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  • Kerry D. Krauss

*Asterisk*

In my brief, but fascinating, research of the asterisk, I discovered the great complexity of a simple typographical symbol. I did not know that the asterisk is found in ice age cave paintings. I did not know that the word ‘asterisk’ is Greek for ‘little star’. And I especially did not know that the asterisk is used in computer coding as a ‘wildcard placeholder’ or an unknown value to be determined later.

What I did know about the asterisk relates to Roger Maris’ 1961 home run hitting record. Ford Frick, then Major League Baseball commissioner and good friend of Babe Ruth, wanted to add an asterisk to Maris’ name should he beat Ruth’s record. Babe Ruth set his record for most home runs in a season in a 154-game season. In 1961, the American League had expanded its season to 163 games. For Frick, nine extra games gave Maris an unfair advantage. Maris would go on to break Ruth’s record. The asterisk would be reserved for another era in baseball.

That era would be the 1990’s and 2000’s. In that period Mark McGuire and Barry Bonds would break almost every home run record thanks to blatant steroid use and what baseball historians are calling ‘the live ball era’ (but mostly because of the steroids.) Post-facto, baseball record keepers have attempted to attach an asterisk to their names and accomplishments* as a way to discredit them.

Recently, baseball bookkeepers have starting using the asterisk to denote a great defensive play. The baseball scorecard is a very one-dimensional record. A hit is a hit—whether it was a swinging bunt or a scorching line drive off the top of the fence. An out is an out whether is was a routine ground ball to second or an amazing, Willie Mays over-the-shoulder-basket-catch in game one of the 1954 World Series.

An asterisk can connote a failure or a wild success.

I believe 2020* will always carry an asterisk. We will always mark it as different. Perhaps with an *. Perhaps with a ^. Perhaps with a hieroglyph-esque combination 2020^*αΩ™.

For some the asterisk negates the year. It voids the year. It dismisses it in hope of better days.

For some the asterisk indicates a greatness about the year. It symbolizes the uniqueness of the opportunities. It signifies the difficulties of these days and our collective triumph over them.

We may be too close to it. In the future we may use the asterisk to denote our common failure. In the future we may use the asterisk to denote our collective success. The computer programmers may have this one right. The asterisk is a wildcard placeholder. We will affix a value for 2020 later, but when we do, let’s be on the side of greatness.

I love you.

[I need you.]

I hope for you.

Please be safe.

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