OK so it is Thanksgiving week and I want to begin a list of baseball things that I am thankful for. I know this is like a Fourth Grade writing assignment, but it might have some interesting things in it. Please add your own…
1. Leading the way
This Fall I have been reading a book called Opening Day by Jonathan Eig about baseball’s integration. It is an amazing story and Jackie Robinson is a tremendous hero. You should read the book. In the great Ken Burns documentary “Baseball” it is mentioned that in our national history there have been times where baseball has actually “led the way.” This was a time. I love this so much that my son’s middle name is Robinson. I also love that his number is retired all throughout baseball.
On a side note: I hate that entire teams wore his number on Jackie Robinson day this year. The Dodgers yes. A player per team yes. Entire teams no…it takes away from the meaning.
2. The All Star Game
I don’t care about all of your issues with the All Star Game. It is the best, most exciting on paper idea in sports. I love almost everything about it. I love the pomp. I love the player intros and the decor on the field. I love the fan voting and the memories of punching out the tiny holes on the punch cards on the stands. I love seeing the best and most popular players mixed together on the field each standing next to each other wearing different uniforms. I love Jorge Posada bringing his son out during the intros. I love A-Rod handing shortstop to Ripken during his final all star game. And I love, love, love Tommy Lasorda getting knocked down in the third base box that year…and of course Don Zimmer in the dugout laughing about it.
On a side note: I hate Chris Berman…he almost ruins the entire thing.
3. The clutch hit
There is almost nothing more exciting or devastating in sports than the clutch hit. The batter awaits the pitch and CRACK!!! the swing, the crowd noise, the announcer punctuating it with “BASE HIT” or “THERE IT GOES.” Remember Harry Caray’s rasp and brilliant “BASE HIT!!! CUBSWINCUBSWINCUBSWIN HOOOLY COW!!!!” How about Len Kasper’s puberty like voice change during the Cubs comeback against the Rockies at Wrigley this year. How about the Pujols home rum against Lidge that I think just landed.
4. The Vaudevillian side show
Remember when Morgana the kissing bandit would run on the field and they would actually allow it. I know that she would get arrested, but are you going to tell me that Morgana didn’t attract enough attention while sitting in the stands that she could have been stopped earlier. Baseball is sol drawn out that it has this odd side show about it. Think about it, a group sing along during a game. A timed break in between every three outs. How about sausage races and “Roll out the barrel.” Amazing!!!
5. The Moments
Kirk Gibson. Bobby Thompson. Carlton Fisk waving. Buckner’s legs. Jeter’s behind the back. The thought that this list can be added to every year. How many plays from any other sport have the same impact and are was easily remembered?
6. Mr. November
The country is grieving and baseball provides a respite. Following September 11, 2001 the nation was able to find some healing in the playoffs and World Series, fittingly in New York. President Bush climbs the mound in game one at Yankee Stadium and throws a strike…He threw a strike!!! Have you seen politicians throw opening pitches? Think about the pressure, and the throwing with a bullet proof vest on, and on and on. He threw a strike. Jaw dropping courage. Yet, sadly it was merely symbolic.
The game is perfectly poetic. Long summer days and a long season filled with long games. 60 feet six inches. Ninety feet down the line. Wind affected fly balls. Bunts, and hit and runs. The ability to sit around take in a game and just enjoy life. The green of the field exploding in your eyes with the first peek through the concourse. The parent/child “Let’s play catch.”
I love the new baseball. I love interleague play and the wildcard. I love new stadiums and the fact that those stadiums have reembraced the old. I love that many of those stadiums have revitalized the cities and the teams that they represent. I love that most have manual scoreboards and that you can see what the scores are from around the league. I love that smart GM’s can build teams that have much stronger resources yet dumber GM’s who don’t know how to build teams.
How many good baseball movies and songs are there? Some really good movies revolve around baseball. Like really good movies. How about The Natural ( Bah Bum…Bah Bum Bum Bum)? Or “If you build it they will come”? I love the story of baseball and that can be told about baseball. And I love the song “Centerfield.” There is also a song “Right Field.” (It’s important you know.) Somebody should write a left field song.
10. Players that are so natural
Am I crazy or is Ken Griffey Jr’s swing one of the most purely gorgeous things around? What about how good A-Rod is? The heart of Derek Jeter. The intimidation of David Ortiz. The mastery of Greg Maddux. Some years back I remember an announcer saying that “It seems like Barry Bonds bats more than once in the line up…” because of the way that he impacted the games he was in. Baseball breeds the brilliant superstar…and in ways more than any other sport…the fall from grace.
11. Inside secrets and jokes
The blue and white flags. Eamus catuli. The guest conductor (which should cease immediately). The Harry Caray window. Throw the home run back. Right field sucks. Waveland and Sheffield. The rooftops. The ivy. Welcome to the Friendly Confines. All things particular to Cubdom. Most teams have these and this make baseball great.
12. The Hall of Fame
There is something sacred about the plaque wing of the Hall of Fame. Hear this: If you are a baseball fan you need to go. I mean it, get up now and go…Just GO!! You will lose your breath. You might actually cry.