Monday, May 2, 2011

Play Ball

Yesterday afternoon I finished watching Ken Burns' ten-plus hours of documentary devoted to the game he loves called, simply, Baseball. As reviewer Dave McCoy at Amazon.com puts it, "Burns doesn't just detail the great players and the memorable plays and games; he also presents baseball as a cultural and social mirror, reflecting the beauty and hypocrisy of the nation that created it."

We love our heroes and we love our distractions, and we love the feeling of being part of something that has a long history, a continuity that precedes us and will extend beyond us as well. No matter what is going on in the outside world, baseball marches on. The game never stopped for World War I or World War II, the Korean War or Viet Nam, though for a moment on 9/11 it did pause for a few days. Nevertheless, for the most part baseball lives inside its own bubble. Salary disputes couldn't kill it. Strikes didn't kill it. Scandals haven't derail it. And based on the dollars flowing into the pockets and bank accounts of both players and owners one wonders how it can continue to so bedazzle this nation of fans.

When talking baseball I have to interject at least one personal anecdote, and his one came to mind because of the some of the new ways a player's value is determined. In Little League I was a star, one of two from our team to be invited to the All Star Game. But the following year, I had a very different experience. Being a late bloomer and not as fully developed for my age, that first year in Pony League proved, well, challenging. And I had a most unusual batting record.

I was a good infielder, so I got to play, but for some reason I had trouble with the faster pitchers. At this level there were some kids actually being scouted by major league teams, so you know what caliber of pitchers I was up against. All this to say I actually went an entire season without ever hitting a fair ball. To my credit, I had a good eye and discipline, so even though my batting average was zero my on base percentage was .500. That's right, I struck out 13 times and walked 13 times. As they say, a walk's as good as a hit. Fortunately my high school numbers only got better from there.

Needless to say, here are a few more quotes on The Game, courtesy QuoteGarden where they were assembled.

You see, you spend a good piece of your life gripping a baseball, and in the end it turns out that it was the other way around all the time. ~Jim Bouton, Ball Four, 1970

People ask me what I do in winter when there's no baseball. I'll tell you what I do. I stare out the window and wait for spring. ~Rogers Hornsby

Baseball is the only field of endeavor where a man can succeed three times out of ten and be considered a good performer. ~Ted Williams

I'm convinced that every boy, in his heart, would rather steal second base than an automobile. ~Tom Clark

You gotta be a man to play baseball for a living, but you gotta have a lot of little boy in you, too. ~Roy Campanella

No game in the world is as tidy and dramatically neat as baseball, with cause and effect, crime and punishment, motive and result, so cleanly defined. ~Paul Gallico

There are three things in my life which I really love: God, my family, and baseball. The only problem - once baseball season starts, I change the order around a bit. ~Al Gallagher, 1971

I don't want to play golf. When I hit a ball, I want someone else to go chase it. ~Rogers Hornsby

Enjoy your day, and cheer for your team if you have one. Tonight, being in Denver, I will cheer for the Colorado Rockies.

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