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Soup of This Day #106: Son Take A Good Look Around

November 27, 2011

Welcome to Borden, Western Australia
Welcome to Borden, Western Australia. The population in the hamlet and the surrounding farming area was 164 in the 2006 census. That’s around 1/220th of a sellout crowd at Fenway – Photo: GregTheBusker, 2009. GregTheBusker is not affiliated with Longworth72. Image cropped by Longworth72.

When I was 2 we moved from the reasonably comfortable inner city Perth suburb of Shenton Park to the tiny rail-side hamlet of Borden. Borden was so small I want to call it a flyspeck on the map but the way I understand it flyspecks are really just fly@#$% and the Borden of my memory is worth a whole lot more than that metaphor.

We moved there for Dad’s new job as a government agricultural inspector. We were allocated a fibro house on 1 of the main streets, of which there were 3. When I say ‘main’ I really just mean ‘sealed’. Even if you count gravel roads there weren’t many more streets than that anyway and maybe 15 houses all told. There was a town oval and our house backed on to that – In Western Australia, as throughout most of Australia, rural communities centre around sport. In Borden that meant cricket (via a concrete pitch) and football (don’t fall over on the concrete pitch) for boys and men. Girls and women had netball at the courts next to the oval or at the school.

I remember the netball at the school. Not because I played but 1 time after school, as Mum earned extra cash working as the school gardener, I ran into a moveable netball pole. I bounced off and it fell on my head. I may have been slightly concussed but in the absence of a hospital or even a local doctor I just toughed it out with no substantial long-term effects.

I do flinch involuntarily when netball is on TV though.

I also remember school athletics carnivals. One of my proudest trophies is a green 4th place ribbon I earned in a sprint race. I think I was around 6 and I was stoked by my triumph. The thing that confuses me now is that there were just 2 other kids in my age group so I theoretically should have come in no worse than 3rd. Also, of the other 2 I seem to remember that 1 was a girl.

She was fast.

Either way it fostered a desire for more tokens of prowess – By the time I finished high-school I had amassed over 100 ribbons of all flavours, most predominantly blue 1st place 1s. Only 2 are the green 4th place 1s.

There were also gymnastics, which I hated. That balance beam looked bloody high and I couldn’t even somersault tumble on the ground. In spite of this and maybe with a touch of paternal hope Dad worked a 2nd job as a rock picker clearing paddocks so that we could get a jumbo-sized trampoline. It was an early model so had unprotected springs and a freakishly high bounce that required air control clearance.

My brother had an annoying habit of trying to double bounce me into the springs. Sometimes I wonder about him…

And then there was swimming, at the relatively nearby centre of Gnowangerup. In my memory we learned swimming by being thrown in at the deep end. That’s not a metaphor – We did actually get thrown in at the deep end. Thus began a life-long hate/love/hate/hate/ambivalence relationship with swimming.

There was also a bit of bushwalking that you could do. From pretty much any point around Borden you could look south and see the blue outline of Western Australia’s largest mountain range, the Stirling Ranges, just 30 odd kms away. The Stirlings are in truth not really a mountain range. The highest peak, which sports a moderate walk trail to it’s summit, is Bluff Knoll and it tops out at 1099m. Only 7750m more and Everest would be quaking at the Sandgroper slopes. Which do on odd occasions garner snow – Just a light dusting at the top, barely visible.

Stirling Ranges
The Stirling Ranges. A blue outline, a bluer sky and red dirt. It must be Autumn – Photo: Grant65, 2007. Grant65 is not affiliated with Longworth72. Image cropped by Longworth72.

Which raises a question. Why is Borden named for a Canadian Prime Minister who hales from Nova Scotia? The landscapes don’t match, nor does the climate so perhaps it’s just the timing – Borden (the man) was in his premiership (1911 – 1920) when the rail siding sprung up like a double bounced kid on a trampoline in 1913.

