Lagniappe is an excellent word, indeed, for small bonus favors that sometimes come our way, but, like most people, I’d never heard of it until I went to graduate school at Tulane and then lived in New Orleans for a while back in the early 1960s. Merriam-Webster.com defines lagniappe as “a small gift given a customer by a merchant at the time of a purchase; broadly : something given or obtained gratuitously or by way of good measure.” With the help of Mark Twain, the digital dictionary source adds the following fleshiness to the word’s bare word-bones:
We picked up one excellent word, wrote Mark Twain in Life on the Mississippi (1883), “a word worth traveling to New Orleans to get; a nice limber, expressive, handy word-‘lagniappe’…. It is Spanish-so they said.” Twain encapsulates the history of “lagniappe” quite nicely. English speakers learned the word from French-speaking Louisianians, but they in turn had adapted it from the American Spanish word la ñapa. Twain went on to describe how New Orleanians completed shop transactions by saying “Give me something for lagniappe,” to which the shopkeeper would respond with “a bit of liquorice-root, … a cheap cigar or a spool of thread.” It took a while for “lagniappe” to catch on throughout the country, but by the mid-20th century, New Yorkers and New Orleanians alike were familiar with this “excellent word.” – Merriam-Webster.com
Lasagna is simply the lagniappe gift to my desire an for alliterative title to this Sunday column. I don’t really have any lasagna here with me, but that’s OK. I have learned in life that wishfulness doesn’t always get me in trouble. Besides, when we wish for something we don’t have, it sometimes helps steel our discipline to do without the satisfaction we seek in the moment and strengthens our grip on Spartan resolve to abstinence. The only fly in the ointment to this experience is the clock. Without commitment to disciplined avoidance, the shelf life of our resolve has about a 24-hour shelf life.
At any rate, if you have not yet taken the “TL/DR” path in relation to the apparent length of this latest blog entry, here are our Pecan Park Eagle servings of imagined lasagna and soul-gifting lagniappe for the first autumn Sunday evening in Houston:
(1) Belated Happy Birthday, Larry Dierker!
Happy Birthday, Larry Dierker!
September 22, 1964
1st Major League Game
Our belated best wishes go out to our dear friend, Larry Dierker, the Astros pitching and managerial icon, baseball broadcaster and newspaper columnist, baseball historian and book author, and contributor, along with his family, to the promotion of reading among the school age children of Houston. As you probably know, Larry won 20 games for the 1969 Astros, posting an overall Houston franchise record of 137 wins for the Astros over 13 seasons (1964-1976), with another short final 14th season at St. Louis that took the final tot board on his complete career to 139 wins, 123 losses and an ERA of 3.31 with 1,493 strikeouts over 2,333.2 innings of MLB pitching. Larry also pitched a no-hitter for the Astros during the summer of 1976.
After his playing days were done, he worked the history/color side of Astros broadcasting, working with both the disparately different and differing Astros mike men who each later won the Ford Frick Award, Gene Elston and Milo Hamilton. Of course, Larry also was blessed to have some time working with the soon retiring Bill Brown in the booth as well. Along the way, between his broadcasting and local newspaper column writing, Larry revealed himself to be the renaissance man he always was – a player who appreciated the game’s history and the sport’s value to the American culture. In 1997, the Astros pulled Larry from the booth and made him field manager of the club. Wow! What an impact move that turned out to be. Under Dierker’s management, the Astros went to the NL playoffs in 4 of the 5 years in which he managed. Only in 2000, their first year in the new venue we now know as Minuted Made Park, did the club fail to qualify. And 2000 was also the year following Larry’s collapse from a brain tumor-induced seizure in the Astrodome’s last 1999 baseball season. Larry recovered and even came out with a book later that germinated from his seizure and tumor issues. It was about managing – and Larry played it with that dry non-blinking Dierker sense of humor by calling his first book in 2003 by the apt title of “This Ain’t Brain Surgery.” A second book followed in 2006 called “My Team.” In this later work, Dierker picked his favorite starting MLB lineups from the four decades he spent playing and watching baseball.
