It hit me this week as hard as it always does in January. Why isn't there any baseball to watch? And so, yet again, I try to dig up some old baseball artifacts and start thinking about the larger metaphors of baseball. For example, the way the New York Mets have conducted themselves this off season is a like a middle-aged person whose life has gone into a holding pattern. The Mets didn't make any major moves, didn't shake things up, and are certainly not going to be challenging for the World Series. They made enough small moves, like claiming Adrian Gonzalez off of the scrap pile, to keep anyone from accusing them to have given up. And so the Mets, who so recently looked ready to be a contender for many years, will once again settle for mediocrity. As I have entered middle age, I know this temptation all too well.
So this middle-aged mediocrity will distract himself from contemplating his loss of passion by digging up some artifacts.
and didn't realize he had grabbed that particular bat for the photo shoot. Sadly, I was only able to find the censored version of the card. I think about this card today, and how once our society took obscenity more seriously. Now a human obscenity is our president and 1989 feels like a million years ago.
Buck O'Neil, player and manager for the Kansas City Monarchs and later path-breaking major league baseball scout, ought to be in the Hall of Fame. If not for his managerial and scouting career, at least for his abilities as an ambassador of baseball. He is the star of Ken Burns' series, and I love this scene, where the old scout talks about how only a few very special players could make such a fearsome sound with the crack of their bat. Here he is talking of Bo Jackson, one of my childhood baseball heroes.
When Chris Chambliss hit his walk-off homer in the 1976, it finally put the Yankees back in the World Series after a very un-Yankee drought. The fans rushing the field, not allowing him to hit home plate, is such a great scene from the scary, anarchic chaos that was New York City in the 1970s.
Chicago folkie Steve Goodman wrote the Cubs anthem "Go Cubs Go," but he also write "A Dying Cub Fan's Last Request." It's sad that he died at the young age of 36, but perhaps more profoundly sad that he died without ever seeing them in the World Series, like a lot of other Cubs fans. Fandom is a kind of faith, and like a lot of faiths, it can be cruel in how it refuses to answer prayers.
One thing that sets baseball apart from other sports is the role of the manager. (Notice, they are not called coaches, that title is for lower members on the manager's staff.) Unlike in other sports, the manager wears the uniform of the team. Baseball also allows a level of argument between the manager and officials that you don't just see in other sports. Some managers, like Earl Weaver, were masters of the art.