Tag Archives: baseball

Finding Salvation In Baseball

 

Generally, pretending a problem doesn’t exist only makes it worse. This may not be the case with Donald Trump.   I no longer need to hear his voice.  It takes only his image popping up on a video screen to make me mildly nauseous.

I considered watching Trump’s address in Phoenix last night but decided against it.   In all likelihood, it would be just one more largely nonsensical rave, filled with falsehoods and general negativity, containing nothing good at all.  For anybody.   Just more fodder for his base, who, filled with the joy of madness,  have already taken leave of their senses.  He probably wouldn’t even say anything about the sailors we lost in the collision of the USS John S. McCain.   So I watched a baseball game instead.

Turned out that I made the right move.

After the game, one of the pundits told me that Trump’s campaign-type rally, only seven months into his first term, was in fact just one more negative, nonsensical rave, filled with falsehoods.   There was nothing good for anybody.   No real content about anything, including his much heralded plan for going forward in Afghanistan.  I was also informed that he ignored our sailors recently lost at sea.

Like any small child whose only goal is to irritate the hell out of you, the only sensible course of action with Trump is to ignore him, while continuing to demand that the Republicans, who hold the reigns of power in D.C., do what they were elected to do, putting the best interests of the country ahead of their own selfish best interests.

They need to either impeach the Donald or use the 25th Amendment to get rid of him as quickly as possible.   Why?  Because he appears to be trying to re-boot the Civil War, a position which is quite simply, nuts.

While we wait around to see what happens,  I am pretty much resigned to believing the only way to survive Trump, will be to watch more baseball.  Completely ignoring the crazy man in the White House until the miserable, cowardly Republicans lose their majority in the House and Senate in 2018, or even better, Trump loses the election in 2020.

Until the inevitable happens, whatever that turns out to be,  I offer the simple hypothesis that watching baseball is a viable alternative. It is at least, a way to stay sane, as Donald Trump appears to be an exception to the rule that ignoring a problem will only make it worse.

At Least We Still Have Baseball

headshot

When the shooting, the killing, the madness of religious carnage in some foreign land becomes just too damn much, we do still have baseball.   The teamwork, fairness and simple predictable reality of the game can serve as a refuge for those of us running out of places to go.

Places to hide, where nobody can find you, and if they do, they will likely just leave you alone because….well, because it’s baseball, and it matters in a world gone mad, because baseball still offers what it has always offered – balance.   When things threaten to go badlly out of balance, the umpire is there to restore sanity.    This is a kind of holy thing.   It is sanctified.   It’s the holy church of the house that Ruth built and the garden of O’malley in Chavez Ravine.   People instinctively know this, and they will leave you alone.  It has to do with Hank Aaron,  Roy Campanella, Kevin Costner and Sandy Kofax.  It’s mystical.   Like the ghost of Shoeless Joe Jackson looking for redemption or a fastball that makes the air scream in pain or a slider that’s gone before you know it’s even coming.

Baseball doesn’t give a damn about color or caliber or anything else.  It cares only about your ability to buy into the game and deliver on what it demands.  If you’re good enough for baseball, then baseball is waiting there for you.  A thoroughly American game, representing so much of what is good about our country .   Baseball, is egalitarian, and Americans, some of them anyway, instinctively know this from birth.  It’s  a feeling that creeps into your bones with the approach of summer in every small town in every state on the great plains and in every big city on both coasts, as the kids come out to play, all dreaming of blasting a homerun or pitching a no-hitter.

It’s okay to go back.  Back to making a perfect pocket in your glove by drowning it in neatsfoot oil, and then wrapping it around a ball and tying it tight with string overnight to form a pocket.  I still love the smell of neatsfoot oil in the morning, or imagine I would, if I still had some.   I have never needed it for a single thing, since the “Mighty Mights” and “Pee Wees” of  Little League, back in Minnesota, where I once nearly killed a batter with a wayard pitch.  We had no batting helmets, and my fastball hit this poor kid bang in his head.    I always regretted that.  I really needed a pitching coach.   All we had was the local EUB minister.   He did the best he  could.

There was also the technique of forming a pefect brim on your baseball cap by wrapping it around a Coke or Pepsi  bottle and then tying it with string or rubber bands and leaving it overnight.   This might have involved soaking the cap in water, but I can’t remember that part of it.  I do remember that in the morning you could take off the string and the formerly flat and unsightly brim would have a wonderful curve to it.  A little thing, but important in those younger years, when the kid with the coolest ducktail and the best cap got all the sharpest girls.  Or we thought he did, which was pretty much the same thing, since none of us really knew what to do with girls anyway,  irrespective of any wayward romantic advice scrawled on dugout walls obviously based upon a massive foundation of weeks or maybe months of hard-earned experience.

