To re-word Charlie Mingus, if God made anything better than baseball, he’s keeping it for himself.
It is the eternal sport, the lazy sport, the best sport. It is played every day, except for two days that surround the All-Star Game, which are the only two days that no American major sport plays. More prose and poetry come from the influence of baseball than any other professional athletic endeavor. It is not meant for those who want to see continuous action, so that is one reason it attracts so many of us of the literary bent. You will see a pitch every twenty six seconds or so, just slightly longer than than a play on the gridiron.
To love baseball is to root for the diminished souls, who have gone up and down the ranks of the baseball pantheon. Once a heel, later a hero. He could be sent back to the minors a week after cleaning the bases with a swing of his bat. A bad umpire call and he’s cooked. Since so few make it to the big-leagues, I hope that every ball-player has a back-up plan.
Knowing baseball history is like knowing American history after the Civil War. Except that Negroes weren’t emancipated in baseball until nineteen-forty-seven. Jackie Robinson is one of my heroes. He turned the other cheek, but he also told ignorant whitey where to shove it when he had to. His number is retired in all franchises except the Yankees. Stupid closer. Number twenty-one should be retired for Roberto Clemente. Anyone who gets three thousand hits and dies in a plane crash serving as a humanitarian, well, he gets my vote. After winning the 1971 World Series with the Pirates, he spoke to the reporters, first in English, then in Spanish. First time this ever happened.
I could go on about the game and its history for eons, but the Giants are up in the top of the Ninth, , trailing 5-3.