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I Was Just Thinking: (*) – It’s called an asterisk

Bill Haglund whaglund@adelnews.com
Bill Haglund whaglund@adelnews.com

Asterisk (*; Late Latin; Greek: “little star”) is a typographical symbol or glyph. It is so called because it resembles a conventional image of a star.

Asterisks are used to call out footnotes, especially when there is only one on a page. Less commonly, multiple asterisks are used to denote different footnotes on a page (i.e., *, **, ***). There are several other proper uses for asterisks, including to denote a misspelled word, as an alternative to typographical “bullets”, they can be used for anonymity (Peter J***) and they can be used to represent emphasis (*no*) when bold or italic text is not available, like Twitter and text messaging.

Of course, the asterisk can also be used to replace offensive or vulgar language in a sentence (i.e., “Those **** mosquitoes are horrible tonight.)

That’s a synopsis of the official definition of an asterisk.

Those of us growing up in the 1950s and 1960s became quite familiar with the asterisk, not in English class, but in Major League Baseball – particularly the 1961 season.

It was in that year two New York Yankee players – Mickey Mantle and Roger Maris – went on a home run rampage that had sportswriters around the country comparing their exploits to Yankee great Babe Ruth. Ruth, as even sometime fans will know, established the all-time home run record of 60 in a single season back in 1927.

Ruth accomplished the feat in 154 games. By 1961, Major League teams had a 162-game schedule.

Both Mantle and Maris were well ahead of Ruth’s 1927 pace as the season wore on. Midway through the season, however, the injury-prone Mantle fell off the pace, leaving only Maris in pursuit of the “Sultan of Swat.” As the season wore on and it became more and more apparent that Maris had a legitimate shot at Ruth’s single-season record, the so-called baseball purists began to talk about the disparity in the length of the 1927 season and the 1961 season.

The only way Maris could have a legitimate home run record would be to hit more than 60 home runs in the first 154 games of the season. If Maris hit 61 home runs, but needed more than 154 games, then his record should always include an asterisk.

Baseball Commissioner Ford Frick announced that Maris’ fete would forever be listed with an asterisk in the record books. But, baseball had no official “record book” before that time.

To many, that seemed legitimate. To others it seemed dumb. Ruth hit 60 home runs during his team’s regular season; Maris should get credit for every home run he hit during his team’s regular season, regardless of the extra eight games.

Maris hit 61 home runs, belting his final one in the Yankees’ last game of the season. While no asterisk is placed after the “61” home runs Maris hit, the stigma of that stayed with him for years, thanks in part, or largely, because of Frick’s statement during the season. His single-season record stood for years until some more recent players eradicated that record with sky-high totals that some (and probably rightfully so) say were the result of steroid use among baseball players.

Of course, because of that all of Barry Bonds’ records, fans critical of his home run prowess, should include the asterisk. In fact, during Bonds’ final season, opposing fans would hold up signs bearing asterisks each time he would come to bat.

Naturally, we should all “move on” after occurrences beyond our control affect our lives, leaving us feeling angry, empty and emotionally drained.

Paul Rhodes has proven that he’s not only a great coach, a great fit at Iowa State and emotionally committed to the Iowa State football program. Why, he even drew a verbal reprimand from the Big 12 for his comments after last week’s Iowa State-Texas game.

But, that’s in the past. The Cyclones have put that game behind them. Rightfully, they should – there are plenty more games to be played this season.

Still, it’s hard for some of us to forget what happened that Thursday night in Ames. Personally, I hate to use an asterisk; I much prefer to say it like it is. So, I’ll come right out and say it – “Those **** referees were blind.”

And, we have to accept the final result as it’s written in stone for everyone to remember – Texas 31, Iowa State 30*.

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