Tag Archives: Father

Baseball Has Not Been Berry Good to Me

26 Jun


It’s  high summer and according to my calculations we are approximately 40% through this year’s professional baseball season.Perhaps its un-American, but I have never been much of a baseball fan. Sports psychologist Rick Grieve from Western Kentucky  University says that  the main factor  in becoming a   fan  is the socialization  experience. He believes that people become fans through exposure to a sport through family and friends.  Grieve also asserts that fathers play a key role,  as children   gravitate to the sports their fathers watch or play.   I  have always blamed my lack  of interest in sports on  my father,  to whom sports were always highly suspect. I don’t think he could ever comprehend the value of working up a sweat, without actually performing some practical work. Why bother swinging a bat, when you could just as easily swing a shovel and get something useful done.

Another factor may be that any mention of baseball triggers a lot of traumatic memories of my  dismal childhood baseball career. At school games, I was always one of the last kids picked for a team. It’s funny how other kids instinctually know who stinks at baseball.  In elementary school it seemed like the better you were able to read, the worse you were at baseball. I, myself, was an outstanding reader.

The summer I turned eight  I signed up for  Sav-More Market’s   new Little League team. I loved my new  leather baseball glove and my red and white uniform, but I was  constantly terrified of  getting  hit  by the ball.  I saw some  of my friends  hurt playing sports and it didn’t  take very many protruding bones, busted lips,  and  broken noses to make me  want  to reconsider the whole baseball thing. Whenever the ball was thrown or hit to me,  my first impulse  was always to get out of the way. Likewise when I batted, I jumped  about a foot back with every pitch, which didn’t make me much of batting threat.   The coach threaten to put my feet in  a bucket,  to make me stay in the batter’s box. 

I played outfield, although due to my frequent  left-right confusion, I couldn’t say which one.  I just ran out to  the empty one. I  liked playing deep in the outfield, since most of  the time I didn’t have to worry about balls being hit that far.  My attention would immediately wander from the action in the infield and I would spend most of my time fiddling with my hat, shoestrings,  or staring  at dandelions.  In the unlikely event that a fly ball was actually hit into the outfield, the aggressive dyslexic  in the adjacent field would usually run over, push me aside,  and catch  the ball.

One time all our team’s pitchers were either sick or injured and in desperation, the coaches gave me a  try-out as a  hurler. After a dozen or so wild throws, one of which hit an umpire, they banished me back to the outfield. I guess they finally decided that I was too dangerous to be allowed to pitch. We ended up forfeiting  the game.

As the season progressed,  our team started actually winning some games and I soon found myself sitting on the bench most of the time, which was just fine with me.  I rationalized it to myself  this way, “Cool uniform.  Cool baseball glove.   No pressure or yelling.  And  best of all, no fastballs upside the head”.  I think our team finished third,  but I hung up my  cleats after that one season and decided that the summer was better spent bumming around on my bicycle.

After retiring from the game at the age of eight,  I considered myself a veteran  ballplayer  and like everyone else in my neighborhood,  an expert when it came to the   St. Louis Cardinals. This is the closest I came to being a baseball  fan and it only lasted a few years. It  was all due to peer pressure, media hype, and the proximity of the Cardinals,  just across the Mississippi River from where I lived.   I was at Busch Memorial Stadium the day it opened in 1966 and was listening  when Cardinal pitching ace Bob Gibson  had 17 strikeouts during the first game  of the 1968 World Series. I also leaned to despise  our archrivals, the  Chicago Cubs. While I  pretended to  like baseball to fit in with my peers, the only game I actually attended was  miserable  and as exciting as watching paint dry.  Once I left the St. Louis area, my interest quickly waned.

Although I don’t  follow major league  baseball  as an adult,  I recently checked the standings and  was annoyed  to see the Cardinals trailing Cincinnati, in the central division. This is especially egregious  since my son-in-law, Jeff,  is such a rabid Cincinnati Reds fan. His family visited  from Michigan recently  and  he went to three  Reds games in a single weekend weekend. Jeff is also playing on a softball team at his work.  That father influence seems to be  at work,  because this summer our four year old grandson is playing on a baseball team for the first time.

