Sunday, April 05, 2015

Baseball

 From left: Lou Gehrig, Joe Cronin, Bill Dickey, Joe DiMaggio, Charlie Gehringer, Jimmie Foxx, and Hank Greenberg. 

Check out that picture above. Look at them: Gehirg, Cronin, Dickey, DiMaggio, Gehringer, Foxx, Greenberg. Even non-baseball/sports fans know at least two of those names (Gehrig and Joe D., of course).

It was taken at the 1937 All-Star Game at Griffith Stadium in Washington. Look at that glorious NBC sign in the background. Incidentally, three radio networks broadcast that game (NBC, CBS, and Mutual).

You might not know that every one of those players are enshrined in the Baseball Hall of Fame. Yet they are. Those guys aren't scrubs. They're among the best to ever play the game of baseball. Naturally I've written tons about The Iron Horse, and a few words about DiMaggio as well. Bill Dickey, by the way, is vastly overlooked.

For you non-fans, Jimmie Foxx was the loose model for Tom Hanks in A League of Their Own.

You probably know this, if you've read anything here, but I love this great game. My god, we've screwed it up incredibly over the years. The race issues were deplorable. The sport struggled with growth and competition from the NFL through the 70s (and it continues today). We've added playoff teams, and dealt with drugs (steroids, greenies, cocaine, etc. Go on. Look it up.). We're worried about pace of play and bringing the inner city back.

We had Black Sox and a gambling Red (just put him in the Hall of Fame, please?).

We have the Babe. The one and only. The single greatest, most important athlete in the history of sports. Yes, I know, Jim Thorpe, Bo Jackson, and others might have been better true athletes, but given everything involved, there's Babe Ruth and everyone else.

We've sold our souls too many times. Baseball shouldn't open at night, but ESPN's money is too much to overlook.

Yet tomorrow, in the day, with the stands full and the records 0-0, the lines will be painted fresh. The grass will be gloriously green. I wish a band would play, and we could recreate some of the openings of seasons past, but a voice will intone the starting lineups, and they will gather on those freshly-painted baselines. The anthem will be sung. A ceremonial first pitch will be thrown. There might be a flyover or some other special effect.

Then, as there has been since 1869 (the generally-agreed upon "first year" of Major League Baseball), a batter will step up to home plate. A pitcher - 60 feet, six inches away - will author a first pitch.

And there will be baseball. To me, for its history, grandeur, strategy - everything - it is the greatest game of them all.

Football is the national passion. Baseball is the National Pastime.

Give me 714. Give me .406. Sixty-one. Fifty-six. I wish we could have 1918 back, but time marches on. A fan knows what these numbers are.

Give me the billy goat. The Bambino. Curses real or imagined.

Give me those uniform numbers that we all know: four. Three. Seven. Five. Forty-two.

Give me The Mick. Jeet. Gabby. Dizzy. Daffy. Dazzy. Pudge. Yaz. Three-Finger. Blue Moon. Vida. Catfish. Bucky. Stan the Man.

Give me Willie, Mickey, and The Duke. Tinker to Evers to Chance.

Give me The Called Shot. The Homer in The Gloamin'. The Shot Heard Round the World. The Miracle of Coogan's Bluff. Those last two are the same thing.

Give me Ebbets Field. Forbes Field. Crosley Field. Now give me Camden Yards and Fenway and Wrigley. The Big A. Chavez Ravine.

Give me the corner of E. 161st Street and River Ave. The most famous address in sports history.

Give me the Royal Rooters and the Bleacher Creatures.

Give me 27 rings.

Give me those great quotes, from music to movies to TV and beyond.

Take Me Out to the Ball Game. "Luckiest Man."
“That's baseball, and it's my game. Y' know, you take your worries to the game, and you leave 'em there. You yell like crazy for your guys. It's good for your lungs, gives you a lift, and nobody calls the cops. Pretty girls, lots of 'em.”
―Humphrey Bogart
Give me Vincent Edward Scully. The man known as Vin. The man who learned at the side of Walter Lanier Barber, the Old Redhead himself sitting in the catbird seat, while the bases were FOB (full of Brooklyn).

Give me a Ballantine Blast. Tell me "It's Miller Time" or "This Bud's for you."

Give me Cooperstown (maybe in a little over a week from now).

I love this game. It energizes me. Engulfs me. Fills my heart, yet breaks it. It enraptured me for sure when I saw my first pro game in 1972 and a guy named Murcer doubled off another guy named Palmer. One is a hall of famer. The other doesn't need to be.

It made me cry when in 1996, my boyhood team won their first title in 18 years, and I couldn't share it with the one person I wanted to share it with.

Most of all, selfishly, give me a microphone so that I can broadcast it.

This is the beginning of my year. This is when I feel refreshed.

This is when I know that this horrible winter is over.

It's Opening Day.

Play ball.

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