Sir Robert Laird Borden had been born in Grand-Pré, Nova Scotia in 1854. Around 100 kms away, still in Nova Scotia, and 12 years later another leader was born in a town not much bigger than Sir Robert’s Western Australian namesake. Fred Lake, of Cornwallis, Nova Scotia, didn’t make it to the Prime Ministership of Canada like his near neighbour. He did however briefly preside over another Nation.

Yep, Frederick Lovett Lake once managed the Red Sox.

He came to the gig, seemingly via a love for Boston – He’d suited up for the Beaneaters (Later known as the Boston Braves) and played a potted and unspectacular career from 1891 until 1898. In that time he suited up for just 45 games for 3 teams (Beaneaters, St Louis, Pittsburgh), with 124 at bats yielding just 29 hits, 1 home run and 16 RBIs at .232. Somehow the sometimes catcher, sometimes shortstop, sometimes 2nd baseman parlayed this career into a managerial gig, replacing Deacon McGuire as Red Sox boss for the 1908 season. Since McGuire had managed the team as it was known as the Boston Americans there is a semantic argument that Lake was the 1st Red Sox Manager.

He wasn’t the best 1 but nor was he the worst.

In the year of the last Cubs World Series win (thanks in part to Merkle’s Boner) and Cy Young’s last season with the Sox, Lake could only guide the Sox to a 75 and 79 record, good for just 5th (out of 8 teams) in the American League. True it was an improvement on the 59 and 90 that McGuire had trotted out but it was still sub-par, both statistically and in terms of what Boston’s hierarchy expected. In 1909 there was a significant improvement – The Sox went 88 and 63, good enough for 3rd and a percentage that would have seen them make the playoffs in 2011.

Nonetheless it wasn’t enough and Lake was marched out.

Still, the New Scotsman had become a New Englander and for 1910 he tried a switch to managing the Boston Doves, the latest incarnation of his former outfit, the Beaneaters. He also played 3 games for them, with just the 1 at bat for no result – Perhaps echoing his managerial tenure as the Doves crashed to 45 and 108, a whopping 65.5 games behind Pittsburgh in the National League.

So that was that for Lake then, his MLB career seemingly all dried up.

Lake, dried up, anyone?

Yeah, I know. The wife has pointed out to me many times that if you have to explain it, it’s probably not funny.

Anyhow, Lake’s efforts come to mind of late because Boston is again searching for a Manager. We are seemingly down to 2 candidates, Bobby Valentine and Gene Lamont. Torey Lovullo hasn’t been ruled out but doesn’t appear to have the experience to get the juices flowing for the Fenway ownership group.

Of the 2 contenders Valentine has the press endorsement, the Globe practically panting for him to be appointed. Whether that is because he will probably be a roller-coaster ride that makes for good copy is open for debate. Paper sales aside alarm bells are ringing for this Sox fan, who maybe is just a little sick of drama and is looking for efficient and effective as opposed to excitable and explosive. Valentine aside, Lamont certainly isn’t those last 2 but I’m not really seeing him as the 1st 2 either.

Fred Lake didn’t get another shot at managing in the big leagues. To his credit though, whilst Boston’s teams had had enough of him, he would not quit Boston. He took up residence and eventually died in his adopted hometown in 1931, aged 65. He’s buried in Oak Grove Cemetery, less than 10 miles from Fenway.

He’s close by, has experience managing in the Majors and in Boston. Plus he’s been dead for 80 years as of Thursday last week so he’s likely to be quiet and restrained. Call me crazy but altogether Fred Lake just seems like he might be a better fit than Bobby V or the Gene Genie.

Meanwhile, we lived in Borden for 5 years, eventually swapping it for Beverley, some 300kms to the north and well out of sight of the Stirlings. In time Beverley came to be our hometown but I still think about the rail-side hamlet named for a 1st World War Canadian PM once in a while. If you’re down that way drop in – I reckon it’s worth it.

Son Take A Good Look Around

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