My wife Diane says that I was negligent with our own three boys, because I never took the time to teach them how to properly catch, throw, or hit. In my defense, I didn’t have  very good  skills or the knowledge to be a  good coach.   I did, however, work with our youngest son some, when he expressed interest in  playing on a team. Although he seemed to have the hereditary Stawar fear of being hit by the ball, he did learn some of the basics and was adorable in his uniform. In order to be competitive in baseball, however,  I think you  have to grow up playing  the  game. Just being cute isn’t enough. I’m afraid I produced a bunch of dandelion  gazing outfielders, like myself.

As for major league baseball today,  all I can say is, “Congratulations to the Giants’ Matt Cain on his recent perfect game. I’m sure  those lousy Reds  are bound to fade in the stretch  and  at least those despicable Cubs are in the central division cellar, where they belong.”   

First published in the Southern Indiana News Tribune.  


Shocking Inventions

6 Oct




              It is usually assumed that inventors possess a high degree of genius. When we think about the electric light bulb or telephone, we figure that some advanced intelligence must have been at work. But perhaps this is    erroneous, it may be than inventiveness and intelligence is actually unrelated. As evidence for this hypothesis I offer the Stawar family inventions– prime examples of creativity without necessarily intelligence.

            My father was a self-taught electrician and as I grew up I was exposed to variety of his attempts to advance the science of electricity.  Nearly all of his inventions involved having several exposed live electrical wires hanging about so that any false move could result in a life threatening electrical shock. This danger may have never occurred to my father because he was personally immune to electrical shock. Like a snake handler who had been bitten so often that the venom was no longer toxic, my father had been shocked so many times in his 44 years as an electrician, be could literally hold two “hot” 100 volt electrical wires in his hands with no obvious ill effect—I’d like to see Thomas Edison do that.

            My father built an elaborate workshop that included a long workbench with a one inch thick rubber mat to stand on to keep from getting grounded—although he could longer feel shock,  he seemed to realize that it still could kill him under the right circumstances.

Dad built a test light into the workbench so he could test electrical circuits. This device consisted of two exposed live electrical wires which when touched together completed a circuit illuminating a 100 watt light bulb. The device was always on and could not be shut off. As a child I quickly learned to only touch the insulated part of the wires and I often played with the device, burning up flashlight bulbs and defibrillating small animals.

              I believe my father may have actually designed and built one of the first fully electric lawn mowers. Now this was in the time before plugs had three prongs (ground fault technology) so using an electric lawn mower on dewy grass was like sticking a wet fork into a toaster. And the ever-present lethal possibility of running over the cord was an added source of excitement.

My father never grasps the basic principles of mechanical engineering,  but he loved electrical motors. After several experiments  he decided that he needed an enormous electric motor to power the mower. This motor resembled a turbine from  Grand Couleedam. To support the gigantic motor he needed a very strong frame. Since he was able to arc weld a little,  he constructed a square box out of heavy gauge metal. He hacksawed pointy grooves in the front and fitted it with a push handle made out of thick steel pipe. The mower now resembled a Shermantank with sharp teeth and weighted about the same. Although it actually could cut grass, it was so heavy you needed to take a nap after every 10 feet.




After using this Frankenstein of a lawnmower for a while, our old push mower seemed virtually weightless. Dad may have inadvertently invented the first Nautilus exercise machine.

              In the fifth grade I took one of my father’s inventions to school to a sort of “show and tell” program. This was his famed electric hot dog cooker. He had soldered wires on to two nails, which he then mounted in a small wooden rack, the length of a standard hot dog. Then he attached the wires to a plug. When plugged in the hot dog completed the circuit and the meat was essentially electrocuted. Of course if you touched the hot-dog you stood the chance of also being cooked. A hot dog cooked in this manner develops an awful peculiar acidic taste. It also had the odor of searing flesh, which was reminiscent of the execution chamber at the state prison. When I demonstrated the device my science  teacher yelled at me about the general hazard this miniature electric chair for wieners represented and the horrendous smell, which quickly filled the entire school.

              Another time I took an electric magnetizer my father invented to school and was told to immediately take it home because it was too dangerous. Never discouraged by any setbacks,  one Christmas my father decided to put red and green lights  up on our front porch. However instead of using regular Christmas lights, he installed porcelain sockets and used full sized 200 watt red and green light bulbs with a timer which made them flash on and off. I thought it look pretty cool, my mother said it made the house look like a “God-damn tavern”. I suspect my father sort of liked that look.