Play ball! The World Series is in full swing. The history of THE American game continues as stars of the National and American Leagues take the ball field to determine world champions here on Earth. As this takes place, there is a celestial field of stars prominent in our sky that can perfectly symbolize what goes on this year in Miami and Cleveland. I refer to a constellation that comes to us from classical times, imagined to be the image of a flying horse, none other than great Pegasus, the steed of Olympian heroes of long ago. If you wish to find these stars in the sky, it is easier to visualize a baseball diamond than a winged horse.
I hope you will go out and look for Pegasus rising in our evening sky a bit north of east, well up in the east by 10 p.m. Although its stars are not among the brightest, four of them are fairly easy to make out, all about the same brightness, forming a square, generally referred to as the "Great Square of Pegasus."Let's begin with the star at the southwest corner of the square. As you look at this star, it becomes obvious that this must be home plate for the great baseball diamond in the sky. Looking closely, this becomes apparent, for both the catcher and umpire stand behind the brighter star. Moving northward one can trace out the other three brighter stars of Pegasus: first base to the north of home plate; second base down toward the eastern horizon under first base; and third base southward from second base and beneath home plate in the sky.
Examining the celestial playing field we can see that the game has reached a critical point. The pitcher, near the center of the square of stars, most not be doing too well as evidenced by the fact that he isn't very bright. If that isn't enough, we can see that the manager is out there with him, engaged in conversation. While we await the decision that will resume the game, we notice that off to the northeast side of home base there are two stars warming up in the bull pen.
Once into the mood of imagining the heavenly world series, one can identify fielders and lots and lots of spectators all around the star-lit stadium.
One of the famous mythological stories of the sky tells how Perseus killed the gorgon Medusa, using a shield to look at her reflected image as he chopped off her head. It was necessary to do it this way, for anyone looking directly at Medusa would immediately be turned to stone. Some of Medusa's blood dropped into the sea, and from this miraculously arose in a snowy white horse with wings, Pegasus. Now I ask you, what more imaginative and poetic idea could we possibly find anywhere?
Indeed, over the ages poets have expressed feelings about the flying horse. In "Pegasus in Pound," Longfellow wrote about "this wondrous winged steed with mane of gold." My own favorite poem about the horse of heaven comes from cowboy poet Curley Fletcher. The title of his poem is "The Flyin' Outlaw." It tells about a roving cowboy who chanced upon the legendary horse one day. On impulse he lassoed, hobbled, tied the wings and saddled the creature. Jumping into the saddle, he began the ride of his life and found that the horse was wild on his feet even without wings. Bucking violently,
He hits on the ground with a twister
That broke the wing hobbles, right there;
Before I can let loose and quit him,
We're sailin' away in the air.
Soaring high over mountains and through clouds, the cowboy lost consciousness to awake in a heap on the ground. The poem ends with good advice:
I've lost a good saddle and bridle,
My rope and some other good things,
But I'm glad to be here to tell yuh
To stay off uh the horses with wings.
I recommend the entire poem to readers. You can find it in a book published by Gibbs Smith Inc., Peregrine Smith Books, Salt Lake City, titled "Cowboy Poetry: A Gathering."
Pegasus is key to locating several dimmer nearby constellations including the one I will write about in my next article. This will be the last in my series on the constellations of the zodiac, describing a celestial symbol appropriate for fish-ermen, Pisces the Fishes.
Now, having described the baseball diamond in the sky, I suppose that sometime I should share with you the heavenly football, the stellar basketball and the tennis ball in the sky. If we tried hard enough between now and 2002, I feel sure we could invent a star-jeweled skier to accompany the event that will consume so much attention of Utahns over the next five years. Imagination, after all, coupled with things that take on cultural importance, is what has produced the wonderful images pictured in the sky. Looking around the celestial domain, we can sample history, traditions and sometimes craziness of others who have shared the continuing voyage of spaceship Earth.