The View From Here: Baseball’s Back
By Ken DeLaat
"For, lo, the winter is past, the rain is over and gone, the flowers appear on the earth, the time of the singing of birds is come, and the voice of the turtle is heard in our land." -Song of Solomon verse Ernie Harwell quoted at the beginning of each season.
Glad to have you back, old friend.
For me the game is rooted pretty deep, having been sewn into my very fabric by a generational love of the game in my family. Some of my earliest memories have to do with my folks taking my sister and me to games where our (significantly) older brothers were playing.
Not that we ever paid much attention to the action on the field because there were usually other kids around and we’d...
...wander about while the game was being played, but it was the atmosphere, a kind of aura peculiar to the sport, baseball brings that clings to my ever eroding memory cells.
I’ve played the game, coached the game, studied the game, written (a lot) about the game and read volumes about the game.
There are still baseball cards from over 5 decades ago that get an occasional glance when removed from their hiding place Yes, baseball cards. Those magical glossy items that arrived in a waxy wrapper with a thin slice of equally waxy gum that tasted like the best gum ever (if only for about 45 seconds if I recall correctly),
The only room in N3 World Headquarters and Dog Domicile where my personal decorating prowess is put on display is a half bath described by a friend as the ‘Kaline Shrine’, filled with various baseball memorabilia with a definite nod to the Tiger great. There are ticket stubs from dozens of games, a souvenir foul ball my friend Tim (who says he’s not my friend but really is) grabbed when I was fighting off competitors and eventually traded to me for a ride in a WWII airplane that had come my way (long story).
A couple bobble heads, an antique (well, old) glove and a hat or two add to the atmosphere one wishes to evoke when creating a true experience rather than just a room.
It’s a lifelong love affair. Nearly always centered on the team from Detroit to be sure, but primarily for the game itself.
Look, I get it when people unfamiliar with baseball might say it’s boring because of all sports (perhaps with the exception of curling) it’s a game that requires a bit of a deeper understanding to truly appreciate.
Baseball can lull you. It creates a comfortable setting ripe for contemplation. No wonder the game’s aficionados are obsessed with statistics. Not only is the game an absolute treasure trove of numbers that presume to tell stories but the pace of it itself gives one time for reflection. Time to consider the possibilities of what might come next as well as whether the last decision made might have been the correct one.
Then suddenly an action creates a reaction resulting in a chain reaction and the field is a hive of activity.
It’s a bit like listening to some new age music with occasional screaming Eric Claptonish guitar riffs intertwined.
And I adore it.
Whether watching the beloved Tigers, a high school game or even little leaguers I find baseball personally refreshing, re-energizing and somehow reaffirming.
And there is a certain magic to catching a game on the radio. The golden prose of the late Ernie Harwell (who I was most privileged to meet and thank you Rich Wheater) is etched in my memory as the voice of baseball itself. In my neighborhood during the pre-air conditioning era folks sat on porches and breezeways on summer evenings and you could hear Harwell’s seamless yet symphonic description of the game humming through the night.
Even today in the midst of my sexagenarian years the start of the season brings a level of anticipation. Perhaps not nearly the same level that existed when attending a dozen or so Opening Days in the past but an enthusiasm that is perennial as a late season snowfall in the Mitten.
In a short time stats will begin to appear and the standings will start to separate the wheat from the chaff. Teams riding high in April will, as Sinatra crooned “be shot down in May’. Players who hit over .400 for the first few weeks will, as Sparky Anderson said “end up hitting the same .230 they always do.”
It’s the beginning of baseball and for a short time all is well with the world.
It’s been kind of a tough off-season. Since the enchanted comeback of the Cubs to capture the World Series it feels like we’ve been through a bit as a country. The start of the season isn’t going to cure what ails us. It won’t help heal an ever-widening rift that has left folks feeling as though attempting to capture the truth these days is like trying to grab hold of jello.
But it is truly a rebirth. A new season. Everyone starts out dead even and is given 6 months and 162 games to prove they belong in the postseason scramble to the Series.
And for those who enjoy baseball, those who are partial to the game, and those of us who revere the sport like no other, it’s an opportunity to settle in and focus on what really matters.
Like who’s going to wind up as the regular center fielder? Can Castellanos handle the two spot in the order? Will J.D. take much time to get back into the groove after his injury? Is Zimmerman going to return to form?
You know, important stuff.
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