Larry Dierker pitched his first MLB game for the Houston Colt .45’s on his 18th birthday at old Colt Stadium in Houston on 9/22/1964. He didn’t win, but he struck out Willie Mays while the “Say Hey Kid” was still playing at the top of his game. Larry Dierker is a member of the Texas Baseball Hall of Fame. The Houston Astros also retired his number 49 sometime after the completion of his managerial tenure, and our local Houston SABR group is named in his honor as The Larry Dierker Chapter. Today, Larry Dierker is also an active member and supporter of our SABR Chapter objectives for bringing baseball history, particularly our local baseball history, into the light of day over the three separate centuries it has been a part of Houston’s daily life and heartbeat.
Belated public birthday wishes, Larry! My apologies for having to slip this message to you under the Sunday lagniappe door.
(2) LSU Fires Head Football Coach Les Miles. Yesterday, it briefly appeared that LSU had managed to crazily throw a touchdown pass that won the game from home club Auburn on the last play. For a few moments, Miles and his celebrating players and staff were jumping around in a state of pandemonium. Then came the kicker. The Auburn head coach, Gus Malzahn, challenged that the LSU QB had not gotten the playoff before the game clock ran out, signalling the end of contest. There was 0.01 seconds left on the clock before the plan was run, but it was on temporarily on hold until the referee whistled it to start again. The LSU QB faced the maybe impossible task of taking the ball snap in that nanosecond time gap that apparently exists (in theory) between the referee’s whistle and the clock rolling to 0.00. As it turned out on appeal or referee review of the tape, the LSU had not done the maybe impossible. The clock had reached 0.00 and the LSU QB was still waiting for the ball snap from center. Now it’s Auburn hitting the pandemonium button and LSU people falling like felled trees on the turf. And finally, there is Coach Miles, strolling off the field in a gait that was remindful of a “dead man walking.”
Today, Coach Les Miles found out how prophetic that zombie walk may have been. LSU has fired Head Coach Les Miles and his offensive coordinator, Cam Cameron, from their jobs, effective immediately.
Wow! Common sense says that the LSU people have been looking for an excuse to fire Miles, anyway, but come on, did they really need to fire him for a victory that had been snatched away by a nanosecond early tick of the clock that negated a sensational winning play for LSU?
Sometimes in my idealistic mind, it occurs to me that competitive winning at the highest levels of American Sports today has nothing to do with ethical considerations at all. And maybe that’s been true forever, but it still sucks to think that winning has nothing to with loyalty by club decision-makers to their players and fans – or by players to their clubs, if they can get more money elsewhere – and the sooner, the better. Only the fans seem to show up out of loyalty. No one can really buy our hearts away from our favorite teams. We are here because the decision-makers are putting a team on the field that represents our city – or even more deeply sometimes, our alma maters. And it hurts the fan loyalty every time a crack in the door opens up to reveal that some club decision-makers are not really trying to win, but they do understand that they have to keep the fans thinking that they are doing everything possible.
Even though we know it’s not true, many of us fans also like to think that every manager or coach has the kind of mutual team loyalty that Knute Rockne had at Notre Dame, or Darrell Royal had at UT, or Bill Yeoman had at UH, or Tommy Lasorda had with the Dodgers. No ethical decision-maker in their right mind would have fired any of those guys on the heels of a day like Les Miles had yesterday. If I were an LSU alum, I’d be about ready to get off the emotional connection train as a result of something like the Miles firing. – Even if many of the fans no longer trusted Les Miles to get the job done of winning the National Championship every year. Oh, that’s right. I forgot. Les Miles hasn’t won a NCAA national football championship since 2007. He needs to go. Right?
(3) AL Wild Card Update, Thru Sunday, 9/25/2016.
THE 2016 AMERICAN LEAGUE WILD CARD RACE
THROUGH ALL GAMES OF SUNDAY, 9/25/2016:
GL above = Games Left to Play
* Red Lettering = Slim Chances & Close to Elimination
“…. And Down the Stretch They Come …. Jays and O’s are pulling away for the only spots that will count …. Tigers falling back … still possible for the Bengal boys to make a run on the O’s …. but not so much on the Jays …. M’s and Stros show signs of catching life, but the spread of space between now and the end is now way too big to matter …. unless the three horses in the lead all drop dead at once. …. Time to get your hopes and dreams and money down for next year, Astros fans …. Shall we go straight from the track to spring training??? ….. Uh Oh! …. we feel it coming on like a sound booming down on us from the hard wood forest hills and plains of North Texas … Can you hear it??? …. There it is again!!!! …. ‘Hi Yo, Silver, Let’s Ride! …. The Texas Rangers …. Ride Again!!!”
Publisher, Editor, Writer
The Pecan Park Eagle