SEA TO SHINING SEA: Wind turbines, wheat fields and baseball

July 4, 2013
The Mighty (and haughty) Casey - made famous in the poem by journalist Ernest Laurence Thayer. BY DENNIS FORNEY

DAYS 49, 50 AND 51 - July 4, 2013 - Happy Fourth of July!

"The outlook wasn't brilliant for the Mudville nine that day . . . "

Our bicycles are in a storage room behind the front desk of this Holiday Inn water park on the eastern edge of Kansas City, Missouri. (Pronounce that Mizzura unless you want to be a real Loozer.)

In the lobby of Casey's Bar and Grill, just off the lobby, stands a great bronze statue of the infamous and proud Casey of the fictitious Mudville team.

"And now the leather-covered sphere came hurtling through the air, but Casey stood a watching it in haughty grandeur there.

"Close by the sturdy batsman the ball, unheeded, sped. "That ain't my style," said Casey.  "Strike one!" the umpire said.

Great booms and flashes of light woke me at 1 this morning. Over at Kauffman Stadium, just half a mile away from our hotel window, the long-awaited Independence Day fireworks show was underway. We sat up and watched. Kansas City beat division-leading Cleveland 6-5 after a two and a half-hour rain delay and then came the fireworks.  Dedicated and perseverating fans earned a victory and a great show.  And, it ended up being a Fourth of July display instead of a Fourth-of-July Eve show.

Yesterday we streaked across the plains of Kansas in a Nissan Quest rental van at 80 miles an hour. Jane said we would be "eating road" and that we did.  She and Michael hosted us in hospitable style for two days at 9,000-some feet near the little town of Divide. Hunter, a Springer, and Sunshine, a Corkie, made us feel right at home in their mountainside home.  I would have soaked longer in the hot tub but the same thunderstorm that wreaked havoc in Manitou below, chased me inside with a few crackling bolts of lightning.

Today we're walking over to Kauffman Stadium to watch the Royals and Indians go at it again.  July 4 and baseball, apple pie and some Kansas City ribs.  Sing halleluia!

"He signaled to the pitcher, and again the spheroid flew, but Casey still ignored it, and the umpire said "Strike Two!"

"Fraud!" cried the maddened thousands, and echo answered Fraud! But just one look from Casey and the audience was awed.

"They watched his face grow cold and stern, they watched his muscles strain, they knew that Casey wouldn't let the ball go by again."

George Brett is vice president of the Royals.  They love him in Kansas City.  Named the section of I-70 that passes the stadium in his honor. He sits in the Royals dugout in uniform as the team's hitting coach. One of baseball's sweetest-ever hitters.

Orville picked me up at the KC airport after I dropped off the rental. We walked about Brett.

"He was the last batter to hit .400," I said.

"Not really," said the Mizzura native.  "He batted over .400 during one season but ended his best year at .390.  Ted Williams is the last player to bat over .400 in a season."

Orville talked about the Kansas City Monarchs of the Negro League and said he had once seen Satchell Paige play.  "They say Paige didn't know how old he was."

"I've often heard him quoted," I said.  "'How old would you be of you didn't know how old you were?'"

"And now the pitcher holds the ball, and now he lets it go; and now the air is shattered by the force of Casey's blow!

"Oh, somewhere in this fabled land the sun is shining bright. Somewhere people are laughing, and somewhere hearts are light.  Somewhere the band is playing, and somewhere children shout; but there is no joy in Mudville, for mighty Casey has struck out."

Chris Davis hit his 31st or 32nd homer yesterday as the Birds beat the White Sox.  He's still leading both leagues.  Max Scherzer picked up his 13th win against no losses for the Tigers as he moves closer to Roger Clemens' record-holding 14-0 start in 1986.

Manny Machado for the Os is still leading both leagues with doubles. The hair on my neck raised the other day when I heard this statistic: The last time two players on the same team led both leagues in home runs and doubles was some time around 1927 when Babe Ruth and Lou Gehrig played together for the Yankees.

We will start pedaling again tomorrow when we head across Mizzura on the renowned Katy Trail.  Muscles are getting soft.  Time to start rolling again. Our total is holding at 1,898 miles. No, we're not including those 600 rental miles across Kansas.

You all be good.  Let freedom ring!

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