There's nothing quite like trapping a few muskrats before breakfast. Roll out of bed, get into the old pickup, put the waders on, tromp over those sweet, fragrant meadows of dawn (pause) and dew, slog through the crick to find out if there's anything in the traps....
"Look at this one," says the trapper. "Got him by three toenails. Another 20 minutes and he'd have been gone. Look at that coat. Isn't he a beauty?"
Well, beauty is in the eye of the trapper, and in this instance the trapper is Mike Boddicker of the Baltimore Orioles and Norway, Iowa. Having bagged the White Sox and Phillies in October as Baltimore swept to the American League pennant and the world championship, Boddicker is spending the off-season at home going after smaller game and loving every minute of it. In his scheme of things, family is first, baseball second and sports afield a real close third.
Boddicker loves to trap and loves to talk trapping; he gets just as excited about fooling a 60-pound beaver as fooling Mike Schmidt. Come to think of it, trapping and pitching both require cunning, daring and an ability to work your way out of the muck. But on this particular morning, Boddicker is tired. "I've got to give up either trapping or banquets," he says, and the way he says "banquets" leaves no doubt as to what his choice would be. Two nights earlier, at the Hanford Legion Post 5 in Cedar Rapids, White Sox Coach Jim Leyland had told the crowd at a dinner honoring Boddicker, "It's nice when you get such a big frog out of such a little pond."
Boddicker was the toast of America after his unexpected performance last season. The righthander started the year in the minors, at Rochester, but finished with a 16-8 record in the majors and an ERA of 2.77, second best in the American League. In the Championship Series he shut out Chicago 4-0 on five hits, striking out 14 to tie the major league playoff record, and in the World Series he three-hit Philadelphia 4-1. Both wins followed Series-opening losses by the Orioles.
People wielding notebooks, cameras and microphones became enchanted with tales of Boddicker's hometown and the grain elevator where he had worked in the off-season. There were a few notes of condescension in this latter-day Song of Norway—oddly enough, Baltimore Catcher Rick Dempsey's father, George, appeared on Broadway in the original Song of Norway—but there was a nice lilt to it.
It's nice to be reminded that there are still hometowns in this world, places that people can go back to. Norway is as good a hometown as anybody has ever had, and it has had as much to do with Boddicker's success as his famous foshball. Yeah, yeah, it's a cliché, but home is where the heart is, and this guy's heart is with trapping and hunting and the people he grew up with. Yeah, yeah, it's a cliché, but just the other day, Boddicker, wearing a baseball cap advertising Simplicity lawn mowers, walked over to his mother's house for a slice of apple pie.
Ninety minutes after the second game of the World Series had ended, Boddicker was still shucking questions, and one of the last ones was, "How does it feel coming from nowhere?" To which Boddicker replied, "No, that's Norway, Iowa, not Nowhere, Iowa."
Norway (pop. 633) is about 14 miles, as the pheasant flies, west southwest of Cedar Rapids. Just take U.S. 30 west out of Cedar Rapids for about 12 miles, turn left at the pink farmhouse onto 201, and you'll be there in no time.
Norway is in Grant Wood country—in fact, Wood hailed from Anamosa, 35 miles away—and the town is surrounded by billowing hills and sprawling farms. Iowa is more than corn. It's American Gothic, Herbert Hoover, Radar O'Reilly, wrestling, Bob Feller, The Music Man and corn.