I was a bit late for February, which was fortuitous, in a way. I hadn't come up with anything sufficiently inspiring, and was, as a result, stalling for time. I have alluded to the influence current events would occasionally have on these columns during 2000 and 2001, and this is the first instance.

I was about to produce a probably sub-standard column returning to Valentine's Day, when word reached me that Charles Schulz had passed away. I was, to say the least, profoundly saddened - and I knew I had to do something in tribute.

Unbidden, Ernest L. Thayer's famous poem "Casey At The Bat" came to mind.

This thing wrote itself rather quickly, I must say.

Charlie at the Bat

......................................................................by Joe Nolte


The Fates were almost smiling on the Sandlot gang that day,
They'd reached the bottom of the ninth, and still were in the fray.
Against all hope they'd managed yet to keep themselves alive -
For the score, though still against them, stood at only 6 to 5.

And with a man on third they had the means to tie the score
(Although "man"'s not quite right - it was a beagle, nothing more)
And all through the silent dugout every player thought the same . . .
This just might be the day that they would finally win a game!

Two batters took the plate - two batters went down in a row,
And now the mood inside the dugout hit a deeper low.
A piano sat unplayed, a blanket lay alone and sad,
The home team's luck was holding - holding uniformly bad.

Two outs they had, two down and but a single out remained,
So not surprisingly 'twas now that it began to rain.
"One more At Bat," the umpire cried, "and then this game I'll call,
For clearly in a minute we'll be too drenched to play Ball!

Then "Aaughh!" came from the dugout, and the stands replied with "Aaughh!"
From the loftiest of players to the lowliest of dogs.
And little wonder what had pushed them to this saddened state -
For Charlie, good ol' Charlie, was advancing to the plate.

Strike One was soon in coming, followed closely by Strike Two,
And folks began to leave the stands, they knew the game was through.
Yet Charlie, with two strikes against him, never said a word,
But Whack! sent into Outer Space what should have been the Third!

"The Hit Heard 'Round the World," they later said of Charlie's feat,
And for perhaps the first time Good ol' Charlie's world was sweet
No crabbiness from Lucy now, and later on, that Fall,
It's said that Lucy actually let Charlie kick the ball!

Oh, what commotion now ensued - had Reason taken leave?
For Charlie Brown to win a game was still hard to believe.
And out in Santa Rosa lies a fellow with a grin,
"Perhaps", he thinks, "perhaps, just once, I should have let them win!"

His gazes toward the ceiling, then, and through it - to the sky
And to his great amazement sees that very ball whiz by.
And close behind it (naturally) a flying doghouse nears,
Controlled by bird and beagle, both in search of fresh Root Beers.

And high above, a melody - 'tis Beethoven, he deems,
And all at once the tune shifts to a more familiar theme.
He stops to get a better look, and then he laughs aloud
For Guaraldi, Vince Guaraldi sits, just playing on a cloud.

Another cloud is cloaked in dust, "That's Pigpen's cloud, I fear!"
He watches now as more and more familiar friends appear
There's Violet, Shermy and the rest from when the world was new,
Side by side with Woodstock, Sally, and the later Peanuts crew.

Their laughter rings throughout the heavens, as the heavens close,
The music fades to silence - after that, well, no one knows.
While back on earth, next morning, all the papers hit the stands,
With final strip - its message now more poignant than was planned . . .

. . . Now somewhere kids fly kites and dogs fly planes, just as before,
And somewhere monstrous pumpkins rise from patches by the score,
Somewhere Beethoven, blankets and baseball are still the rage,
But there is no joy in this town -

Mr. Schulz has left the stage.

In Memoriam

(with apologies to Ernest L. Thayer's "Casey at the Bat")