Home > Uncategorized > The Boys of Autumn

The Boys of Autumn

There’s always been a part of me that enjoys reading about baseball more than actually watching baseball. I’ve got stacks of baseball books. Everything from the history of the Brooklyn Dodgers to an exhausting 300 page tome written about a single game (Good game though….the 75 World Series classic when Fisk hit the home run to end it in the wee wee hours). I’ve read every word Roger Angell and Roger Kahn have ever scribbled. Great writers both, their talents so undeniable they would have undoubtedly been literary giants regardless of what they chose to write about. The fact that both men chose baseball says a lot about how epically human and endlessly fascinating the game is. (If the 2 Roger’s don’t wind up in the Hall of Fame I’ll be stunned, although Gil Hodges isn’t in so there’s no accounting for taste)

Yet there’s part of the game itself that sometimes seems almost too leisurely. Your eyes can start to glaze over watching batters stepping in and out of the box, dressing and undressing themselves between every pitch, which is thrown by a pitcher who feels the need to step off the rubber and rub the ball like an un-hatched egg every 60 seconds. Long gone are the days of the 2 hour game. Long gone are the days of a pitcher finishing what he started. Long gone are the days when a guy would hit a home run and simply put his head down and run the bases, as opposed to admiring his own handiwork as if he’s never seen anything like it. Ever. Long gone are the days when a pitcher could throw inside without some .220 hitter taking umbrage and charging the mound. Long gone are the days you could buy a beer and a hotdog for less than the cost of a new hardcover novel. Three hour games are common. Four hour games are not that rare. Baseball players only need to worry about playing baseball. The rest of us have work in the morning.

Plus there’s always the sneaking suspicion that what you’re watching has been chemically altered. The greatest ballplayer I ever saw was Barry Bonds. Then we all discovered we weren’t really watching Barry Bonds at all. And they all came tumbling down. McGwire. Sosa. Clemens. Rafael Palmeiro and his infamous wagging finger. Now everyone is a suspect.

But still we come back. We somehow convince ourselves that it won’t happen again, or that it’s not still happening now. Or both. Or maybe we just don’t care. Hell, wasn’t that McGwire/Sosa duel heartwarming stuff? Didn’t watching Clemens throw harder at 40 than he did at 20 make you feel like a lazy ass? How many gym memberships did Roger inspire? Who remembers the 2011 National League MVP anyway?

Still, the history hooks us and won’t let go. I actually remember Willie Mays with the Mets. I grew up with Pete Rose and Johnny Bench and George Brett and Carl Yastremski and Bucky Dent breaking the hearts of New England in that one game play-off…..a game that I saw as a kid because it started in the late afternoon….TV ad revenue be damned. Imagine that? I nearly caught a Mike Schmidt home run ball in my first ever game, more thrilling because I was about 450 feet away in the upper deck of left field. In flight the ball looked as if it was shot out of a cannon.  I don’t think I’ve ever been more awed in my life. A few years later I saw Schmidt hit a fly ball that conked off the roof of the AstroDome. I was non-plussed. I’d been watching him bludgeon the houses on Waveland Avenue when he visited the Cubs and Wrigley field for a long time by then. These guys seemed capable of anything. So what if I got to meet Mike Schmidt after he retired (at a golf tournament….he could hit it a country mile by the way….but mostly crooked) and the guy turned out to be aloof and arrogant. Being in the heads of countless grown-up 10 years old might make one cranky after a while. Especially after surviving Philly fans.

What is it that I want from this game? What do they players owe me for my allegiance?

Fall is in the air. I’ve accumulated a summer’s worth of patience. It’s time to start watching baseball again.

In a bit…

–tf

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