Tom Blount: Beware the ides of March

Mar. 10, 2013 @ 01:34 AM

Often a cliché or someone’s quote says it best.
Take this Herald-Tribune Feb. 24 posting by Thomas Tryon, “If the poet Alfred Lord Tennyson had lived in this century, he might have written: In the spring a young man’s fancy turns to thoughts of baseball. … Ah, spring training, this glorious time when all the trite things that fans say — and writers write — about another season of Major League Baseball are true. … Last year may not be forgotten but it is gone, the standings clear of wins and, more important, losses. Every team — regardless of its lineup and payroll — has the same record while its players, managers and coaches prepare for the long, 162-game season.”
Enterprise reports of High Point University’s recent two-game series with Ohio University stirred my memory bank. [HPU lost the first, won the second.]
Nearly six decades ago, I “practiced” — as a freshman (not allowed to participate in big-time college varsity sports during that era) — with University of Pittsburgh varsity baseball players for Ralph “Sarge” Mitterling. Mitterling, who also coached college football and basketball was head baseball man at Pitt (1939-54 with an 89-106-1 record). I was the next-to-last guy to make the Pitt varsity as a sophomore in 1955, when Bobby Lewis became Pitt’s coach.
My fate for most of that season — sitting on the bench — resulted from, as batting practice catcher, a conversation with one of the traveling squad players who had just returned from an early spring foray to Ohio. He told me Pitt was beaten by Ohio State and by Ohio University. A cocky teenager, I blurted out, “If I was coaching this team and it lost its first two games 16-7 and 13-1, I’d get myself a new lineup in a hurry.” Just as I said it, I discovered Lewis, fresh out of the U.S. Marine Corps, standing behind me. He said, “You aren’t the coach!” I “practiced” rather than played most of that season, splitting my time between No. 2 first baseman and No. 3 catcher. Lewis remained Pitt baseball coach through the 1990 season, posting a record of 320-357-1.
Meanwhile, with what has happened to the New York Yankees, I can’t wait for the Ides of March, hoping that will change their luck. The Yankees have been my favorite team since Yogi Berra, a player everyone — even The Sporting News — was making fun of, was elevated from the Newark Bears to the Yankees in 1946.
You may recall the Yankees lost all-time saves leader Mariano Rivera for all but April of the 2012 season when he tore up his knee; shortstop Derek Jeter’s 2012 season ended when he broke his ankle diving for a ball in the 12 inning of Game 1 of the American League Championship Series; pitcher CC Sabathia is coming back from surgery to remove a bone spur from his elbow; pitcher Andy Pettitte is returning for his 18th season after an abbreviated 2012; outfielder Curtis Granderson broke his arm in spring training’s first game and first baseman Mark Texiera strained his wrist last week.
Christian Science Monitor tells us, “The word ‘ides,’ which rhymes with ‘hides,’ is actually singular. According to the Roman calendar, the ides was the day of the full moon. It corresponded to the 13th day in most months, but the 15th of March, May, July, and October.” Answers website says, “The Ides of March — or March 15 — is known throughout history for being an ill-fated day. Julius Caesar was assassinated on this date in 44 B.C.”
Warning: All of you who can’t help betting on basketball playoff games should remember William Shakespeare’s phrase “Beware the Ides of March” in his play Julius Caesar.

Tom Blount retired as editor of The High Point Enterprise in 2012.