The LuLac Edition #189, April 1rst, 2007
PHOTO INDEX:TOM HANKS AND GEENA DAVIS FROM THE AWARD WINNING MOVIE "A LEAGUE OF THEIR OWN", CHIEF WAHOO, LONG TIME MASCOT OF THE CLEVELAND INDIANS, MY FAVORITE TEAM AND THE COVER OF "LEGIS VITAE", THE 26 RULES OF LIFE.
BASEBALL IS BACK!
Tonight on ESPN 2, Major League baseball returns. For me, it is an affirmation that the cold, dank unforgiving days of winter (even one as mild as this one) are over. We've endured two big storms and may not be out of the woods yet in the cold weather department but we can see a light at the end of the cave. I've included in today's edition an excerpt from my book (on sale at Barnes & Noble stores and at the Tudor in Kingston) on baseball, the people who love it and the people who don't. Of course I had to add a picture of Geena Davis as well as that politically incorrect but still embraceable Indians logo. For those who think baseball is boring as a 23 year old Math major told me the other day...get with the program. And for those of you who are itching for the box scores and that first pitch, E N J O Y ! ! ! !
RULE OF LIFE # 20
ANYONE WHO HATES BASEBALL
IS SUSPECT IN MY EYES
I don’t trust anyone when they tell me they hate baseball. How can anyone hate this sport? I’ll have people tell me it’s too boring and tedious. Others will say it’s a slow game. But in reality baseball is a thinking person’s game. It consists of so many small nuances that make it magical and maddening all at the same time. That is the beauty of the sport.
My first contact with baseball came in 1960 when a neighbor attended the World Series pitting the Pirates vs. the New York Yankees. When he got back in town he regaled all of us with stories of Forbes Field and the dramatic Bill Mazeroski walk off home run. Everyone has a story about that series. The most unique story though is from an attorney friend of mine who tells me she was at that game. Born in December 1960, my friend was in the womb for that October classic and according to her as little recollection of it. But it is telling that she counts that day as one of the most significant of her life.
Baseball promotes great loyalty. Very rarely do fans change their teams. The reasons people become fans vary in scope too. A friend I know became a Cardinal fan because he liked the uniforms. Another chose the Dodgers because his father was a Brooklyn Dodgers fan. There is some generational passing of the torch from one generation to another. That tradition carries on through each rite of passage. But then there are other fans who, despite their lineage find their own path and become fans of a baseball team because of a player or an event.
Baseball can do that because it has its share of defining moments. More importantly you can identify with the player. You see his face, his emotions as he struggles to achieve individual perfection. This struggle dovetails with his efforts enabling his team to achieve the ultimate goal. Football has its shielded warriors. You remember great football games but would be hardpressed to remember the starting team. Whereas in baseball, in a particular came that moves you, a true baseball fan can rattle off the starting lineup in his or her sleep. Remember the move “City Slickers” where the three men had a discussion with a woman who told them she was mystified by the fact that a guy could name the third baseman of the 1960 Pirates? She just threw the year and the team out randomly but the three men said in union, “Don Hoak”. Hoak was not a superstar, never achieved the fan status of a Willie Mays or a Ted Williams but he is remembered. As are guys like Dick Stuart, Bo Belinsky, Gus Triandos, Smokey Burgess, and Art Mahaffey. Walk up to any baseball fan in their 40s and they’ll most likely tell you the guys number, the way he swung the bat, what he was famous for and what manager he played for.
Baseball is also numbers. When you think about it life involves numbers. We keep score all the time. How much money we need, have and want. The lifeblood of baseball is the stats. As a young boy, I would lunge for the sports section and read the standings. Who is on top. Who is behind. How many wins will it take for them to catch the top team. This was of course before the advent of free agency when the numbers acquired more zeros than anyone could ever imagine.
The pull of the sport also comes from the fact that everyone can play it. Look at the physical makeup of a major league team. There are people of all shapes and sizes. There is no weight limit, no cookie cutter body formula where everyone looks the same. The individual player can be short, fat, tall, skinny or muscular. The key thing is the player must have the skill and coordination to accomplish a goal in the game. In the NFL there are prototype players, linemen for example are huge. But in baseball, a little guy like a Bucky Dent can make a monster contribution with a game winning home run as well as a big man. Conversely a big man can do the basic things like bunting and base running to produce a run. Baseball is the game of every man because most of the players look like us. Any kid growing up played the game or variations of it. Stick ball, hand ball, wiffle ball, softball, kickball, it all involved bases, a ball and getting back to home.
There’s a phrase for you, going home. We all love the safety and comfort of our own homes. What better sports analogy for success than coming home. Home denotes safety, a feeling of accomplishment. Some might be tempted to say I’m reading way too much into baseball but that’s the beauty of the game. Baseball situations are life situations. Going for the big inning, going for the extra base all connote our efforts for wanting more in life.
The concept of individual effort helping the team as well as the team picking up the slack for an individual failure screams the word “family."
You need look no further than the theatre to see the great baseball films that are part of our everyday life. The tenacity of Roy Hobbs in “The Natural”, the emotion of Kevin Costner having a catch with his dad in “Field Of Dreams”, the
homespun humor of Dizzy Dean in “The Pride Of St. Louis”, the almost brother like relationship of Mickey Mantle and Roger Maris in “61”, the courage of Lou Gerhig in “Pride of the Yankees” and the carrying on of the baseball “annies” in “Bull Durham” give true slices of American life. Baseball parallels everyday living. The pain, the struggles, the hope and glory. When someone tells me they don’t like baseball, immediately I look that them as both intellectual and spiritual inferiors. I can’t imagine these people enjoying the nuances of a musical piece as well as trying to relate to complex situations.
Most of our political leaders enjoyed the game, some more than others. Richard Nixon made up his own “Best of The Century” line ups while Gerald Ford and John Kennedy religiously followed certain players. Even Fidel Castro the dictator almost became a Washington Senator. How can you trust anyone who shuns the national past time and regards it as “boring”? I believe that the study of baseball should be a college level course, it promotes analytical thinking, encourages the use of numerology but more importantly gives the student of the game a diverse history lesson in the various cultures that have contributed to its make up. I’d volunteer to teach the course.
Now I’m not saying I would ever totally dismiss a person who hated baseball, I just wouldn’t go out of my way to bring them into the inner core of my life. Anyone who hasn’t heard of Sandy Koufax or Ted Williams needs more help than I can manage to give. But if they would like to learn, if I can get the curriculum approved, they can join my class. Upon joining me they should know the class as well as the satisfaction they get from learning about baseball will last a life time. Interested parties need only apply.
Excerpted from "LEGIS VITAE", 26 Rules of Life by David Yonki, Alubirp Inc.