Earl Finkler

In the Midwest winter, baseball often stays alive through “hot stove leagues,” where fans way back might actually sit around an actual stove, talking about their favorite teams or players and what should be done to get their team to the top in the coming season.

Now there are fan-fests, in person or online. And also trade rumors and fantasy baseball leagues—historic and current. I read somewhere that fantasy sports leagues in total may generate more funds than real sports teams. I play fantasy baseball for fun and am happy just to stay out of the cellar. 

In the Alaskan far north, where I lived for more than 20 years, the sun returns after several months of virtual darkness. But in Barrow, I could see enough over the lunch hour to play some catch with my friend Kent.

Then spring came and slowly warmed up our mud and gravel streets and softball field (no hardball). I still remember the first year for our new field. We patiently waited for the snow to clear, but then the field resembled a real quagmire. Our radio cynic Elise daily would urge us to be careful out there, so we wouldn’t lose any players who might sink down out of sight.

That year we had to go back to the old field downtown, which was now kind of a storage dump. “Hey, who needs a right field anyway?”

Imagine playing a summer of softball without right field! As the season went on, some daring fielders would bravely venture out to right field and other quagmires, trying their best. We got worried that we might never see them again.

The next year when we went back to the new field, there were also safety concerns. Early one morning when I was on my way to KBRW, the field did seem to be healing. But then I looked down past third base. There were tracks—fresh tracks—of a polar bear.

Wow, someone like me might have made a tasty breakfast for such a bear. But I did make it.

In the Arctic, one gets rather used to such happenings. Another early morning, I had just started walking over a frozen lagoon and then the softball field.

My wife later told me that the polar bear patrol had called to warn me of another polar bear sighting. So she got her parka on and drove along looking for me. “But then I relaxed when I did not see any bloody carnage,” she added. Glad to hear it, Chris!

“Hey, hey, let’s play some softball.” And don’t worry about disappearing in right field, or polar bears or other concerns.

Finkler, a frequent visitor to Dyersville, relocated to Medford, Wis., in 2008 after previously living in Barrow, Alaska.