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A Baseball Note and Our National Anthem

October 8, 2014

 

A Brief Baseball Note

 

by Alice Jane-Marie Massa

 

 

In October of 1959, my sister and I–along with  the other approximately 86 students–quietly filed into the spacious auditorium of Jacksonville Grade School (Blanford, Indiana) for a very special occasion.  Thanks to our neighbor, who lived across the field from our house, all eight classes of Jacksonville Grade School were poised to watch the World Series.  Although John (“Johnny”) Torasso was a full-time barber in his own shop on Clinton’s Ninth Street, he also dabbled in television repair.  So, as we students were settling onto the wooden benches, Johnny was setting up a table model TV, which was probably a 17-inch or 19-inch model–of course, black-and-white video–in front of the stage which was draped with a Jacksonville green curtain.  I imagine that this was the first–and possibly the only time–a television entered Jacksonville Grade School.  In that World Series game between the New York Yankees and the Pittsburgh Pirates, the great majority of the Jacksonville Golden Bears were silently rooting for the Yankees.  This opportunity at school (in the middle of the day) to watch a World Series game on television was quite a special treat for rural grade-school students and teachers in 1959.

 

Since I have not shared a short story in my blog for about ten months, you will find below a short (900-word) story–with a connection to baseball and history.  All the names–except the name of the baseball field–stem from the history of The Star-Spangled Banner.

 

 

Hold That Note–Longer, Longer

 

by Alice Jane-Marie Massa

 

 

Other students at Keyfauver High School were running laps around the track or swimming laps in the Olympic-sized pool, but Scottie was running through arpeggios.  Perhaps, the early morning hour caused her mind to drift while she was warming up her voice.  The KHS senior was thinking of the origin of her nickname.  In the second grade, she had grown weary of being called “Sam,” short for “Samantha.”  So, on a piece of paper, she doodled her initials and her last name:  S-C-Ott.  Forgoing her middle name “Crescent,” she saw before her the name “Scott”; immediately, she decided to establish her nickname as “Scottie.”  Eleven years later, the nickname persisted:  she liked the name.  As Scottie warmed up her vocal cords, she suddenly thought of the connection between her nickname and the writer of the lyrics of The Star-Spangled Banner–the anthem which she had been practicing for months to sing at the opening of the baseball game–not the high school game, but a major league, broadcasted game.

 

From the adjacent office, Miss Francis entered the music room and commented enthusiastically: “Beautiful, beautiful.  Your voice, as usual, is in great form this morning.  The forecast is in our favor, and I am so looking forward to your performance this afternoon.  What a historical day–in more than one way!”

 

“Yes, yes, Ms. Francis, I know:  September 13, the 200th anniversary of the writing of The Star-Spangled Banner,” Scottie responded with her broad smile.

 

“Save your voice, dear.  Do not speak too much this morning.  Remember:  no milk products, no soda–just bottled water.  Did you bring a healthy snack for around eleven?”

 

Scottie assured her music teacher and vocal coach that all was in perfect motion for the big event.  Then, Miss Francis proclaimed that the time had come for one final rehearsal before first-period students entered.  With the music room doors still closed, Scottie was singing the national anthem flawlessly when on the final note of the final measure, she heard her vocal coach’s typical mantra:  “Hold that note–longer, longer.”  Strongly and purely, Samantha Crescent Ott did.

 

After a moment or two of silence, Miss Francis wiped a couple of tears from her eyes–happy, thankful tears.  “Marvelous.  Are your parents meeting us here or at the stadium?”

 

“They have a big gig with their Baby-Boomer band tonight, so they are not coming.  Just you and me, Ms. Francis.  I will meet you at 11:30, at the back music door.  My car–The Candy Apple Red Zoomer–and I will be waiting for you.  Don’t be late!”

 

Having given Scottie private lessons for over three years, Miss Francis had met her prize student’s parents on many occasions; the teacher of forty-one years was taken aback by the news that Mr. and Mrs. Ott would not attend their daughter’s performance.  Miss Francis was surprised that Scottie was not at all upset by her parents’ lack of support on this one special occasion, but the veteran teacher knew a “together” student when she worked with one.

 

With his usual dreamy, but future politician voice, the day’s public address announcer began:  “This is John Stafford Smith, senior class president, with the morning announcements for September 13, 2014.  At 1:20 this afternoon, over this very same PA system, you will hear a very special rendition of The Star-Spangled Banner–on the 200th anniversary of the writing of the US national anthem.  Yes, Keyfauver students, you will be listening to the opening of this afternoon’s baseball game via WFSK.”

 

A few hours later, Scottie and Miss Francis were waiting for the cue to take the place behind the microphone at Vermillion Field. When someone gave them the five-minute warning, Scottie suddenly changed her demeanor.  “Ms. Francis, I just can’t do it.  I am too nervous, too upset.  I can’t.  You will have to take my place.  You are such a musical historian:  you should be the one to sing The Star-Spangled Banner on the 200th anniversary.  You should do it–you have to do it.”

 

“Scottie, this is your one chance in a lifetime.  You can do it.  Make the butterflies work for you–not against you.  I know you:  I know you can sing the anthem with flair.”

 

“No, this is your one chance in a lifetime.  I already told Mac Henry to introduce your name–not mine.  I will walk up to the microphone with you and Star.  Ms. Francis, for once, the spotlight will be on you and your voice.”

 

Having begun his radio career at age 16–forty-seven years earlier–Mac Henry rigorously and brightly announced, “On this 200th anniversary of our national anthem, we are proud to have at the microphone Ms. Willa Francis and her Leader Dog Star; Ms. Francis, who has been teaching music for forty-one years, will now sing The Star-Spangled Banner.

 

Scottie lightly patted her teacher’s right arm and then stepped away.  Keeping in mind all the advice Miss Francis had ever given to all her student performers through the many semesters, she sang.  As the music teacher reached the final note of the final measure of the anthem, Scottie was ever so slightly whispering to her mentor, “Hold that note–longer, longer.”  Willa Francis did.  From Keyfauver High School to Vermillion Field, she heard the applause, the applause–and loved the moment.  She had waited a very long time to hold that “brave” note as long as she could.

 

 

Enjoy the World Series and the singing of our national anthem!

Alice and Zoe

 

October 8, 2014, Wednesday

 

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5 Comments
  1. Oh, I can clearly remember sitting in that auditorium watching the World Series games. I wasn’t that interested in baseball, but getting to watch TV at school was such a special experience! Your story about “The Star-Spangled Banner” made me think of the patriotic songs we used to sing at Jacksonville School, especially in Mr. Peyton’s class.
    Love, Mary

    • Yes, Mr. (William E.) Payton was a very patriotic teacher. I remember that he kept a large ringbinder in which he had poems and lyrics in his artistically beautiful handwriting–cursive, of course. When he was my teacher in the seventh and eighth grades, a portion of each Friday was dedicated to patriotism. So very many students of Vermillion County learned so much from this dedicated teacher, who had also been principal of Jacksonville Grade School. Thanks for your comment–Alice & Zoe

  2. Alice, I wondered if you were going to include that story when I saw your post’s title. It was nice reading it again. Play ball!

  3. I love this story. I am an avid lover of baseball myself, and any story that revolves around the base paths resonates greatly with me. The story is wonderful, the stage, or should I say, “The Stadium”, is painted perfectly and your gift is so appreciated. dp

    • Deon–Many thanks! Enjoy the end of this baseball season–between your classes and studies! AJM

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