One of the many reasons that I love spring is due to the return of baseball. Some of my fondest memories growing up center around the game, and spending time with my Dad talking, watching and most years lamenting the woes of our favorite team each and every spring. That rite of the season is something I truly miss.
And frankly, is there anything more American than baseball, which, to slightly mimic a famous comedy routine, has been “very, very good to us”?
I find baseball interesting for a variety of reasons, the first being obvious. As someone suggested, it’s pretty hard to be pessimistic about baseball when we link it to the advent of a new season: spring. Though basketball isn’t over, we really regard it (and hockey) as a fall and wintertime sport. But baseball ushers in the hope of spring and the sheer enjoyment of impending summer.
Also, I can’t think of another sport that has attracted so many authors to write about a topic more lovingly than baseball. The classic book, of course, is The Boys of Summer by Roger Kahn. It tears at the heart and the connection people felt toward the Brooklyn Dodgers.
This blog isn’t about baseball books, but add two more to your list nonetheless: On Baseball by Red Smith, possibly the greatest writer on the subject, and Don't Look Back: Satchel Paige in the Shadows of Baseball by Mark Ribowsky, who illustrates how the great Satchel Paige was held back because of his color.
Baseball also touches us because it is so reflective our culture, exemplified by Jackie Robinson breaking the color barrier in 1947, a leap that would eventually affect other professional teams. The game is now a rainbow of color, ethnicities and nationalities, which adds to a comfortable sense of diversity without seemingly trying. Nor should we dismiss the historical connection of America’s pastime. Baseball has been with us since about 1839.
As Michael Chen, writing in bleacherreport.com, noted: “Baseball is in every way perfect; there are no flaws in the sport. Everything flows together perfectly. It is built around God's favorite shape, a diamond, and the rest is covered by the most incredible grass on the planet.” Poetic and compelling. Now that may be stretching things a tad, but you get the point.
Yet, there is a larger message here, though that transcends baseball, and this one isn’t laden with some deep philosophical musings or passionate attachment to an ideal. In fact, it’s almost the opposite.
It’s taking the time to enjoy America’s sport with your family and friends. It’s that respite in the sunshine with a little glare in your eyes as you watch two teams confronting each in the spirit of friendly competitiveness. It’s about watching how baseball and other sports serve as a metaphor for our lives and our society. It’s about being in the moment and finally relaxing. It’s about hearing the crack of the bat, jumping up from your seat, narrowly spilling your drink … and, well, you know the rest. My Dad always told me that there is no better time you can have then spending an afternoon at a ballgame. I agree Dad. Play Ball! That’s my take, what’s yours?