Whenever I want to see the first robin of spring, I just look in the mirror.
As soon as February begins, the question comes every day: "When are you leaving? Aren't you gone yet?"
My disappearance has, to my friends, become a harbinger. If I'm gone to Florida, can spring and baseball be far behind?
This is the month when baseball antsiness reaches its peak. Fans have done their best with their own personal hot-stove methdadone programs. But patience has limits. November wasn't too bad with its free agents.December's trades were okay. And even in January it was possible to get out the final averages and, red pen in hand, digest the numbers like some statistical cow with nine stomachs. But by February, baseball's news tidbets are of the vilest sort -- arbitration, renegotiation, and labor rhetoric.
Desperate measures become necessary. I first noticed this year's early signs of baseball withdrawl recently when an aparently sane fellow interrupted our conversation -- on whether to put a cap on federal disability insurance benefits, I think -- to ask me out of the blue, "Who was the only pitcher ever to lose 200 games without also winning 200?"
Humoring the poor fellow, I said, "Gimme a hint."
"National League righty . . . retired in '66 . . . record: 197-230," he smirked.
"Dave Stockman," I grumbled.
"No," he gloated, "Bob Friend."
The next outbreak of pre-season despondency came when I was in the tiny town of Selbyville, Del., talking to the proprietor of Hasting's Pharmacy.
"The Sporting News is late this week," said Harold Hastings irritably.
That won't help you, I thought.
"I've been thinking about buying one share of Chicago Cubs stock," he continued, a man grasping at straws.
"That's nice. How much would it cost?" I said.
"About $1,000," said the cold-turkey druggist.
"What would you do with it?" I asked.
"I could go to a Cubs stockholders meeting," he said. "I've always wanted to see how they do it."
"How they do what?" I asked, foolishly.
"How they screw us up every year," said Hastings.