… in times of sorrow, it gives a great escape; not an escape to a fantasy world or to a world of violence, but to something that is what it is, something urban that recalls pastoral settings … something slow that requires such speed.
… two years after Woodrow Wilson started asking that The Star Spangled Banner be played at official and military occasions which few common people attended, it gave the common man an excuse to start singing what would soon become the national anthem.
… it is a philosophical game that inspires thought and contemplation.
(It is) our game; that’s the chief fact in connection with it: America’s game; it has the snap, go, fling of the American atmosphere; it belongs as much to our institutions, fits into them as significantly as our Constitution’s laws; is just as important in the sum total of our historic life.
— Walt Whitman (poet and philosopher)
(It) is almost the only orderly thing in a very unorderly world. If you get three strikes, even the best lawyer in the world can’t get you off.
— Willliam Veeck, Jr. (impressario and philosopher)
(It) is an allegorical play about America, a poetic, complex, and subtle play of courage, fear, good luck, mistakes, patience about fate, and sober self-esteem.
— Saul Steinberg (cartonist for the New Yorker)
(It) is a game dominated by vital ghosts; it’s a fraternity, like no other we have, of the active and the no-longer-so, the living and the dead.
–Richard Gilman (literary critic)
(It) is a ballet without music. Drama without words.
–Ernie Harwell (The Voice of Summer)
The game has a cleanness. If you do a good job, the numbers say so. You don’t have to ask anyone or play politics. You don’t have to wait for reviews.
–Sandy Koufax (Grandmaster)
… like most great things, it is reflective of humanity, which is to say that it is as dramatic as it is comic.
(It) is ninety percent mental. The other half is physical.
–Lawrence Peter Berra (master of the English language)
We made too many wrong mistakes.
–Lawrence Peter Berra (on losing)
We know we’re better than this, but we can’t prove it.
–Anthony Keith Gwynn (Grandmaster)
There’s a thin line between genius and insanity, and in Larry’s case it was so thin you could see him drifting back and forth across it.
–Leo Durocher (on his boss, Larry MacPhail)
One time, I got pulled over at four a.m. I was fined seventy-five dollars for being intoxicated and four-hundred for being with the Phillies.
–Robert G. Uecker (Broadcaster)
… it has given us remarkable combinations of food and drink to make a person feel like a king at a banquet. A hot dog with mustard, and an ice cold drink of your choice …. what more could you ever want?
… it forced us to confront terrible realities. When a percent of the population was willfully excluded, no one seemed to care. When Jackie Robinson arrived, it forced people to think and rethink where they stood. Would the Civil Rights movement have occurred without Jackie Robinson? Certainly! Would it have happened as quickly? That’s a good question.
… it is inspirational in so many ways … the novella Shoeless Joe (and the film it is based on) …. even non-fiction works like Moneyball can inspire good films. The jazz standard “Van Lingle Mungo” … Bernard Malamud’s The Natural … the end scene of The Naked Gun … John Fogerty’s Centerfield … one of the greatest comedy skits in the history of comedy …. and even that song about Katie Casey by Norworth and Von Tilzer.
… it is a contradictory mix of staid tradition and ever changing and evolving ideas. 60′ 6″ hasn’t changed in over a century, but it also gave us astroturf. Camden Yards is a good thing, but places like Veteran’s Stadium and Three Rivers Stadium were abominations. In 1884, a trio of telegraph operators had the idea to transmit play-by-play to a theater in Memphis, where another would announce the results, while a third person moved players on a giant scoreboard and changed the score. For the better part of the next 50 years, this is how most people in big cities “saw” games … at the time it was incredibly innovative. Many of these were outdoors, but some were installed in opera houses as a means of generating revenue during the summer months. Today it is quaintly antiquated.
… it has altered our language. A strange new idea comes from left field. Workers who have to take someone’s place in a tight spot are relief pitchers or pinch hitters. Successes are home runs, and big successes are grand slams. Being wrong is a swing and a miss. A collection of cubicles with people ready to swoop in an save the day is the bullpen. Something tricky is a curve ball. When you are wrong about something, you have struck out.
… it combines those two enigmatic contradictions that we embrace in ourselves: conformity and originality. We unconsciously seek symmetry, which our brains interpret as beauty in a face, but we also revile conformity of spirit … we look for people with dynamic originality … those who break the mold. A baseball’s infield is perfectly symmetrical left-to-right. The outfields of the best stadiums are not symmetric in any way.
… it teaches harsh realities. We often times lose more than we win in life, and as we mature, we learn to deal with the fact that life isn’t fair. It teaches us that sometimes 3-out-of-10 is pretty good, and one-third will get you to the Hall-of-Fame. Umpires are human, they make mistakes, and that is part of the game. Sometimes you are lucky and you get a bonus … extra innings. Sometimes the rain and cold conspire to end things early. Some are born Yankees fans and grow up happy and well adjusted members of society, while some are born Cubs fans and grow up suspicious of everything and grumpy.
Sunday is Easter … a celebration of resurrection, of reflecting on mistakes, and beginning life a new. Sunday in Texas, the Rangers play the Astros to begin the season … a different kind of resurrection. On Monday, the rest of the Major Leagues get underway.
April 1 … time for baseball to return … it has been away far too long.