen in the past day, rising off the water, fluttering past our porch, or landing on our outside windows and walls. Most of...
One of my heroes growing up was Joey O’Brien, a star athlete at Lewiston High School in Maine, three or four years older than I.  He was a gregarious Irish kid, full of bluster, who loved sports and was really good at them: All-State in football and basketball on state championship teams, and the league champion in the mile run in the spring.  His real name was not Joey O’Brien, but I’m writing about a real person. What was most appealing about Joey was the absolute joy he exhibited playing his games. He played with a smile on his face, exuberant. He was irresistible. After high school, he...

Ephemeroptera. That is the scientific name of the family of insects known more commonly as mayflies. The word is made up of two roots that come to us from Greek, through Latin. The first root is related to the modern word ephemeral. Though ephemeral has come to mean something more general, like “fleeting” or “short-lived,” in its origins it literally meant “lasting one day.”  The other root is ptera, which comes from the word for wings. This root appears in words like helicopter (a flying machine with helix wings) and pterodactyl (having winged fingers). When we put them together we get...

EXCEPT FOR HER time in college, when she was a successful sprinter on the track, Tracey Thompson Turner has always been a passionate horsewoman, and still competes at a high level in an equestrian event called “Combined Driving.”
In the new (2015) field house at Middlebury College, against the north wall (nearest the main entrance), down on the actual playing surface, large boards behind glass list the individual record holders in track and field — men and women, indoors and outdoors. It’s hard not to take special note of the first name among the women’s outdoor records, right at the top: the record-holder in the 100 meter dash — “Tracey Thompson, 11.9, 1979.” That’s a record that has stood for over 40 years, and withstood the challenge of hundreds and hundreds of runners in this exciting event that often culminates a...

JULES TYGIEL’S HISTORY of the integration of baseball is among columnist Karl Lindholm’s favorite non-fiction books on the sport because of it’s first-class scholarship and narrative appeal.
SABR, the Society of American Baseball Research, is in its 50th year. Begun in 1971 by 16 serious baseball fans, the organization today has over 6,000 members. To celebrate it 50th anniversary, SABR is publishing a book of 50 essays, “SABR 50 at 50: The Society for American Baseball Research’s Fifty Most Essential Contributions to the Game,” one for each year. One of those essays, (“The Book”) from SABR’s research journal, The National Pastime, (1996) is by our sports columnist Karl Lindholm and is included in this volume. Here is a condensed version of that piece.   “I never play by the book...
My alarm went off at 4 a.m. I bolted upright, fumbled for my iPhone on the nightstand, and shut it off as quickly as I could, hoping to avoid waking my wife. Before I could even stand up, I heard a high wind whipping through the trees outside. The turkeys were not going to be out and about much this morning, I thought. They certainly won’t be very vocal in these conditions. They will cautious, not likely to respond to any call I made. I almost abandoned my plans and put my head back down. I’d be asleep again moments after I pulled the covers back up. But I knew it might be the only morning of...


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