Monday, April 2, 2012

Baseball, newspapers and the Monitor-Index

Three framed Moberly newspaper front pages hang on the wall in the Monitor-Index office. Two of them proclaim victory in the World Wars, and a third is even older.

The World War I page, from 1918, mentions the storied Armistice, and the World War II page, from 1945, features a cartoon of Uncle Sam holding up the Statue of Liberty’s raised arm, with the caption, “And Still Champion!”

These monumental events are so ingrained in our national history and identity that they seem familiar, even so many decades later. But there are still reminders of just how long ago these heady days were. In addition to the brownness of the pages, there is the World War I page referring to Germans as “Huns” and the World War II page referring the Japanese surrender as the “Nip capitulation.” You won’t find these terms on front pages today, not without a lot of hand-wringing and a little firing.

But the third framed page, the oldest one, has something that’s not out of date at all, something that’s ran in the Monitor-Index for pretty much every summer day for over a century.

There, on the framed front of the Aug. 1, 1909, Moberly Monitor, are the American and National League baseball scores.

It is difficult to fathom just how long ago this has been, but here is the best I can do: The Chicago Cubs, who beat Philadelphia 1-0 the day before, the team that popularized the phrase, “Anybody can have a bad century,” that epitomizes futility in American sports… were the defending World Series champions at the time. They have not won a World Series title since.

So much intertwined, newspapers and baseball have been a source of continuity, and by extension, identity for our communities and our country. They are our stories, then and now. They are our memories.

In this day and age, a person will switch jobs several times, maybe even switch careers altogether. People move and neighbors change more than ever. People end marriages and start new ones. Our college teams switch conferences.

And yet, the experience of going to the ballpark and watching our team play remains very much like it was years ago. The diamond of dirt with the white islands of bases. The great green expanse of the outfield grass. Booing and cheering the ball and strike calls. That iconic crack of the bat. The pauses where suspense builds, and then those frantic bursts of action where players dash around the basepaths and the fielders scramble to corral the ball and get it back into the infield.

We go with our grandparents and parents, with our friends and our dates. If we’re lucky, we’ll go with our kids and grandkids.

That continuity also rings true for our newspapers. It is impossible to catalogue every happening in a community, regardless of its size. But overall, our newspapers tell the Story of Us. Generation after generation, they are the family photo album and journal for the communities they represent.

Newspapers are almost always the oldest business in town, or very close to it. St. Louis has its Post-Dispatch. Kansas City has its Star. And Moberly has its Monitor-Index.

I have had the pleasure of writing for the Moberly Monitor-Index for a little over two years. Friday will be my last day. To be a part of this institution has been, in a word, fun.

I got to cover a visit from the President of the United States, the first president elected when I was of legal voting age. I’ve covered senators and would-be senators. I’ve met fascinating people and storytellers. I’ve got to see volunteers at work, people who help make this community a little better place. No less enjoyable has been learning from my coworkers.

There will probably be days here and there when I miss working at the Monitor-Index. I was 23 to 25 during my time here, a great window in a person’s life. Both by providing exciting opportunities and by not overworking me so as to keep a work-life balance, the job allowed me to enjoy this fun stage in a person’s life. Who knew one could learn so much while having fun.

Now the Monitor-Index will roll on without me. Times change, and there are changes even for even things like baseball and newspapers. But they adapt, they survive, they draw us in again and again. Here’s hoping people can enjoy our national pastime and the Stories of Us for generations to come.

They are our stories, then and now. They are our memories. 

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