Oh, people. It’s here. Baseball’s back. I’m sad to see March Madness go, although Gonzaga broke my heart as always, the Pack flamed out early, and my lame bracket sat at the bottom of my pool until the very last round, and only jumped to fifth place because I picked Louisville. I picked everything else wrong, but at least I was right when it counted.
Too little, too late. Anyway.
I just got back from watching 42. It was exactly what you’d expect, word for word, scene for scene. No surprises whatsoever. It doesn’t matter. It’s a baseball movie. Two of the things that make me happiest are baseball and movies, and I will sniffle through any baseball movie you can throw at me, and love it. I wish I’d gotten to see this one with my baseball-loving grandfather. He used to take the train from Down East (if you’re new to North Carolina, that’s everything east of I-95) to get off at Penn Station and catch a New York baseball game. I don’t know whether he ever saw Jackie Robinson play, but I’d love to hear what he thought about it.
I’m a huge baseball fan, but I’ve had to keep my distance for the last few years, at least from the Big Leagues. See, you and I may disagree on this point, but I’m a Yankees fan first, followed by the Cubs, Orioles, and Red Sox, in that order. I know. It is illegal in most states to have both the Yankees and Red Sox on your list. Whatever. It’s Yankees first, though, because the history of the Yankees is the history of baseball is the history of modern culture is the history of AMERICA. Or something like that.
And then the Yankees started making bad decisions. It started with A-Rod. A-Rod is a candy ass and a big whiner and grossly overpaid and a diva, and therefore I must hate him. I still can not believe the Yankees signed A-Rod. And then they went and offered Joe Torre a one-year contract. Joe Torre. There is an autographed picture of Joe Torre hanging amongst my family photos. You insult Joe Torre in my presence, and I will cut you. He left. I don’t blame him. The Yankees will never be the same.
Worst: they built a giant tacky new stadium, right next to The House That Ruth Built. As far as I’m concerned, the Yankees have cursed themselves. You don’t turn your back on Monument Park. You don’t walk away from the field where Gehrig played. Ruth. Mantle. Dimaggio. Seriously. I get the pull of the almighty dollar, and skyboxes and obscene quantities of seats. It’s not as important as the history of baseball. That place will never be Yankee Stadium to me. I can’t even look at it yet. Someday I might go. I’m not ready.
I have it on good authority from someone who knows someone who went to high school with Brian Cashman that all of those decisions were made while Steinbrenner was suffering from fairly serious dementia. I might forgive all of that. Eventually. Meanwhile? Minor Leagues, Little Leagues, and trash talk about baseball.
Of course it’s about a lot more than sports. I mean, just go watch Field of Dreams, for crying out loud, or Bull Durham. Baseball is about people, about our collective hopes and stories. Triumph of the human spirit, you know. A hundred years ago, I was teaching sixth grade and I had made all of my kids do baseball statistics while we were learning to convert fractions to decimals. Fine, I had more fun with that than they did. On exam day a kid came to me with a ball he’d caught at the Durham Bulls game the night before. He’d hung around the dugout and gotten every signature he could, including Wool E. Bull’s. When he showed it to me, I said, “Spencer! That is so cool! You’ll always treasure this!” And he said, “Oh! No, Ms. Ball, I got it for you!” And he turned it over and he’d written my name on it, right under the mascot’s. Are you crying, too? I will never let go of that baseball. SO much more than a game. I love every bit of it.
And so: I’m coming back to baseball. This week I took Dawg to the park. We were practicing “Fletch, come!” and I made him run the bases with me and fed him a giant pile of treats at home base.
Most fun I’ve had in weeks. See you at the ballpark.