Friday, September 7, 2012

The Home Stretch

"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

It's a long season. Beginning in the spring, when the birds fly north, you hear the first crack of the bat and hearts going pitter-patter awaiting the season opener... followed by the long weary road as the season wears on. Every day is game day with only the All Star break to interfere. By the time the season is nearing its end the birds are flying south, and up here in the Northland we wake to find frost on our car windows each morning.

September's the month when pennant hopes come alive. We see which teams have enough pitchers left who can bring their teams down the stretch, because now there are a lot of tired arms out there.

Baseball is a game that has inspired many a poet, journalist, philosopher, artist and story teller. It's a sport that, to some extent, defines the American spirit. Despite numerous strikes that broke many a fan's heart, we still get that "feeling" in September as the days crawl toward the playoffs... At least, I still get that feeling.

I admit that I'm not the fan I used to be, but I still enjoy following the game. There's a ball field in Hermantown that I drive past on the way to the mall, and when I see kids out there playing I occasionally stop and watch a few pitches, watch the way a kid fields a grounder, how they carry themselves. Sometimes I wish I had my camera or think I should do a painting of the sprawling lush green grass, the lime white foul lines, the beige infield.

When I was seven I lied about my age to play in the Little League. This was back when kids went off to play baseball after school and through the evening and parents didn't wonder where we were all hours of the day. The team I played on was called the Mudcats, which came from a pitcher named Mudcat Grant, who was an ace for the Cleveland Indians. This was the spring of '59. Four years later Grant was the only Indian who made the 1963 All Star team which I saw live in old Cleveland Municipal Stadium. 

It's hard to say whether life is more like baseball, or that baseball is like life. For sure, baseball has turned more than a few fans into amateur philosophers. Here are some quotes from one of many sources on the internet that collect such pearls, and a few repeats from when I wrote about this same them four years ago in September.

“If a woman has to choose between catching a fly ball and saving an infant’s life, she will choose to save the infant’s life without even considering if there is a man on base “ ~ Dave Barry

”Slump ? I ain’t in no slump. I just ain’t hittin’.” ~ Yogi Berra

”Baseball players are smarter than football players. How often do you see a baseball team penalized for too many players on the field?“ ~ Jim Boulton

"All I want out of life is that when I walk down the street folks will say, ‘There goes the greatest hitter that ever lived.’” ~ Ted Williams

"Poets are like baseball pitchers. Both have their moments. The intervals are the tough things." ~ Robert Frost

"If it weren't for baseball, many kids wouldn't know what a millionaire looked like." ~ Phyllis Diller

"Being with a woman all night never hurt no professional baseball player. It's staying up all night looking for a woman that does him in." ~ Casey Stengel

The seductiveness of baseball is that almost everyone with an abiding interest in it knows exactly how it should be played. And secretly believes that he could do it, if only God had seen fit to make him just a little bit less clumsy. ~ George V Higgins 

Well, y'all have a great weekend... whoever you're rootin' for.

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