Killian Beeler, Contributing Writer
I make no attempt to cover up the fact that I was heavily inspired by an Oct. 2012 piece by Daniel Orazio entitled “Faith, hope, love and baseball” when writing this article. It was a great piece about a great thing — baseball — and, as such, its themes should be repeated. If you are a UD history nerd and/or a baseball lover like me, you should go to the newspaper’s website and re-read it. He does the game more justice than I ever could.
“Why baseball? Because it is like charity — it never faileth. It is always there,” says an old Los Angeles Times article, quoted in the Ken Burns documentary “Baseball.” Yet, in a way, it does leave us. It, with fall, leaves America to a hellaciously cold, dark winter. It abandons us, as Orazio notes, “when we [need] it the most: when the air turn[s] cold and the days short, when the cruel routine of class and study render[s] summer’s endless blue skies but a distant memory of a younger, more innocent time.”
But baseball is back! Winter has given way to spring’s tentative warmth. The words “spring training” bring hope and warmth to the soul. Now opening day is upon us, and with it comes the promise of a mystical summer. As Orazio declares, “With that first look at an impossibly green field and the first jubilant cry of Play ball! we find ourselves in our shirtsleeves on a perfect afternoon, as when we were children, and it’s as if we dipped ourselves in magic waters.”
I would ask the common naysayer, who feels the need to let us “out-of-date” Americans know just how boring and stupid baseball is, and who is probably rolling his eyes as he reads this article (if anyone reads this thing at all), to reconsider. Be patient and childlike with the game.
As UD alumnus and East Texas sportswriter Matt DeGrood — who as of late considers baseball his favorite sport to write about — notes: “In a world of sports generally ruled by frantic, stressful energy and fast-paced, sort of Germanic existence, baseball is a nice change of pace. It allows one to sit back, realize this is just for fun, and enjoy time spent there in company of friends, family and even strangers.”
This relaxed, playful spirit is found on the field itself. “The players,” Orazio tells us, “have time to talk too, even with their opponents. At home plate the catcher chats with the batter; at first base the first baseman talks up the runner. There is a wholesome collegiality in baseball, an unspoken understanding among the players that while what they’re doing will take on in their and our minds an almost infinite significance, it is ultimately trivial.”
The perfect example of this collegiality is game six of the 1975 World Series, considered to be one of the greatest games of all time. While stepping into the batter’s box in the top of the 11th inning, the game tied 6-6, Pete Rose turned to the opposing catcher, Carlton Fisk (who would later win the game with his famous blast of the Green Monster), and said, “Man, isn’t this the most exciting game you ever played in?” When asked later about his comment, Rose exclaimed, “I was telling the truth; I was having fun. I mean, win, lose or draw — man, I was happy to play in this game.” And we fans were happy to watch.
I understand that not all will come to love baseball, but as for me, I will spend my spring afternoons with my red-bearded roommate, enjoying the game — either on our little back porch listening to his old boombox radio, watching with burger in hand at Club Schmitz, or best of all, in person at the ballpark in Arlington. I know of no game more exciting than baseball.