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Baseball and the Bull Market (March 17, 1999)

I talked with my neighbor, Jeff, today about the impending baseball season. He knows I’m an avid sports fan and figured I could help him out with a simple fact: when does baseball season start?

Jeff is a cattle rancher. He spends a good deal of his time on horseback, chasing and rounding up cattle around the hills where we live. This gives him plenty of time to think. He’s been doing this for the “better” part of his life. Most cattlemen I’ve met love doing what they do and wouldn’t trade jobs with anyone. Even though it doesn’t always pay the best financially, it seems to be worth its weight in gold psychologically.

Cattlemen come across as being a mostly contented breed, except when it comes to money. They don’t like talking about how many head they have in the herd, and they’re always complaining about the price of beef. I guess it’s because of this evasiveness and shrewdness that cowboys make good poker players. They tend to keep their hand well hidden until it’s time to cash in. There’s always speculation and uncertainty lurking in the air on any given day. The price of cattle fluctuates as wildly as the steers and heifers grazing on the hillsides. The cattleman has to time his roundup and when to send his herd off to “fat city” (the feed lot) with the ever-changing market.

My neighbor may have inadvertently tipped his hand today when he mentioned the relation between the beginning of baseball season and the bull market. Now, I’m not talking about the bull market as opposed to a bear market describing the climate of the stock market. I’m talking about the “bull” market, about those big four-legged creatures with huge gonads hanging down between their legs. The animal that spends most of its life roaming around a herd of cows doing what comes natural all day, every day: inseminating the cows.

But there comes a time in every bull’s life when he just can’t get it up like he used to be able to, and the rancher has no choice but to replace the old boy with a younger, more virile bull. So what becomes of these over-the-hill breeding machines? My neighbor, Jeff, has a theory on this subject.

Being a cattleman his entire life, Jeff has watched the livestock market with more than passing interest for many years. Over the years he has noticed that the price of bulls seems to go up considerably about a week before the professional baseball season begins. Since the meat on an old bull is too tough and rangy to be sold as regular market beef, Jeff figures there is a direct correlation with the increase in price to the start of the baseball season. The way he figures it, the meat from bulls is destined to become that favorite food of the baseball fan: hot dogs! With market bulls weighing between 1200 and 1800 pounds each, you can figure on quite a few “tube steaks” out of one of those suckers.

After last season’s home-run-derby-slugfest between Mark McGwire and Sammy Sosa, the fans are sure to come out in droves for an encore performance. So the bull market should be stronger this year than it’s been for some time. I think I’ll get in on some of the action by investing my life savings in bull futures. In my case, this means throwing all the empty beer and soda-pop bottles and cans that I have stashed in barrels behind the house, into the back of my pickup truck, then hauling them down to the recycle center to turn them into a surely considerable sum of cash. From there I’ll head straight for the nearest stock broker and plop the whole wad down on bull futures.

I can hardly wait to get out to the old ballpark so I can buy a couple hot dogs smothered in mustard and onions to help increase my earnings on the bull market. This new revelation puts a whole new flavor on the old adage, “Full of Bull.” See ya at the ballpark.

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