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It’s not always bad news…

Note: I wrote this before the Dodgers won the World Series in 2020…

Reason #35- Baseball

“In a year that has been so improbable … the impossible has happened!”

‚ÄčThat was Vin Scully announcing Game 1 of the 1988 World Series, immediately following a famous bottom-of-the-ninth home run by a hobbling Kirk Gibson, batting against closer-extraordinaire Dennis Eckersley.  The walk-off homer, as they now call them, won the game for the Los Angeles Dodgers and gave them the momentum needed to beat the Oakland A’s for their last World Series title.  I was 32 in October that year and remember that home run like it was yesterday.   I was camping with my brother in a remote stretch of the Columbia River in Washington State and felt very fortunate to be able to receive the broadcast where we were.  We were about 20 miles from the nearest town, but they may have heard us whoop and holler that night.

I grew up in the L.A. area and was a huge Dodger fan, but I would not have been as big a fan if I hadn’t spent a lot of time in the playground playing baseball.  There are several reasons why I think baseball is better for kids than other sports, but I had very good hand-eye coordination, could easily run, catch and hit, but, most importantly, it was one of the few sports in which my diminutive height as a kid didn’t affect my skill and success.  I did have asthma, so organized ball was out, but that didn’t keep me from helping my best friend train in high school, and it didn’t keep me from enjoying baseball on the school grounds.  And I was pretty good.

Like golf, bowling, tennis, wrestling, volleyball, football, soccer and swimming, people who have played the sport are much more likely to watch them when they can’t play.  Baseball is also considered “America’s National Pastime,” which is a nod to its even wider appeal, similar to soccer and football, but it was the first truly national sport in the U.S.

Baseball is different from most other sports in that it doesn’t have a time limit.  A game can theoretically go on forever.  When the pitcher has the baseball and there are runners on base or a tied score, intensity rises as he holds the ball.  The longer he holds it, the more intensity that builds.  I remember many times when the pitcher just didn’t want to throw the ball, afraid of the outcome.  Occasionally the umpire would even have to step out to tell the pitcher to continue the game.  Eventually, the pitcher does throw it, with or without the umpire’s warning, once convinced that he must.

Baseball mimics life in a way.  It runs on a serial timeline in which the life of the game literally follows the ball.  It is more fair than real life in that both teams will always have the same number of opportunities for offense.  A home run in the top of the 13th inning, for instance, doesn’t automatically win the game, since the other team gets to have its at-bats in the bottom of the inning.  If they tie the game, on to the 14th inning they go.

There have been so many exciting moments in this sport that’s been played since the middle of the 19th century that you can write an encyclopedia-sized collection of them.  (For younger readers, an encyclopedia used to be a set of dozens of books containing articles, history and a collection of all shared knowledge at the time of its printing.)  Society’s problems have been baseball’s problems, too, and its social remedies have not always kept pace.  Now it’s a worldwide sport, with hundreds of foreign-born professional players in the major and minor leagues.  But none of that would matter as much if I had never played it myself.

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My final quote is from Herbert Hoover, the 31st President of the U.S.:¬† “Next to religion, baseball has had a greater impact on our American way of life than any other American institution.



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