May 2, 2009

Little League

by Paul Hostovsky

When the ump produces
his little hand broom
and stops all play to stoop
and dust off home plate,
my daughter sitting beside me
looks up and gives me a smile that says
this is by far her favorite part of baseball.

And then when he skillfully
spits without getting any
on the catcher or the batter or himself,
she looks up again and smiles
even bigger.

But when someone hits a long foul ball
and everyone's eyes are on it
as it sails out of play ...
the ump has dipped his hand
into his bottomless black pocket
and conjured up a shiny new white one
like a brand new coin
from behind the catcher's ear,
which he then gives to the catcher
who seems to contain his surprise
though behind his mask his eyes are surely
as wide with wonder as hers.

"Little League" by Paul Hostovsky, from Bending the Notes. © Main Street Rag, 2008. Reprinted with permission. (buy now)

It's the birthday of lyricist Lorenz Hart, born in New York City (1895). He wrote the lyrics to songs like "Blue Moon" (1934), "My Funny Valentine" (1937), and "The Lady Is a Tramp" (1937).

It's the birthday of English author and dramatist Jerome K. Jerome, (books by this author) born in Walsall, England (1859), best known for his play Three Men in a Boat (To Say Nothing of the Dog) (1889). He said, "There is no fun in doing nothing when you have nothing to do. … Idleness, like kisses, to be sweet must be stolen."

It's the birthday of Dr. Benjamin Spock, (books by this author) born in New Haven, Connecticut (1903). He's the author of  The Common Sense Book of Baby and Child Care (1946), which begins with the famous first sentence: "You know more than you think you do."

It's the birthday of the father of modern Zionism: Theodor Herzl, (books by this author) born in Pest, Hungary (now Budapest) in 1860. He moved to Vienna when he was 18, studied law and literature, and then went to Paris to cover the Dreyfus Affair, an incident in which a Jewish captain in the French army was wrongly convicted of being a spy for Germany. Anti-Semitism was rampant, and after the trial, Parisians streamed out into the streets chanting, "Death to the Jews. " It made an enormous impression on young Herzl, and after he realized the full extent of anti-Semitism in Germany and Russia, he became convinced that Jews needed to leave Europe and start their own nation where they would be free of persecution. He published his ideas in Der Judenstaat (1896), which was translated into English as The State of the Jews or The Jewish State.

He traveled around Europe and beyond as the main spokesman for Zionism. In 1897, he organized the First Zionist Congress, held in Basel, Switzerland. He gathered support for the cause of a Jewish state. Britain offered the Sinai Peninsula, which was part of its colony Egypt. But that plan failed, so Britain offered part of its East African settlement in Uganda.

Herzl died in 1904 from heart failure, and the 1905 Zionist Congress decided to commit itself to founding a Jewish state in the ancestral homeland of Israel. Young Jewish people from all over Europe starting migrating to Palestine, and by 1935, there were 355,000 Jews in Palestine. In 1948, after the end of World War II and the Arab-Israeli War of 1948, Israel was established as a Jewish nation. Jewish people from all over the world continue to immigrate in large numbers to Israel. Today, Israel is the biggest immigrant-absorbing nation in the world relative to its population. About one-third of Israelis living in Israel are foreign-born. About 40 percent of the world's Jewish population lives in Israel, and about another 40 percent in the United States.

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