balls strikes baseball strikes
outs out at the plate lock out
cant go home again
I loved baseball.
It took me a long to time to get there.
My family was a big baseball family.
My Dad, because they were available on the radio from Chicago in Grand Rapids, Michigan, where grew up, was a Cubs fan.
Back then, teams like the Detroit Tigers argued about the wisdom of having every game on the radio.
My brothers and sisters grew up Tiger fans.
I was 8 when the Tigers won the World Series in 1968.
Back when all the games were played at 3pm on the afternoon so kids at my school, Crestview Elementary were sneaking small, transistor AM radios into class.
At that point I was not a fan.
Baseball and sports, any sport just took too much time and I had so many things to do with all that time in childhood.
There were Gilligan’s Island reruns and Bugs Bunny cartoons to watch and books to read.
Sometime in the summer of I think around1975, I was out with my Dad on a late night drive and he had the Cubs on the radio from Chicago.
My Dad always had the Cubs on.
Not only could we sing the song the started Cubs broadcasts,
Let’s go – batter up – we’re takin’ the afternoon off
it’s a beautiful day for a ballgame for a ballgame today
the fans are out to get a ticket or two from Wala Wala Washington to Kalamazoo
it’s a beautiful day for a homerun but even a triple’s ok
we’re gonna cheer and boo and raise a hullabaloo at the ballgame today
The Chicago Cubs are on the Air!
But we could sing most of the commercials as well.
“You can take Salem out the country BUT ...”
Don’t know who they were playing but they had a new first baseman named Bill Buckner.
Buckner was a good player with a decent bat but he had a bad leg and was still recovering from the original injury that would later come back to haunt him BIG TIME.
It seems he was on first and tried to stretch make to third on a hit.
Vince Lloyd and Lou Boudreau were the radio team and they about fell out of the booth describing the action.
“Outfielder bobbles the ball.”
“Buckner makes the turn at 2nd, going to try for third.”
“Here’s the throw …
Boudreau starts yelling “RUN BUCK RUN BUCK – – DIVE“
Heres the play
He is …..
HE MADE IT HE MADE IT!!!
BUCKNER SAFE AT THIRD.”
I don’t know why.
It was one of those warm, humid nights you get in West Michigan.
The car windows were open.
It was dark with the car lights showing up as big beams in the steamy air.
In the words of Bob Seger, “It was sweet summertime summertime.“
And I got bit by baseball.
I started watching and listening a lot more often.
And I discovered baseball writing as well.
Some of the best writing in America has been about baseball, both fiction and non fiction.
Bill Bryson’s father was an award sports editor of the Newspaper in Des Moines, Iowa.
A city without any major league sports.
Yet Bill Bryson, Sr. got into an anthology of his account of the famous Bill Mazeroski’s 9th inning World Series Winning Game 7 Home Run writing, “Pittsburgh’s steel mills couldn’t have made more noise than the crowd in this ancient park did when Mazeroski smashed Yankee Ralph Terry’s second pitch of the 9th inning. By the time the ball sailed over the ivy-covered brick wall, the rush from the stands had begun and these sudden madmen threatened to keep Maz from touching the plate with the run that beat the lordly Yankees, 10-9 for the title.“
I joined the Socitey for American Baseball Research long before SABRMETRICS came along to mess up the game.
Out of college I had an opportunity to interview for a research position with the Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown and I drove home on cloud nine when the Director told me he couldn’t offer the job but was penciling me into the lineup.
I still bear in mind the name of guy on the letter than came a few weeks later announcing who got the job.
The came the strikes.
The first one I really remember in the mid 80’s I was thrilled when it was settled.
Then came the strike in the 90s
To this day baseball folks talk about how many fans were lost in the 1994–95 strike.
I was one of them.
It wasn’t so much that when they returned to work, the two things they went out on strike over were left unsettled.
But that the 1994 season was left unfinished.
It just ended.
And still …
That fall when the season would have been over, for some reason I never been able to find or have explained, the season ending awards, MVP, Cy Young, Gold Gloves, were all made for the part the season that had played.
And that, to this day, for me, broke off my relationship with baseball.
I have not been to a major league game since.
I went often to a local minor league team in West Michigan and enjoyed watch kids playing for a chance as much as playing the game.
And the game itself, the putting the ball over the plate and taking the round bat and a round ball and try to hit it square.
I might watch a World Series game for a few minutes.
But a fan?
Baseball is still important for many, but inessential for most.
Today I read in the Guardian, “In a country where the federal minimum wage is $7.25 an hour, the optics are tricky when a representative such as the pitcher Max Scherzer, who agreed a three-year, $130m contract with the New York Mets last November, is one of the faces of a union complaining that an annual salary of $570,500 is stingy.”
So much money.
So much greed.
I guess Mark Twain was right.
He said this in a speech at Delmonico’s, April 8, 1889.
“The very symbol, the outward and visible expression of the drive, and push, and rush and struggle of the raging, tearing, booming nineteenth century!”
If I think about America today, Major League Baseball is indeed the very symbol, the outward and visible expression of the drive, and push, and rush and struggle of the raging, tearing, booming all summed up in one allegoric greedy one for me and all for me business.
I think I go to the beach.
Might as well as can’t go home again.