Baseball Marks The Time Without A Clock and Adds Flavor to Life
By Tom Anselm
What an odd game is baseball. It is probably the only professional sport where the ball is controlled by the defense. The coaches dress exactly like the players, although most of them have no business wearing anything close to form -fitting. The guy who has the ball for the greater part of the game is called the “pitcher”, not the “thrower” or the “baller”.
Oh, he has other names as well, like “hurler” and “southpaw”. Ever wonder how that name came to be for a left-hander? In the days when day was the only time a baseball game was played, the fields were arranged with home plate in the western corner to keep the sun out of the batters eyes. So when a lefty stood on the mound, his throwing arm was to the south. Thus, “south-paw”.
Moving on, we have a foul pole serving as the out-of-bounds marker down both lines, but if a ball hits it, the ball is ruled “fair”. When a manager strolls out to talk with his pitcher, he calls “time”.
Except there is no clock to contain a baseball game, which as we all know can go on for at least 2 1/2 hours on a good night. A pitch not passing within the imaginary boundaries of a particular zone which only one man is allowed to determine is called a “ball” (duh, of course it’s a ball!), but one that enters this ethereal area is a “strike”, even though no one may have actually struck at it. A ball which leaves the playing field over the walls in the outfield is called a “home run”, not a “quadruple”, which would be more logically correct since one base is a single, two a double, and three a triple. But who’s counting.
So oddities abound in this fair game, which I say is still the National Pastime, since like I said, a lot of time is passed in its pursuit. Still, it has its wondrous features as well.
I recently went to a game with son Tim. Going to a ballgame with your kid, no matter how old, is pretty wondrous in itself. We got seats down the right field line, up about 50 rows from the field.
It was a hot night, and I was melting, so we decided to wander. Now I am notorious for this, trying to get closer to the field in seats that are seemingly not being used. We scouted a pair down about 20 rows and sat. Well, after being displaced about four times by the rightful ticket bearers, and bidding farewell to fans around us who were enjoying our foolishness, we landed a pair of chairs in the first section. And there we were able to stay. And it was good.
Once, between innings, I paused to drink this night in. There is always a palpable buzz at a ball game. Close your eyes next time you’re there and just listen. Vendors chanting their wares, the smack of the ball in the catcher’s mitt as he warms his hurler, a random but authoritative voice informing us of a new player at shortstop. When you look up again, notice the grass so green you can almost taste it, the swathes of color in the stands and on the billboards, the grandeur of the flags and the skyline beyond.
Observe the players’ rituals as they come to bat, the kids with their gloves, wide-eyed, hoping, dreaming, Take a good, long look, because it is a sight to behold.
I reread the book “Shoeless Joe” by W.P Kinsella this summer. It is the novel from which “Field of Dreams” was taken. If you love baseball, it is required reading. In the movie, Shoeless Joe looks around at the field that Ray Kinsella has built out of his cornfield, and asks, “Is this heaven?” Kinsella says “No, it’s Iowa.”
But sometimes, with its magical sights and sounds, the simple game of baseball can come awfully close.
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