Older now,  I’ve come full circle and find myself watching a lot more baseball.   The Orioles are my team, and Buck Showalter is my manager.  For a couple of hours Buck and the O’s take me away from all the insanity that’s currently going on politically and militarily.   For a couple of hours, baseball, takes me back to order and sanity with occasional bursts of heroism and humor.

In a world gone mad, that isn’t half bad.

Finding America In Orioles Baseball

headshot

Before the explosive growth in the popularity of football and the terrible but quite possibly real consequences of  CTE,  we all had something else.   Something calmer.  Something more thoughtful and far less violent.   We had baseball.  A testimonial to teamwork and fair play.  A monument to all that was right and good about America, where any kid who worked hard and stayed out of trouble could rise to the top.  Make it  into the bigs.  Even a farm kid from out in the sticks.  Baseball and not physically and possibly mentally debilitating football, was our national passtime.   And it’s still out there.   Waiting to welcome you back.

I got into rooting for the Orioles back in the early 80’s, while working at WMAR-TV in Baltimore.   I was initiated into the O’s family by “Wild Bill” Hagy himself, who looked at my pinstripe suit and said, you look pretty good in those pinstripes, but you’ll look a lot better wearing this,” as he placed an orange and black Orioles cap on my head.   In retrospect, it was a proud moment for me, a moment of baseball acceptance like none before, as I became a “Weaver believer,” covering the 79 series with  Pittsburgh.

Being on tv, even as a humble news reporter, has it perks.

I remained a fan of the O’s for the next three years before a job offer called me away to KABC-TV in  Los Angeles, which meant swearing an allegiance to Dodger blue.  Thing is, I grew up with the Brooklyn Dodgers and never really got over it when they left.    So there I was, in LA with the Dodgers and Tommy Lasorda and all, but somewhere in a dark corner of my mind, the Dodgers still belong in Brooklyn.   It’s something I can’t shake.  It’s as though the Angels should have been enough for LA, but the Dodgers chased them out of town.   Chased them down to Anaheim, where they continue to try and sort out their identity crisis.   What else can you call it,  when a team has Los Angeles in its name but plays out of a ballpark located in Anaheim, down in Orange County?   How can they possibly be the “Los Angeles Angels?”    The only thing that might possibly be worse would be the “Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim.”  I mulled this over for some time back when they changed their name from “California,” which sort of worked, to “Los Angeles,” which doesn’t really work at all.    It kind of makes local identity meaningless.   Isn’t identifying with a team a key to enjoying the game?

All this moving around and name changing was too much for a kid from Minnesota, who remembers no professional baseball at all before the Twins, when nearly everybody from the land of 10,000 lakes (actually it’s more than 11,000 but Minnesotans are way too humble to brag about it) was pulling for the Milwaukee Braves before they moved to Atlanta.

And so, after leaving Maryland for the coast, baseball lost me.   Or I lost baseball.   For more than 30 years.  Even with Chavez Ravine and the Big A right there.   I had little or no interest.  Steve Garvey?  Steve who?   I had seen baseball.   It was Brooks Robinson and the Orioles, and they were on the other side of the world.

And then I came back.   And the O’s are still here.   And baseball – and this is why I decided to write this rambling reminiscence – baseball, is better than ever.

Watching Manny Machado bare-hand a grounder while on the run and rocket it over to first for an out and then come back to hit a grand-slam homer, or waiting for Buck Showalter to go into a full-blown Earl Weaver impersonation and start kicking dirt on the ump’s shoes before being ejected (I know he  won’t, but I keep hoping), it’s all still there.  And the play, the science of baseball, for me anyway, is better than ever.  These guys are amazing.   And so is the game.  It always has been.   It’s what America is about.   Or what it was about before we lost our  way.    Achievement through fair play,  hard work and being part of a team, all pulling together to be winners.   A monument to all that is right and good about America.  Baseball, is American exceptionalism personified.    Most of the politicians now running for national office would be ejected in the top-half of the first.

“O say can you see?”   “O” yes I can Wild Bill,  and it’s good to be back.  Francis Scott Key would have loved the Orioles and Camden Yards, one of the last baseball venues that refuses to sell out to the highest bidder.  He would have had a Buck Showalter garden gnome hidden out in the backyard.   A silent overseer counting balls and strikes while  hiding out in a big patch of   black-eyed susans.