Wednesday, October 10, 2012

The Magnificence of Baseball

This vintage post was originally posted in Octover of 2011.  It is reposted here today in part because I am sick, and in part because there are 4 playoff games on TV today- so it just felt right.  Enjoy.

"The one constant through all the years, Ray, has been baseball.  America has rolled by like an army of steamrollers.  It has been erased like a blackboard, rebuilt and erased again. But baseball has marked the time.  This field, this game: it's a part of our past, Ray.  It reminds of us of all that once was good and it could be again."  Terrance Mann (James Earl Jones) in Field of Dreams

Fenway Park, Boston
I love baseball.  I realize this puts me in the minority among USAmericans, who (as George Carlin would say) prefer the violence and land acquisition of football to a sport where the ultimate goal is to "run home."  But I do love baseball.  I love how green the fields are, and the amazing textures of the infields and the outfields.  I love the crack of the bat and sound of the ball hitting a leather glove.  I love the strategies and the cerebral nature of the game, yet I also love the silly rituals and ridiculous superstitions.  I still wouldn't step on a baseline when crossing from the field to the dugout.  I love that there in no clock- you simply play until the game is over.  It is a beautiful game.

I love the history of the game, and my history with it.  I was at Atlanta-Fulton County Stadium in 1973 the night Hank Aaron hit his 700th home run.  I saw Reggie Jackson hit a home run off Tom Seaver at Fenway in 1986.  I have a Cal Ripen, Jr. autographed baseball from after The Streak.   I get jazzed knowing that no hitter has won the Triple Crown since Yaz (I wore #8 in Little League because Carl Yastrzemski was my favorite player) did it in '67, and wondering if this might be the year (Editor's Note: 2012 WAS the year- congrats Miguel Cabrera!).  I once saw Dale Murphy slam a pinch hit home run off Doc Gooden to win a game- with a broken bone in his hand!  Legendary!  I love the details, like knowing that when I was 13 I hit a home run with a Ralph Garr model bat I got at a Braves game on Bat Night.  And it saddens me that most of you don't know who Ralph (the Roadrunner) Garr is...  Because the game never changes- 9 innings, 3 strikes, 3 outs, 90 feet between bases, 60 feet, 6 inches from pitcher's mound to home plate- it is the one sport where you can legitimately argue about who was better, Honus Wagner or Derek Jeter (it's Wagner, by the way) because the era doesn't matter.  I love that baseball is still better on radio than it is on TV.  I love that I can still look at a box score (if I can find one anymore) and tell you all about a game I did not see.  I love this game, and I treasure this time of the year- the playoffs and the World Series.  It's Francisco Cabrera/Sid Bream time (or the Tiger's Don Kelly on Thursday night, or the Brewer's Nyjer Morgan last night), when role players become heroes never to be forgotten.  It just makes me smile.

In many parts of my life I am a progressive, someone who enjoys and embraces change.  When it comes to baseball, I am a purist.  I have never liked the DH.  No baseball team (including my beloved Rays) should play in a dome unless it has a retractable roof.  It is criminal- CRIMINAL! - that there were two playoff games in Tampa this past week with the temperature at 80 degrees and not a cloud in the sky, and they were playing baseball indoors.  I believe that anyone who suggests tearing down Wrigley Field or Fenway Park is guilty of treason.  Those are the 2 "sanctuaries" of baseball.  I have attended several games at both, and they were among the most special days of my life.  I believe that middle schools/junior high schools should teach students the mathematical equations for ERA (earned run average) and batting average as part of the curriculum.  And I believe that hitting a baseball in the single most difficult task in all of sports.  The very best fail to get a hit 2 out of 3 tries.  I love this game.

Ralph Garr, 1973
I know that many of you will say that you find baseball to be boring.  I read a statement recently from a baseball writer who said he never argued with people who thought that way, because baseball is boring to the casual fan.  Until it is not.  No other sport (with the occasional exceptions of college basketball and playoff sudden-death ice hockey) provides the kind of dramatic, climactic moments that baseball does. Only in baseball- after 130 years or so of professional games- does something happen almost every night that has never happened before.  Only in baseball does a team get the chance to complete a magnificent comeback (like being down 7-0 to the Yankees in a must win game) every night, because the clock cannot expire.  You play until the 9 innings are over- and then you play again tomorrow.  Only in baseball can you say at the beginning of September "there are no playoff races left" only to have the last day of the regular season be one of the most spectacular, meaningful days in baseball history.  Baseball may be slow.  It may seem to lack action on occasion, because the intricacies of the game are lost on so many these days.  It may even be boring.  Until it is not.  And then it is simply magnificent!

Have I convinced you yet?  :)  

1 comment:

  1. I totally agree with all of this, especially no DH! It is so good to see someone who sees baseball like I do. :)


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