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Game Called: a friend has passed

 


Game Called. Across the field of play

The dusk has come, the hour is late.

the fight is done and lost or won,

The player files out through the gate.

The tumult dies, the cheer is hushed,

the stands are bare, the park is still.

But through the night there shines the light,

home beyond the silent ill.

The words from Grantland Rice's poem have revisited my mind on countless occasions, several times a day since Sunday when I found out about the passing of Lane Hauge.

Maybe it's because Rice's words are far better than anything I could ever hope to write. The poem was written as a eulogy to the passing of Babe Ruth and still makes the hair on the back of my neck stand like Ruth's cold ghost has just breezed past me.

While the poem was written for perhaps the single most important baseball player in history, its words ring true for the single greatest baseball ambassador I have ever met.

Some people would call him a great fan. But it would cheapen Lane's memory to call him just a fan. He was so much more than that. He was a friend to baseball and the people that came with it. He watched it, cheered it, coached it, lived with it, suffered by it and dwelled in all of its simplicity and complexity.

Many people today find it difficult to understand the older generation's love for baseball. With cable television, SONY Playstation, computers, the Internet and everything so contrary to baseball's timelessness.

But Lane understood the beauty of the game and drank from it like a potion of eternal youth. Because that's what baseball brought to him a youthful energy and enthusiasm. He cherished baseball the way a child cherishes his first ball and glove. He loved the game with a child's innocent heart because he knew baseball in its purest essence is a game meant to be played by children.

Game Called. Where in the golden light

the bugle rolled the reveille.

The shadows creep, where night falls deep,

and taps has called the end of play.

The game is done, the score is in,

the final cheer and jeer have passed.

But in the night, beyond the fight,

the player finds his rest at last.

Maybe it's selfish for me to find solace in the church of baseball, and not in religious faith. It isn't easy to see someone pass so soon with so much left to give. I don't feel cheated because I saw firsthand the generosity that Lane exhibited during my time in Havre Youth Baseball. Unfortunately, there are those who won't. And that's a shame.

Somebody said yesterday at his funeral that Lane would do the jobs that nobody wanted to do in the program. That was only partially true. He did the jobs nobody else to wanted to do, and he did them with a smile and joy.

Whether it was serving on the board, being the treasurer, supervising umpires and field workers, even driving the Northstars' bus. He would do it, no questions asked.

"What do you need to me do?" he'd ask.

Perhaps the most important job he ever did was coaching a 14-15 year-old all-star team that nobody had time for. Imagine that. The parents of a group of 12 players didn't have time to take a group of kids who wanted to play baseball to the district and state tournament. It didn't matter that they weren't his kids, or that he had his law practice to maintain. Lane had time.

That group of boys would later play in two state tournaments as Northstars. But what if Lane hadn't taken the time for them when they were 15? What would have happened had Lane not sacrificed his time and money to coach? What would have it shown those boys about their importance and baseball's importance in Havre?

But because he took the time, to coach when nobody else would. It showed those boys that their success was important to some people. And it showed them something about generosity and a willingness to do the right thing. They went from unwanted and underappreciated to all-stars and representatives of Havre, simply because Lane said yes. Maybe nobody else wanted them, but Lane did and it earned their respect, if for no other reason than giving them the chance to compete.

Many people in his situation could have just gone through the motions, maybe have a few practices, haul the kids to the tournaments and scratch out a lineup. But not Lane. If he was going to coach, he was going to do it right. Those kids deserve that much, he'd say.

Lane was the first to admit he didn't know everything about coaching baseball, he even admitted it to those kids. He asked for help and asked for advice because what he didn't know about coaching, he was going to learn. What he did know about baseball was how the game should be played. He'd been around baseball long enough to know the little things like that hustling in and out of the dugout is good for at least two runs a game.

And to most people's surprise, except for Lane and his players, that team finished third at the state tournament.

"You should've seen'em, Div," he said to me when they got back. "They played so hard and they had a blast. You should've seen their faces."

But I didn't need to, I could see his face - eyes bright with a childish grin - and I knew that it must have been the same look those kids had.

Game Called. Upon the field of life.

The darkness gathers far and wide,

the dream is done, the score is spun,

that stands forever in the guide.

Nor victory, nor yet defeat,

is chalked against the players name.

But down the roll, the final scroll,

shows only, how he played the game.

There are no record books, no trophies, no plaques that show Lane's contribution to Havre Youth Baseball.

But there are other ways to know. There is Legion Field standing there, a shining jewel in Havre's baseball crown. There is the sight of a boy standing in one Havre's many baseball field patiently waiting for the ball to come his way.

And then there are the stories - hundreds and hundreds of stories - some long, some short, some sad, some funny, but all of them sprinkled in with that distinctive way he talked. They will live on for years and years because they are just as much a part of Havre baseball's past as the scores of any game.

The words of Rice's poem's ring in my ears and as appropriate as they are when remembering an ambassador of baseball like Lane, there needs to be a little more. With apologies to Grantland Rice, I'd like to add a little more in honor of a man, who always did just a little more.

Game called. No games played today,

there can be no doubleheader tomorrow.

Our once loud cheers are now falling tears,

fhe field in our heart is drenched with sorrow.

Dim the lights to see the summer sun set,

fly the flag at half-mast for the remaining of today.

Let the winds grow still as a silent chill,

for a friend of ours has passed away.

Game Called.

Goodbye, Lane.

 

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