I Have A Condition Called Baseball Love

People ask me what I do in winter when there’s no baseball. I’ll tell you what I do. I stare out the window and wait for spring. —Rogers Hornsby

April has passed and May is here, marking my favorite sport’s headway into its long season.

Baseball puts off the die-hard football fans I know because the game “lacks action.” But football is too war-like for me—all about fighting for land acquisition, which is how this country was taken from the native people. Of course, in the beginning the rules were in the making; the big Euro teams were off sides a lot and often had too many players on the field. When they acquired all the land they could, however, that’s when they replaced their cannonballs with the pigskin, began playing amongst themselves, and contained the sport within several isolated chunks of sod.

I don’t mind when a baseball game stalls for a few innings. That is the best time to scrutinize the game and learn new things about the sport. American cartoonist and illustrator Saul Steinberg called the game “an allegorical play about America, a poetic, complex, and subtle play of courage, fear, good luck, mistakes, patience about fate, and sober self-esteem.”

You can travel almost anywhere in this country and see a ballgame in action, from little kids to adults, and male and female. Girls and women play it with a larger ball called a softball. Men with beer guts play softball, too, which they do fast and mean. Even old guys play the sport with a ball so big it’s almost impossible to hit beyond the infield. They call it Mountain Ball, so it seems fitting the players are built like miners.

There are other forms of baseball, like stickball, wiffleball, and kickball. And like all forms of baseball, they can be played anywhere, from a city street to a cow pasture in the middle of Podunk. And you don’t have to be American or speak English to play the game, either. All you need is a spherical ball, something with which to hit it, and some bases to run to, whether they are parked automobiles or mom’s sofa cushions.

No game in the world is as tidy and dramatically neat as baseball, with cause and effect, crime and punishment, motive and result, so cleanly defined. —Paul Gallico, American novelist and sports writer

Kids of all ages band together in the summer to play and watch baseball. I did. My kids did. And I’m betting my grandkids will, too. Baseball has a charm—an appeal to all. Branch Rickey, the great baseball man known for breaking Major League Baseball’s color and race barrier by signing Jackie Robinson and drafting Roberto Clemente, said baseball’s charm is its “adoption of mathematical measurements to the timing of human movements, the exactitudes and adjustments of physical ability to hazardous chance. The speed of the legs, the dexterity of the body, the grace of the swing, the elusiveness of the slide—these are the features that make Americans everywhere forget the last syllable of a man’s last name or the pigmentation of his skin.”

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