I hope you were watching Saturday.
If you had forgotten why baseball, more than any other spot, defines the word “unexpected” and hits the heart as hard as it does, I hope you were watching Saturday.
If you weren’t sure if there was anything left to see and your interest was waning, I hope you were watching Saturday.
If you had forgotten what makes this game, our game, the greatest there is, I hope you were watching Saturday.
Ours is a game without a shot clock or penalty box. It is the only one without a time limit and that can still be played almost exclusively outdoors (dammit, Tampa). We have songs and saviors, curses and chin music, peanuts and cracker jacks.
Ours in the only sport with traditionalists, people who want things the way they were a hundred years ago, when the parks were bigger, the players were smaller, and you could throw tomatoes on the field. We’re a sport that wants our players to be clean, their numbers to go down, and their records to never be broken. We love sluggers and big flies, but don’t hit too many and don’t be too good.
Baseball is so entrenched in tradition that chewing tobacco persists even today, in an age of warning labels and social stigma, linking the players to those of yesteryear amid constant backlash. Even louder than the criticism of the chewers are the complaints of the chewers themselves, who fight harder to prevent a tobacco ban than they do for the expansion of instant replay, which plays an enormous role in all the other major sports. Allowing umpires to review what have for years been human judgement calls would catapult baseball out of the darkness of the past and into the contemporary age of sporting, where technology feeds commercialism.
But we can’t allow this to happen. There are too many scenarios, too many stories, too much that is human about the game that prevents this. Unlike in football and basketball, baseball players are relatable. Much like their fans, they are usually unable to graze ten-foot rims with their foreheads or push a boxcar. They have all their teeth, too.
A day at the ballpark is so unlike a day at the arena or the rink that the two can’t even be compared. Save for the few essentials, there is no set model for how a baseball stadium should look. Ranging from ancient to post-modern, each park has nooks, crannies and hidden gems alien to the venues of other sports. You don’t go to a Heat game and feel the need to buy a hotdog.
And so we go. And we watch. And in a way, we play.
I hope you were watching Saturday.
Saturday we saw perfection sprout from the most unlikely of right arms, proving that baseball is a game of inches and second chances. While the late bloomer bloomed in Seattle, the most steady flower in the garden withered in the sun of San Diego, to the anger of fantasy owners everywhere. We saw pitchers succeed throwing both fire and meatballs. In Boston we cheered as the Yankees fell down 9-0, then cheered louder as they fought back with Tex messages and beat the Red Sox by a football score. We played two in Detroit.
We watched as a Dodger outfielder continued hitting at such a torrid pace that he now has as many or more home runs than six other teams. While his equally dominate and more heavily lauded teammate has continued to excel on the mound but not in the tabloids, Kemp’s star shines so much brighter and brighter with each dinger that it won’t be long before you can step on it. In Pittsburgh we watched a Pirate remove his eyepatch and dominate the C’s. On the far coast, we watched King Albert continue to shit his royal bed.
And that was just Saturday.
This week on the diamond produced inside-the-park home runs (yes, plural) and triple plays (yes, plural again). It showed how the term “rebuilding” can lead to actual success and not just prolong fan agony. It gave Boston fans 100 years worth of reasons why they should be furious right now. Oh yeah, and a guy pushing 50 won a baseball game.
Is this a great game or what? Like it or not, we still have six more months of it. So keep watching.